Bookbound Brigade is a delightfully unique metroidvania gushing with personality and humor. It brings to the forefront characters from various points of literary and world history, educates us in the process, and humorously brings the heroes and worlds together in a fun-filled and interesting way. But does Bookbound Brigade deserve a space in the Eternal Library of video games? Let’s find out!
Bookbound Brigade puts you in the shoes of some amazing characters. You play as King Arthur, Count Dracula, Robin Hood, Dorothy Gale, Sun Wukong, Queen Victoria, Cassandra, and Nikola Tesla… at the same time. It is a hilarious story, and it is up to you and this ragtag team to recover the Book of Books, also known as BOB. It was stolen by some evil ones, so the Bookbound Brigade unites to take them on!
This is not the deepest story by any means, but it is profound for other reasons. Bookbound Brigade introduces some fantastic characters from history in a modern way that can easily help educate anyone. People who are familiar with these stories and characters will understand immediately some of the gags, locations, monsters, and items throughout the game. For those who do not know, Bookbound Brigade does a great job giving players information in the Characters section of the pause menu.
I found myself obsessed with wanting to know how they would depict various characters. As soon as I would meet someone like Socrates, the game would just jab me with great philosophical puns and witty humor. The interaction between the Brigade and the characters you meet is the highlight of the game. Queen Victoria, especially, had me laughing so hard I had to pause the game. She would turn any tame situation into a volatile mess, and it was funny every time.
There is so much going on in this game that I would recommend buying it for the story alone. It is just so good.
Bookbound Brigade is a metroidvania game at its core. You progress by getting new items and upgrades to access new areas, rinse and repeat. The major difference here, though, is Bookbound Brigade’s unique use of a main character. Since you are not playing as one character, you are constantly controlling and managing eight people at the same time. This can be quite the challenge, because puzzles, platforming, and battling all expect you use the correct formations, powers, and upgrades available.
Formations are one of the most interesting mechanics, but they will also be one of the most frustrating you will experience throughout the game. Controls can be quite contrite at times and hard to get used to, because the awkwardness of shifting the formation of your unit as you are jumping and attacking can be a bit much. It takes a lot of practice and getting used to, but once you do, the game magically opens up and becomes something really special.
There are a lot of control combinations to learn as you progress, but I found myself often neglecting the correct way to do something and trying to attempt a more traditional route. Surprisingly, staying in the traditional stacked formation (Standard Formation) works for the majority of the game. Using the Line Formation, Column Formation, and Wheel Formation can be handy for battling, but again, I regularly use the Standard Formation.
Influences and Some Unfairness
Bookbound Brigade obviously borrows a lot of ideas from previous metroidvanias, but one that stood out in particular for me was Guacamelee. Random gauntlets would occur with waves of enemies, and you would be rewarded with treasure upon completion. Falling into pits or stepping on spikes teleports you to the previous safe area. And battle combinations are highly valued and give great reason to learn how to use abilities correctly and well. This is especially true for boss fights, which are EPIC, by the way.
Some times the game puts you in situations that feel a bit unfair, though. It is not that the puzzles, platforming, or battles are too hard, but every so often the game expects you to complete a task that seems way too advanced. This was off putting at times and caused me to get quite frustrated. For example, some long hazardous platforming sections would ask you to do some crazy jump and formation change combos, and if you touched a spike, even at the very end, it would send you all the way back to the beginning of that section.
Some areas require you to use special abilities that use Energy. If you get hit and return to the start of that area, you must wait for your Energy bar to recharge. This can also be a bit annoying.
Puzzles and Platforming
With that said, the game does have some fantastic platforming. The way the different formations play into some simple jumping areas will have you scratching your head. I know I mentioned some unfairness in the game, but please know that is pretty minimal. When it happens, yes, it is frustrating. However, for the most part, Bookbound Brigade excels in giving you challenges that feel just right.
Certain areas will give you little hints, and when you figure them out you feel like you just conquered the world. The combination of puzzles and platforming in the game is some of the most fun I have had in a metroidvania in a long, long time.
It does have some minor problems here and there, but for the most part, Bookbound Brigade is just so enjoyable.
The music in Bookbound Brigade is incredible. It feels and sounds like you are playing an epic tale, and the team did a phenomenal job with it. Each area just oozes with personality thanks especially to the tone and direction of the music.
I also love the game’s use of sound effects. The way they do the character’s voices is similar to Banjo and Kazooie, where they mumble over the speech bubbles. But this was not annoying at all throughout the entire game. Honestly, I found it charming.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE
Bookbound Brigade is super-cute! The artwork and animation is really well done and helps to immerse you into this fantastical world where all of these characters exist simultaneously. All of the models look amazing, and the representation of each character is just perfect.
The game runs incredibly smooth for the most part. I never ran into any performance issues in either docked mode or handheld mode, but I must admit that loading times between areas is a drag. It is not always really long, but at its worst, I waited over a minute for a level to load once.
This is absolutely worth every penny. At $19.99, £17.99, and €19,99, you are getting at least 20 hours of gameplay, way more if you are a completionist. It is one of the most unique metroidvanias on the market currently, and there is no way I cannot recommend it.
Bookbound Brigade is an experience that delighted me more times than I can count. It is fun, hilarious, and educational. It is an amazing puzzle platformer that is just brimming with personality. For $20, I would say that is one heck of a good time.
Story - 9/10
Gameplay - 6/10
Audio - 8/10
Visuals & Performance - 8/10
Value - 9/10
Here at SwitchWatch, we love our metroidvanias, especially ones which try something a little different. With Bookbound Brigade, we have a charming game with a funny story and great mechanics that make you think how to accomplish certain challenges, and while it doesn’t always get it right, I had great fun for the best part of 20 hours thanks to its great audio, nice visuals, and wonderful story, and overall it is just a fun experience. Please check it out!
Fantastic story and use of comedy.
Fantastic puzzles and platforming.
Epic boss fights.
Long load times between levels.
Some unfair puzzles/gauntlets at times.
Random difficulty spikes.