Co-op shooters can be a lot of fun, even if they’re not exceptional games. The idea of working with your friends, defeating enemies and making jokes is something that entices many, even if it doesn’t always work out. Some experiences, such as Evolve, had too many restrictions to resonate, with Earthfall having too many issues to count. Even Fortnite started as one such experience, even if most people haven’t played Saved the World. Strange Brigade hopes to be one of the good games by combining puzzles, cheesy elements and more for players to overcome. With a goofy announcer, multiple puzzles and plenty of collectibles, will it match Destiny or is it another Earthfall?
Strange Brigade tells the cheesy story of a group of adventures who awaken Seteki and have to put an end to her plans and undead army. Most of the story is an excuse to be silly or justifies the next experience, with it all leading to a climatic battle. Where the story falls short in quality, it more than makes up for in charm.
Between black and white videos, an announcer that makes witty, and at times overly annoying, comments and crazy bosses, it’s easy to overlook where it falls short. Best of all, there is something for everyone. Those uninterested or have experienced the story can opt to skip it, with those interested in lore having plenty to collect and read. But, what makes Strange Brigade stand out is the co-op elements.
Before starting a mission player(s) need to select their character. Every one has their own distinct advantage and disadvantage, which range from innate perks to helpful skills. Sadly, in my experience, not all the characters are equal. Frank Fairburne has the best innate perk, which causes headshots to deal more damage, with Archimedes de Quincey’s stun power having a lot of practical advantages. Even if some characters have an advantage, it isn’t enough to make other characters worthless, though it can cause them to feel less powerful.
The average level is fairly linear, with a couple side paths that have puzzles, collectibles and other exciting things. These can sometimes be hidden behind well placed traps or other things that require you to scope, which causes them to glow when you look at them, to solve. Sadly, it doesn’t take long before you figure out all of Strange Brigade’s tricks.
Puzzles are equally simple. They range from standing in a specific spot and shooting a glowing light to locating mural pieces and shooting them in the corresponding order. The nice thing is nothing here is too hard to make it inaccessible or make someone feel out of place, they just don’t have enough depth to be memorable. That being said, Strange Brigade does a fantastic job of hiding things in the open.
Before this review I found every collectible and a lot of them I missed on two or three runs because I missed something obvious. Even when I played with a partner or two, both of which were trying to find them, we made the same errors. The nice thing is it rewards a keen eye, without ever having a puzzle that is as convoluted as getting Cross Edge’s true end.
The downside to treasure and collectible hunting is that they quickly become pointless. Like, if you have every relic, there is no point in doing most of the puzzles ever again. Two of the collectibles don’t actually do anything besides add to the experience or unlock trophies, with the last one giving more gold. Even though gold is extremely useful, it also has limited long term uses.
There are three things you can do with gold. Mock your friends/others for not having as much, unlock additional equipment or buy limited use and high power weapons. The problem with buying new guns is the last gun is the only one worth having. With the ability to add four mod slots, which include the ability to freeze, burn, heal yourself and more, it can quickly help anyone overcome the hardest challenge. Once you have this or unlock all the weapons, it’s just bragging rights or buying extremely powerful guns to make levels easier. This is helpful in co-op, if only for the fact you’re more powerful, but unless you have that drive or want an absurd amount of guns, there really isn’t a point.
This leaves hoard and score attack as the post game objectives. Hoard is exactly what it sounds like, except you need to kill enemies for gold to unlock rooms, ammo and other useful things without dying. The downside is, unless you get really far or lack skill, it’s pretty easy, even solo. I was able to, on my first try, beat the first 15 waves without too many problems. The few enemies with mechanics took me a moment but nothing terribly difficult. Again, this gets harder, it just hinges on wanting to play 30 to 45 levels before getting there. As for score attack, it boils down to trying to beat levels as effectively as possible. It’s fun for leaderboard chasers but that’s about it.
Even if Strange Brigade falls short in some areas, the shooting is fun and it’s hectic enough to have fun. Every arena has at least one trap you can use to defeat foes; with a wide variety you need to master. A good shot or solid skills help but it never hits a point where it’s overly difficult.
Strange Brigade might not have a lot of long term value, but it’s a fantastic game to play with others. The interesting locations and solid visuals with stand out, with the puzzles being just hard enough to be fun, without them being so hard players will be confused or feel left out. So, if you’re looking for a fun game to play with your friends, look no further than Strange Brigade. However, if you want something to play for weeks or months, you might want to consider looking at something else.
[Editor’s Note: Strange Brigade was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]