Brandnew Boy review for iPhone and iPad

Brandnew Boy launched on iOS not too long ago, offering up a unique mix of 3D hand-to-hand combat, colorful anime graphics, and a soundtrack that sounds like it's straight out of Kill Bill. The iPhone and iPad game had a big content update last week, went on sale, and now they're hosting a giveaway in our forums for ten $10 iTunes Gift Cards and 10 promo codes for Brandnew Boy.

Brandnew Boy puts you in control of a kid that has had his memory wiped, and the only one that is able to help him piece together his identity is a sassy little robot named Onaona that speaks in TV sound bytes. The kid, appropriately named Rookie, quickly finds out that he can still fight with panache, and liberally dishes out the whoop-ass to anyone standing between him and his memories. If you're just interested in action, the latest update includes a new endless-wave mode, which is also available as a stand-alone free game. Though the Infinity mode has entirely separate character progression, some rewards transfer over, depending on the power-ups you pick after levelling up. Every wave has a few bonus objectives, such as beating enemies without dodging, which provide bonus rewards.

The gameplay is very unique for the genre. Instead of the usual dual-stick layout which consists of pounding buttons to execute attacks, Brandnew Boy relies on a vaguely rhythm-based mechanic. A cursor slides up a target bar below Rookie, and as it approaches the target area, you have to tap the screen. The closer to the target when tapping, the more powerful the attack. The unfortunate side-effect of this mechanic is that attention is directed pretty much exclusively on that little bar, not on the rich 3D mayhem.

After awhile, you can start learning the animations of Rookie's attacks to time your taps, but that method is much less precise than relying on the target bar. Every once in awhile action is mixed up with special attacks which are activated from a button bar along the bottom-left, and if things get really hairy, Rookie can dodge with swipe gestures. These secondary actions are really important to staying interested in the action, since the "tap when the thingie hits the thingie" mechanic can get really boring really quickly. Regardless, I could see there being a lot of room for the devs to play around with the idea - multiple target zones, different fighting styles with varied target shapes and attack rhythms, and syncing attacks with music, for example.

The game progresses in a standard RPG format: defeating enemies through a linear story arc allows you to level up and increase stats like strength, dexterity and vitality as you see fit. New abilities are unlocked from defeating bosses, but can also be improved as you level up. Defeating bosses allows you to summon them to your aid Pokemon-style, though only for a brief time, and requiring a fairly lengthy cooldown period. There's a wealth of gear to buy with the coins you earn through gameplay, though you can speed up the process with in-app purchases. There are quite a few vanity costumes which range from svelte to ridiculous, and thanks to the recent update, you can play as a Brandnew Girl too. Various power-ups and potions can keep Rookie on his A-game.

Brandnew Boy's style is steeped in classic anime, including tons of exclamation points in dialogue, giant eyes for everybody, bizarrely-shaped enemies, and cutesy animal references. Generally that kind of stuff really turns me off, but the rockin' soundtrack and edgy, modern costumes are enough of a juxtaposition to keep me interested. The kind of over-the-top, unapologetically unrealistic violence reminded me a lot of No More Heroes, an action game on Wii with a similar east-meets-west theme. Even outside of gameplay, the menus are bold, bright, and a joy to navigate.  The combat animations are smooth and colorful, though the pixellation along the edges of 3D models can sometimes get a bit distracting.

Brandnew Boy is universal, so your achievements and scores will be carried over to Game Center, but I wasn't able to get games to sync across iPad and iPhone. The one-touch control makes Brandnew Boy entirely viable to play on the iPhone, but it's much easier to soak in the excellent graphics on an iPad.

The good

  • Original and colorful art style
  • Ample character customization

The bad

  • Importance of attack bar distracts from game's solid graphics
  • Attack mechanic can get repetitive

The bottom line

Brandnew Boy is a decidedly different kind of action RPG with a truly unique style. While there are some things I would change about the gameplay, namely how much attention you have to pay to the moving attack bar, the core mechanic is a refreshing change of pace. The writing, art style, and animation are all very unique among the usual crop of iOS fighting games, and even as someone who generally isn't into anime, Brandnew Boy adds enough of a twist to make the experience enjoyable.

Here's the download link, but don't forget, you could win a copy in our forum giveaway!

$3.99 $0.99 - Buy Now


Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.