Sometimes I choose to review a game that Jared picks for the Game of the Week, and it can be really tough depending on how much he writes and how close it is to my thoughts. Brotato ($4.99) is going to be a pretty hefty challenge, because Jared had a lot of good, sensible things to say about it in his write-up. I’m going to direct you to it first, and then I am going to try to put my own spin on why Brotato is worth your time. So yes, go scoot along and read Jared’s thing, then come back here and we’ll get going with this review.
Okay, I know some of you went and read it and some of you didn’t, so I’ll summarize what he said first before I move along. It’s easy to write off Brotato as yet another knock-off of Vampire Survivors (Free), and given that game is free and all you may wonder why such a thing would be needed. But there are indeed some genuine differences here that make for a very distinct experience when compared to its obvious source of inspiration. It’s in that distinct flavor that you will either find Brotato a solid addition to your dinner plate or just some limp fries to be disposed of as soon as possible.
I should briefly go over what this is, just in case you’ve been living under a rock where Vampire Survivors didn’t reach. So, you know those wave-based top-down twin-stick shooters? Imagine one of those, but with auto-fire. And some roguelite elements like perks and level-ups that are wiped out when you die. There are some permanent unlocks you can earn, and they should in theory either help you survive longer or at least give you a different experience on your next run. Well, that’s the gist of it. Go forth and try to live as long as you can by evading your enemies elegantly and picking perks prodigiously.
There’s usually a metagame to things like this, and Brotato certainly has one. You can unlock different potatoes to play as, and each has its own properties that make it surprisingly unique to use. Along with your choice of weapon from the randomly selected bunch presented to you, this will have a dramatic effect on how you will have to play in the current run. There are various difficulty levels to unlock. The potatoes are unlocked through various achievements, and the difficulty levels simply unlock by finishing the previous one. The aim of the metagame then is to unlock everything, but it’s not as big a part of Brotato as it is in Vampire Survivors. You might be able to go the distance with a combination presented to you from the very start, even.
That lesser focus on the unlocking meta is one of the ways Brotato diverges from Vampire Survivors, but I would actually say the biggest difference comes from the arena itself. Vampire Survivors has large, sprawling areas that offer you a lot of room to maneuver in. Optimal strategies in that game often involve herding the incoming enemies as best as you can, and you often have the space to do so. Brotato does not offer such leg room. The play area here is always very, very tight. You can herd the enemies a little, but there really isn’t much space to run away. That makes this less of a defensive or evasive game and more of an offensive one. If you don’t bring the fight to your foes, you won’t last very long.
Aside from handling the action end of things, you’ll also need to carefully pick your perks, gear, and other upgrades. Just about everything you pick up gives you some benefit and some penalty. You need to decide which things are worth keeping and which are going to work against your style of play. There really is quite a bit here, too. You never know which things will come up and when, so you’re often trying to make the best of a suboptimal situation. Level-ups are kinder, just straight up giving you some kind of improvement to your stats. It’s really important to pay attention to what you are choosing.
The same goes for your array of weapons, and I really do mean array here. Your potato can have up to six weapons stuck into him at a time, but once you hit the limit you’ll have to start making some choices. If you have two of the same weapon you can merge them into a more powerful version, or you can recycle a weapon to free up a slot for a new one. So again, you have to think about your strategy and which weapons will suit it. You also need to think about how they will work with each other. Six weapons may seem like a lot, and it is, but you’re soon going to have to choose between one very cool weapon and another.
One knock-on benefit to the little differences that pile up in Brotato is that runs don’t take nearly as long as they tend to get in Vampire Survivors. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when that game turns the gas all the way up and you become like a god carving through throngs of monsters. But when I’m playing a mobile game, there’s a good chance I don’t have an hour to spend on a single session. Brotato runs seem to last just long enough for a good hunker without requiring you to settle in for a full-on butt-freeze. It’s a more direct game that gives you a lot less space to work with, and this is the fruit of that. Maybe that is what you are looking for; maybe it isn’t. But it’s at least a distinguishing factor, and in this climate that is worth its weight in gold.
Brotato isn’t shy about where it’s drawing from, but that game also drew from roots that Brotato kind of brings things back around to. It is probably less epic than Vampire Survivors, and I very much doubt it will have a hundredth of its impact. But there’s an immediacy and focus to it that calls back to a type of game we used to get a-plenty and probably took for granted, and I can’t help but appreciate that. If that sounds good to you, then grab some of these fries to go.