Small Brawl, Big Impact-Pocket Rumble Review
Pocket Rumble is developed by Cardboard Robot Games and published by Chucklefish games and is designed to be a more accessible 2D fighter. The game features only two attack buttons, with simple motions designed to be a pickup and play fighter that is hard to master and teaches the basics of fighting games, refining them so that they can be enjoyed on both the hardcore and casual levels
This simplicity makes matches fast paced. Each character only has twelve hit points, with each attack doing one point of damage. This makes understanding combos, throws, and specials vital to achieving success, but not overcomplicating the process of finding optimal strategies. Each of the eight fighters has different tools and meter that set them apart. For example, Naomi has to build her meter manually, allowing her to do EX versions of moves. Meanwhile, Quinn starts each round with full meter which allows him to transform into a werewolf for a short period of time, giving him a new moveset but he can be hit out of it and once it’s gone it’s gone for the round. Combine these with the simple motions (often diagonal down forward or back, with a hold of a button) and the ability to swap characters on losses between rounds and the game becomes more about knowing what your opponent will do, rather than what the character can do.
Pocket Rumble offers the standard modes of your traditional 2D fighter. Offline includes Arcade, Career, VS (both CPU and Player 2), Training and Tutorial. Tutorial mode teaches both the basics of the game itself as well as the mechanics of each character, going over their dashes, meter, and unique properties. Training mode allows you to practice combos, and even displays hitbox information. Arcade mode is a standard gauntlet run but beating it doesn’t reward you with any endings or new colors. Career mode pits you against AI that get progressively harder and gives you a score that increases with every opponent defeated.
Online gameplay is smooth thanks to GGPO rollback netcode. I was almost always able to find a match, and there was little to no lag in the majority of my matches (this is all while playing undocked I might add). There’s a simple enough ranking system that details your overall player rank as well as individual ranks for each of the game’s cast. One thing I do have against the netcode however is that I could never tell who I was fighting outside of their overall rank and character rank (which change each match). When going online in Pocket Rumble, only your name is displayed, while your opponent is only listed as “opponent”. It’s a small gripe, but it often led to me questioning if I was fighting the same person repeatedly.
Small gripes are throughout Pocket Rumble. Only one color in a palette can be picked, meaning that if someone picks red, you can’t be red (even if you’re a different character entirely). You also can’t choose stages manually, instead a stage will be auto assigned based on one of the two characters picked. This is especially disheartening as the game’s art style is fantastic, making each stage a delight to see.
These issues are small in the grander scheme however, as Pocket Rumble’s gameplay and style more than make up for them. The pick up and play style mixed with nostalgic graphics reminiscent of a Neo Geo Pocket Color game are a delight to the senses, combined with solid online play and a diverse roster, Pocket Rumble is one of the better unique fighters I’ve played.