Juicy Cupcake’s Brief Battles is an underwear-themed platform fighter that aims to establish exciting free-for-alls by combining expansive movement, themed undergarment power-ups, and treacherous, deadly stages. Unfortunately, the game splits its pants in the execution. Annoying controls, overbearing stage hazards, sloppy presentation, and a standard set of modes as bland as a pair of tighty-whities make Brief Battles an underwhelming, ho-hum experience. The game is mostly competent in its basic design and enjoys the occasional flash of brilliant competition, but the final package is easily outclassed by other indie platform fighters on Switch.
Brief Battles has a single-player challenge mode, but the only reason to play this game is its multiplayer. There are four modes for that: two types of deathmatch, one mode where you fight to hold on to a pair of golden underpants for the longest amount of time, and a game type centered on collecting as many “undie tokens” as possible. Some variant of this deja vu-inducing suite appears in basically any platform fighter worth its salt. Unlike platform fighters worth their salt, however, Brief Battles does not have anything else to build onto this decidedly normal package. This would be a forgettable drawback if the gameplay were fun, but, well, that’s rarely the case.
At times, Brief Battles is pretty fun to play with its versatility and different ways to attack. You can climb up walls and across ceilings, leap incredibly high in the air before lethally slamming to the ground, and collect all sorts of power-ups that completely change how you butt heads with your friends. Such movement and weaponry lead to some pretty creative maneuvers. You can fly into the ground from the top of the map and catch your friend by surprise, knock ‘em out of the air with a charging power-up, or snag some special projectile weaponry — perhaps some balls of poisonous goop, for example — and launch a sneaky all-out ambush from afar.
Sadly, the exhilarating moments in Brief Battles are fatally outnumbered by myriad design oversights. Simply getting into the actual game is a feat in itself, as menus are confusing, overly abundant, unintuitive, and offer little in the way of customization and control. Long load times only exacerbate the issue. God forbid you accidentally select the wrong mode; you have to click through several more cumbersome, separate screens, all without their own back button, before you can escape and set things up how you actually want them (which, again, is not intuitive).
Once a match does start, however, you’re at odds with the controls and stage as much as you are with your friends. Random pieces of each stage will make no sense, such as risky item boxes that have equal chances of giving you a helpful item or ensnaring you in a deadly trap. It’s a cool idea in theory, but because the power-ups are the exact same as what you can find safely scattered around the rest of the map, there is almost never any incentive to take the 50% chance of getting beaten up by an item box.
Navigating stages in Brief Battles is not any fun, either. Wall-clinging and crawling is cool, but it activates automatically, and it is emphatically uncool when you accidentally stick yourself to a surface in the heat of battle five times straight. Making matters worse, several stages are straight-up obnoxious, with hazards every couple of inches that greatly limit anyone’s ability to traverse the battlefield and take full advantage of what the game had in mind for its control scheme.
Brief Battles has some interesting ideas that could have made for a solid platform fighter, but this one needed way more ironing out. Despite a few good times to be had, the game ultimately doesn’t come close to meeting the bar set by other great indie platform fighters. It definitely has its moments, like the rush of satisfaction that follows landing a ground pound from way high up, but your time is better spent with same-genre titles like TowerFall, Duck Game, and Retimed. Promised free updates may redeem this title down the line with better modes and more carefully crafted arenas, but for now, clunky menus and long load times make an obstacle out of even setting up Brief Battles, and excessive stage hazards, wonky controls, and trite objectives mean that the prize for navigating those menus isn’t worth it.
A review code was provided by the publisher.