Review by Sour
Reviewed: 03/15/10 | Updated: 07/06/10
The black sheep of the series, and for good reason.
As the Twisted Metal franchise saw it's success with an older audience, they felt the need to cater to a younger audience as well. As a result the game has a lighter, less mature feel. It's a lot brighter in nature than the previous four games. Twisted Metal: Small Brawl would go on to be the black sheep of the series. Thankfully the series would go back it's roots with the next installment but at the time, Small Brawl was all that we got. Most would go on to not care for this one and I can see why, the game is just too kiddy. It feels like they tried a little bit though and I guess for a kid's version of the series, it does what it intends.
Story: 7/10: Instead of the characters being grown up, they're all small children appearing to be seven to ten years old. The resident bully at school, Calypso, forces a bunch of the other kids to pit their remote control cars against his. He does mean things to force them to play with them, such as stealing one boy's pet frog. He stuffs another boy, Warthog, in a trash can. In response, all of the kids deck out their remote controlled cars so that they can evenly duel against Calypso, but first they have to go up against the other kids in a series of battle royals. Gone is the wish-granting, dark and twisted Calypso that we all know and love. He's just a bratty kid now. Again, what happens here was intended, as the game is focused on drawing in little kids. So I guess it does what it's intended for, giving the player the need and want to take out the other opponents in the tournament. Even though it's aimed at kids, they could have still made it so that Calypso grants wishes. Just take away the dark irony that usually comes from when the wishes are granted. So many other ideas would've worked better. Still, you'll see other familiar characters such as Sweet Tooth, Warthog, Axel, Outlaw, Grasshopper, and Hammerhead.
Game-play: 10/10: Probably the only part of the game that shines if you're older than twelve. The controls are just as great as the rest of the series and you shouldn't have any trouble here. The controls are the same as they've been in the previous four installments and they're pretty tight, meaning you can turn on a dime. The game is focused on vehicular combat (or in the case of this one, remote-controlled vehicular combat) and pits the player against enemy characters in a battle royal. While driving around the arena you can pick up various weapons for your car to bombard your enemies. Each car also has a pair of mounted machine guns in case you want to deal a little extra damage or in case you run out of ammo. Each character also has a special weapon that's unique to that character, based on personality or style of car. This special weapon constantly regenerates, so you can just use it over and over, albeit slowly, or collect other weapons while it's regenerating and then you'll really have a field day with blasting enemies to smithereens.
As the game progresses you'll face more and more enemies per arena. The game also has a difficulty setting which can be useful if you're finding the game too easy or too hard. However this game has a step down from Twisted Metal 4 in that Twisted Metal 4 had a boss character for each arena. Unfortunately Twisted Metal: Small Brawl only features a whopping two bosses. For whatever reason, we never got to see the number of boss characters as high as Twisted Metal 4 again, each game opting to have only a small few of them. The arenas, much like the plot of this game are focused mainly on kids areas. Such as a playground or a child's bedroom as opposed to dueling on the streets and rooftops in the previous four games. Each stage still has it's environmental hazards at least, such as a buzzsaw coming out of the floor and giant swinging blades. Even the Kitchen has a deadly microwave.
Graphics: 7/10: Twisted Metal: Small Brawl was in many ways a let down and this was one of them. Although the cut scenes look good enough in their CGI-rendered glory, the in-game graphics have definitely taken a step back from Twisted Metal 4, instead looking like Twisted Metal 3. It would have been okay if the graphics stayed roughly the same between 4 and Small Brawl but it's obvious that they took a step back instead of being static or even making some progress. They did a very poor job in this category and I'm not really sure why. The only thing that looks okay compared to the rest in-game is the fires that are set, as they look pretty realistic. But the vehicles feel as blocky as ever. It just completely baffles me. I don't have much else to say here. The cut scene graphics are pretty good, but the in-game graphics are just plain awful.
Audio: 6/10: Yet again we have a large drop-off here from Twisted Metal 4, and from even Twisted Metal 3. The previous two games featured soundtracks composed of hard rock and heavy metal songs from various large bands, notably Rob Zombie. Perhaps we were spoiled with the last two soundtracks as once again, something of that nature would never be seen in a Twisted Metal game. The soundtrack selected is okay, a callback perhaps to Twisted Metal and Twisted Metal 2, but not as hardcore as them. And again, the last two games left us drooling for good, well-known music in the game and this one failed to deliver. The sound effects aren't horrible and everything sounds like what it should sound like, but the soundtrack will leave a bad aftertaste in your mouth if you prefer something a little darker sounding, which should be the norm for this series. A dark, wicked soundtrack like the rest of the games, that's what this one needs.
Overall: 6/10: Twisted Metal: Small Brawl is easily the worst in the series. Not only did it go backwards in terms of graphics and soundtrack, but it catered to an entirely different audience all together: little kids. Twisted Metal's plot should stay where it belongs, in it's dark roots. Not some bratty, whiny kid forcing others to play with them. Even regular Calypso would not force someone to join his tournaments. It has always been voluntarily entered and the endings usually teach the character a lesson: Be careful what you wish for.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Twisted Metal: Small Brawl (US, 11/26/01)
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