Brandnew Boy could have been great on a traditional gaming platform with tactile controls. Trying to be innovative by having players control Rookie, the main character, through a series of taps and swipes seriously hampers this brawler’s playability. It’s unfortunate, as Brandnew Boy looks so beautiful.
There’s not too much complexity on the surface of Brandnew Boy: you tap enemies to attack them, swipe to roll away from attacks and repeat until you clear the stage. Skills can be activated in battle to dole out extra damage, but otherwise this is about as ‘button masher’ as a brawler can get, with one exception.
Here comes trouble.
To spice up battles you can tap in time with a rhythm meter that, when done successfully, makes attacks more powerful and builds up your combo meter. It’s an interesting way to keep combat fluid, but it ends up adding to the repetition. Instead of madly bashing the screen, you’re tapping in time with a white line. It can also draw attention from combat when there’s a lot going on, making it borderline better to ignore the feature altogether.
The biggest flaw in the control system is that you can’t control the camera during combat. We died many times due to off-screen enemies delivering powerful blows. You also lose the ability to freely move once you initiate combat, as the game fixates solely on enemies until you’ve cleared them all. Removing the fixed camera in lieu of analog sticks and buttons would be a vast improvement.
Brandnew Boy’s in-game economy suffers from the all too common plague of ‘real money for fake money’ transactions. Missions give an insufficient amount of currency to purchase necessary weapons, equipment and skill upgrades, thus urging you to purchase more through in-app purchases. We do commend the game for starting players off with enough cash to purchase all of the initial upgrades plus some, but once you blow through that the trickle of income is slow and frustrating.
Like most amnesia-centric stories, Brandnew Boy is all about Rookie trying to figure out what’s going on around him. It’s not too interesting and the amount of grammatically incorrect dialogue spewed before almost every level makes the attempt at a story annoying. Luckily, you can skip through this drivel quickly.
The lack of a thoughtful story and proper translation are particularly disappointing in this case, as the Unreal Engine 3-powered anime world looks great. The wide color palette, interesting character design and 3D graphics are eye candy of the sweetest variety. If it weren’t for the flawed and often frustrating gameplay, you’d want to live in this world forever.
Brandnew Boy could be excellent with an overhaul, but for now only get this game if you love anime visuals and want one of the better looking iOS games on the market. Or wait it out for the port to traditional platforms that we hope is on the way, however doubtful that may be.