I love going into a game blind, having no idea what to expect other than judging the book by its cover (or the game by its main menu). One of the perks of writing for Movies, Games and Tech is that I get to do that a lot more. So, when I downloaded Cannon Brawl onto my Nintendo-based Switch-console I had no idea what an exceptional experience was awaiting me behind the unassuming title screen.
Cannon Brawl describes itself as an action RTS and artillery hybrid which buries the lead so deeply that even the most dedicated of bloodhounds wouldn’t be able to find it in time for walkies. The game is an action RTS, true enough, but the main mechanics of the game lend a reasonable amount from a wide range of genres, with a particular leaning towards tower defence.
You play as an airship captain whose job is to defend a friendly base on one end of a 2D battlefield and to attack an unfriendly base on the other. To fight that battle you’ll claim areas in the centre of the battlefield and build a variety of highly specialised towers – image the Tower of London but with a pigeon-deterring microwave cannon built on the roof. Alongside your architectural endeavours, you’ll pilot your airship around the towers and use their abilities to attack the enemy’s bases and towers and to defend your own. Success depends on an even split between meticulous strategy and frantic speed. Every encounter gives a rush of endorphins and, as each level in the campaign only takes 5-10 minutes to beat, you get a string of delicious bite-size chunks of intense airship piloting action, one after the other.
To properly dominate the battlefield you’ll need a veritable arsenal of tower types at your disposal. Fortunately, Cannon Brawl has got you covered, with tower types gradually unlocked through the campaign with a range of special effects. First, you’ll need to claim some territory on the battlefield using a balloon tower to add a circular range to your side’s area of influence. Then you’ll need to fund your devastating building addiction with a mine built on a deposit of gold or crystal which will generate the currency you need for further expansion. From there the battle begins.
You have a range of offensive and defensive options, such as cannons, missiles, bombs, shields and a repair beam, among many others. All of these are strong and weak against each other, for instance, the shields hinder attacks from cannons but bombs can roll straight through, meaning you need to build strategically to tailor your offensive and defensive capabilities to those of your enemy. Oh, and did I mention that all of the terrain is fully destructible à la Worms, so even the most meticulously constructed base is vulnerable to an attack from below. After all, as the builder I’ve commissioned to construct an evil lair directly beneath my house keeps telling me: if you remove the foundations, the building will not stand.
The game is such a hybrid, it borrows all the best parts from RTS, artillery, tower defence, Worms and the final product triggers the same response in me as FTL: Faster than Light where you are frantically juggling a lot of systems in real-time, constantly putting out metaphorical and literal fires, deciding on the fly what parts of your defence are important and which can wait, or even be sacrificed, in pursuit of your overall goal of defeating the enemy. The way it makes you manually move between each tower to activate its effect means you have to always be thinking and strategising, altering your plan moment by moment, on top of the original strategy you put in place when considering what to built and where.
I was blown away by Cannon Brawl and I’m in the rare position of not having the slightest negative thing to say about it. I loved it. 10/10. The most 10/10 of the 10/10s I’ve given out in my time writing for this site. It’s a strong recommendation from me.