Title: Bounty Battle Released On: September 10, 2020 Genre: Fighting Game Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch Also Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One Developer: DarkScreen Games Publisher: Merge Games MSRP: $24.99 USD / $31.49 CAD
Bringing together characters from some of the most acclaimed indie games of the past generation, Bounty Battle is the new fighting game by DarkScreen Games that pits some of our favorite protagonists against one another in variety of environments pulled straight from other realms. Although it offers a straightforward and entertaining combat system, Bounty Battle’s rather minimal gameplay offering and lack of online multiplayer holds it back from being an ultimately captivating 2D fighting game.
Featuring characters from Dead Cells, Darkest Dungeon, Owlboy, Guacamelee, and many more stellar indie titles — as well as a handful of their own first-party fighters — there is a sizable roster of recognizable characters to pick from. Easily Bounty Battle’s biggest strength in the ability to play as some of these beloved characters in a completely different medium, using their unique attacks to decimate your opponents.
Bounty Battle is a much more arcade-style fighting game, arguably verging on a brawler, which opts for a relatively simple control scheme in lieu of complex combos and perfectly timed counters. I personally prefer this approach to the gameplay as it made for a more relaxed, yet occasionally challenging, experience. Characters alternate between light and heavy attacks, which can be combined with directions to launch or charge attacks, in addition to unleashing special and unique moves which are easy to chain together and fun to execute. It’s an easy system to pick up, but one that definitely still has its intricacies once you’re actually toe-to-toe with an opponent.
Bounty Battle‘s most unique system is its Bounties though, and the ability to call in special minions or unleash devastating attacks once your Bounty is high enough. The Bounty tally at the top of the screen increases throughout the match as you do damage and knock out opponents, and when playing against multiple opponents whoever is performing the highest will have their picture on display, making them a target to steal their points and turn the tide.
The level design in Bounty Battle is fantastic, and the team at DarkScreen Games have done a superb job transposing the worlds of some beloved indie games into stages to brawl on, as well as including some of their own unique stages. One of my favorite levels is easily the arcade cabinet, where you play on top of the gamepad and are treated to the intro cutscene from Bounty Battle playing on the arcade screen in the backdrop.
Bounty Battle is split up between its single and multiplayer offerings, but either way you will be relegated to a single system. In single player you can test your might against a CPU in either Tournament or Challenge mode, the former which offers slightly more involvement. Tournament Mode requires you to complete specific objectives, which are typically as simple as defeat or knocking out an opponent, to be able to advance. In Challenge Mode, you simply fight against CPUs until you die.
The multiplayer portion of the game is purely local, which means that in the current pandemic situation I was not able to play against any real opponents. It’s a shame there isn’t an online offering, because Bounty Battle would be a decent entry into the competitive fighting game sphere. With the ongoing situation, it’s not easy — or advisable — to have couch gaming parties to battle against your friends, so for now many people will likely have to suffice with playing with their family or roommates. It’s really a shame though, because there is something that just doesn’t feel quite right about having a local-only multiplayer fighting game in 2020.
Unfortunately the gameplay gets stale in Bounty Battle rather quickly, and without a diverse group of online opponents to test your mettle against there isn’t much in the way of replayability to keep you going. After you’ve beaten through the single-player portions of fighting games, typically an online mode is what sustains their longevity.
This is in addition to the fact that all of the fighters are available to you from the beginning of the game, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. When I loaded Bounty Battle up I was initially stoked to be able to immediately play as The Prisoner or Juan, but within a couple hours I began to wish that there was a smaller initial offering, with additional characters being unlockable through challenges or the Tournament Mode, instead of just some colour variations. Without anything substantial to work towards, the replayability for the game takes another hit.
At the end of the day Bounty Battle is a serviceable fighting game that is bolstered substantially by the offering of characters, but detracted by through the lack of an online multiplayer and any sort of progression or unlock system to entice players to really sink their teeth in. It also suffers from some stuttering in the menus on the Nintendo Switch, which thankfully did not occur in any of the actual matches.
If you’re looking for something fun to play on the couch with some friends, then Bounty Battle may be just what you’re looking for, but it’s hard to recommend this to anyone looking for a substantial fighting game when there are so many more options out there that offer much more replayability and involvement. While it’s assuredly fun to play a fighting game with characters that I’ve easily spent 100+ hours with in their own games, a lack of some key features holds Bounty Battle back from being the ultimate 2D fighting game.
Final Score: 6/10
Without an online multiplayer or any substantial replayability, Bounty Battle doesn’t last long in the ring.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.