Been Meaning to Play: Brigador

by: Randy -
More On: Brigador

Brigador has got some grit, I'll give it that much. With its synthwave soundtrack and isometric view angle, this mech action shooter looks like you'd have to control it using the tracking knob on a VHS player. I'd say, "On your dad's VHS player," but who am I kidding? I've still got a functional VCR laying around here somewhere.

The first 30 minutes is hard to enjoy. It's over a dozen very short tutorial quips, few lasting more than a couple minutes, that send you back and forth through load screens more than is required or welcome. But after that, once Brigador lets you stretch your legs a little, then it opens up its fun factor.

I did hop through those tutorials, getting acquainted with the mech-stomping action, as well as the rapid-fire guns that sound less like BattleTech and more like a rotary engine on a World War I Sopwith Camel. I mean, Brigador's whole aesthetic is like cybergrunge rather than cyberpunk. Like Boris Vallejo woke up one day, stopped painting Conan the Barbarian, and started smashing his kid's LEGO Wall-E set together in uncomfortable ways. The different airbrushed portraits of the mech pilots look pretty throw-up-the-devil-horns metal. It's all neck tattoos and shiny leather. 

The real-time tactics took a bit to grow on me. But walking that mech up and down the avenue, trouncing through pipe-laden industrial buildings, neon-bright ammo bunkers, brutalist apartments, walled gardens, and meat-factory farmsteads, gets more interesting the more you revisit each particular stage. There isn't much of a campaign narrative to follow, which makes it all the more entertaining to go back into a stage—knowing the layout and the enemy strength—and giving them a second, third, or fourth pummeling. Things got especially good when I quit trying to futz with the way-too-slow-to-rotate gamepad and gave into the WASD controls. Brigador is rather unfriendly to controllers. Its action sequences sharpened way up once I mouse-and-keyboarded it. That isn't any latent PC bias in me, either. I grew up on PCs, but much prefer analog sticks and triggers. Still, Brigador's smash-bang language gets a lot more fluent and free flowing once you start trashing the place with a QWERTY mindset. 

Anyway, I'd acquired Brigador at some point in the last couple years (it might've been from a Humble Monthly or Humble Bundle) and I'd always been meaning to play it. John Yan's New Year's Gaming Resolution for 2019 is to "give it an hour." Meaning, if he fires up a game, he wants to at least give it 60 minutes of his time. You'd be surprised how easy it is to write off a game in only 10 or 15 minutes when we're not reviewing it. So, I stole John's gaming resolution and gave Brigador an hour. If I'd stopped at 30 minutes, I'd have walked away much less satisfied. At first, Brigador did nothing except shove too many tutorials down my throat and make me want to reload BattleTech instead. But my second 30 minutes with Brigador was much more absorbing. 

Russell Archey gave Brigador an 8.5 out of 10 back in 2015, when it was still in Steam Early Access (and back when we still gave scores to Early Access—which we don't do anymore). I was looking for a palate cleanser and Brigador's scrappy indie sensibilities delivered. Give it an hour.