At the heart of Turtle Sandbox’s Cannon Brawl is, well, a ton of heart. This 2D action-strategy hybrid employs just as much charm as it does deep, strategic, fast-paced gameplay. Cannon Brawl mashes together concepts from Worms and StarCraft and manages to create something entirely unique on its own.
The delightful artstyle of Cannon Brawl accentuates how incredibly accessible and fun it is to play. The environments themselves are bright and vibrant landscapes that are decimated by cartoonish explosions over the course of a match. The individual airship captains and buildings are designed to stand out from the rest, allowing players to understand their functions at a mere glance.
A mere glance is about all the time you have to decide on minute-to-minute strategies in Cannon Brawl. Matches fly at a brisk pace, forcing your strategies to be direct replies to your enemy’s attacks or defenses. One central decision midway through a match can decide your entire fate, be it victory or defeat. You fly your airship back and forth from your base to the surrounding environment, placing offensive and defensive buildings in strategic positions. The choice to put a cannon in one location may have other ramifications down the line, forcing you to think multiple moves ahead. It is StarCraft sped up 300% — and that’s a wonderful thing.
Each airship captain has their own benefits, be them passive or active abilities in the midst of battles. The Princess employs faster cooldowns on units, while the Smuggler allows you to bring one extra building type and start with a boost of gold; both have their appeals, but either can be used to take down the other easily. A personal favorite airship belongs to the King who generates a layer of shield around itself every thirty seconds or so. It allows for further defense against an enemy’s offensive onslaught — but I have to be ready to move my airship into position at the right moment, and I might be too busy placing buildings to get there in time. It’s all about the minute-to-minute building placement and strategy.
Buildings themselves are incredibly varied with buildings like cannons, shields, drills, and so many more. They all differ in their uses and drawbacks, but all can be applied in just about any situation. But, just placing the building in position isn’t enough — you have to aim and fire it as well. This creates a wonderful push-pull of building out your offensive and defensive strategies versus actually going on the attack.
Taking the time to aim and fire gives you a brief respite from the fast-paced chaos of placing buildings in strategic positions. You get a lay of the land and fire at what would greatly benefit you the most, even if that’s the ground your enemy’s building stands on. The destructible environments add even more delight to Cannon Brawl’s gameplay. Taking out the ground around your enemies gives them less space to place buildings, thus stifling their building economy. It’s a delectable strategy to employ in more of the late game side of matches — crippling their resources before finally destroying their castle base.
Cannon Brawl offers a few different modes of play. The Adventure mode gives players a small campaign with a limited story about a princess trying to save her father from her evil uncle. It’s light and adorable, like the rest of Cannon Brawl’s style. The main draw to the campaign lies in unlocking other weapons for multiplayer and understanding the strategies behind them. In most campaign missions, you are given a new building to use to your advantage, or for the enemy to use against you. These matches play out largely like multiplayer matches, but allow you to practice different strategies with the newly unlocked buildings that may be effective against opponents.
Inside the Adventure mode also lies a few challenge maps that act as puzzles for you to solve using only a select number of buildings or shots. These give you a look inside the deeper strategies of certain buildings while also asking you to think outside the box and come up with a way to destroy an enemy base in just one shot. They are clever additions that add even more strategic depth to the main multiplayer draw.
Turtle Sandbox has made a strategy game with a ton of joy. Cannon Brawl is delightful and chaotic. It’s fast-paced and strategic. It is a combination of like-minded ideas I’m surprised haven’t been brought together before. Ultimately, Cannon Brawl is the most fun I have had playing a multiplayer strategy game in years, standing tall in its storied genre.