Multiplayer brawlers are such an infrequently attempted genre that people don’t even agree on what they should be called. Party fighters? Smash-likes? 3D competitive beat-em-up? Please not that last one. Look, what we call them isn’t important. What’s important is that you understand what we’re talking about – a game where 2-4 friends enter and 1 leaves, best played on a couch with said friends. Today’s entry is GigaBash, and I’ll avoid burying the lede: this one is worthy of your attention.
A game like this is only as good as its characters and I’m happy to report these are some top notch kaiju. Representatives from all across the tokusatsu spectrum are present: giant monsters, mecha, adorable yeti that I want a plush of, a straight up sentai dude the size of a building, a snail with teeth INSIDE ITS EYEBALLS??? Many giant monster media inspirations are clear to see for those of us steeped in the genre, but these designs are all original and stand out on their own. A particular highlight is Kongkrete, a sentient building with a passion for camoflage who chomps its opponents like a rectangular Pac-Man. Think a mimic, only it’s an entire apartment complex. Terrifying! I love it.
(Post-edit note: Apparently PRG somehow managed to navigate the notorious terrors of Toho rights and will actually be releasing some Godzilla content for this game in the future?! Incredible work. If I get to play Gigan in this I will cease to play all other video games for an extended period.)
How do these monsters play? A lot like Power Stone 2, with a splash of War of the Monsters. Characters have two attack buttons, a grab, a block (which enables different attacks), a dash, and a jump. Attacks are chargeable by holding the button and typically become a different move than the uncharged version. That sounds like a lot, but it’s easier than it sounds because that’s pretty much everything. You’ll be hitting the attack buttons more than anything else and there’s only two of them. Getting a feel for any given character is all about figuring out their effective ranges and their movement. Much like its predecessors, GigaBash makes getting started as easy as possible.
Which isn’t to say it’s flawless. Some characters feel considerably lower impact than others from a presentation perspective, like Pipijuras and its many variations on throwing a ball or throwing a slightly larger ball. The game on the whole lacks a bit of Power Stone’s speed or War of the Monsters’ impact, and I think some of that is due to the camera. It’s generally zoomed very far out, making the monsters look smaller than they actually are until they fill their S-class meter and double in size (aka Big Mode as we took to calling it) or the smash ball-esque item that allows monsters to perform a gigantic super move. There’s a lot more that goes into playing the game well, because of course there is, but you can absolutely swap characters each round with your friends and potentially pull a win out of your ass, especially in Mayhem mode where the win conditions change every single round.
A significant portion of this casual appeal is attributable to the stages themselves. They are, in a word, wild. Just about every kind of imaginable stage hazard is featured somewhere, especially once you get all of the stages unlocked. Some are just hazards, like the Hawaiian city that floods the vast majority of the ground with lava. Almost all of them feature throwable buildings, but some have especially useful ones like explosive gas stations or fish statues that can skewer your opponents. My personal favorite are the hazards players can fight for control of, like the Russian missile silo that allow you to ride its payload around like the end of Dr. Strangelove.
There’s a single player mode, and it’s had a significant amount of effort put into it, but that’s not why you should play this. Only 4/10 characters have stories consisting of 5 chapters each, and that’s a good few hours of play complete with unlocks, but the chapters themselves are all over the place in terms of quality. They don’t focus on what the game is best at – its wonderfully tuned fighting – and instead introduce obligatory gimmickry and one-sided struggles. It works and feels in line with the genre’s older cousins but that doesn’t make it feel any more essential. Do I regret playing it? Certainly not! Would I revisit? Not for that! But I absolutely will sit down to brawl with CPUs in multiplayer even if my friends aren’t around, because I’ve got a fever and the only prescription is sick Woolley grab setups.
Games like these are balanced on a razor’s edge. They need straightforward controls with approachable character movesets, but to also reward continued time investment with tangible skill improvement. Basically you need to be able to mash but also do better than someone who’s mashing. This is harder to pull off than it sounds, and GigaBash delivers. You can have a legitimately great time smacking your face into the controller with 3 friends and watching the screen light up as kaiju go flying and the stage explodes with environmental hazards. You can also shut off all the extraneous bits, no matter how fun they are, and have a legitimately enjoyable 1v1 straitlaced fighting game with reliable combos if you take the time to learn them.
GigaBash is at its best with friends, to the surprise of no one, but the extent of its quality is something rarely seen in its space. It’s the kind of casual fighter that’s manages to strike the balance between supporting four players mashing buttons and two players sweating it out with items off, a tremendously challenging feat. I’ve played both ways over the last couple weeks and enjoyed each tremendously, albeit for different reasons, and that has left me with a great deal of respect for what Passion Republic Games has built. I’m not saying the game will spawn or sustain a Smash-type scene – that’s not for me to predict or decide – though I am saying that if it takes off I’d be compelled to join in. What I can say for sure is that GigaBash has earned a spot at the top of my list whenever I want a video game to entertain me and my friends at a get together, no matter who’s around, and that’s a place of high honor.
A copy of this game was independently purchased for review.