Preview: Brews & Bastards

30 Jan 2024

So, who’s up for a little co-op arcade action? You? Alright, just be sure to bring a drink to wash it down with! Coming at us from Mune Studio, we had the chance to have a quick look at Brews & Bastards, a slightly tipsy twin-stick take on the classic co-op arcade beat/shoot-em-up formula popularized in the 80s and 90s by the likes of games such as the Gauntlet franchise and Smash T.V. So grab your beer and gamepads and gather up on the couch.

Games like this don’t come around as often as they used to, but the formula is instantly recognizable to anyone whose ever been in an arcade (remember those?). Pick one of four (slightly drunk) heroes and clear multiple segmented stages of groups of (also slightly drunk) enemies, progress to the next section, and do it all again until you reach the boss. It’s a classic formula that has seen a bit of a revival in the last few years with some classic co-op arcade experiences getting remasters or remakes.

In Brews & Bastards, you relive (through the telling of a bard) the story of how a group of heroes reclaimed all the booze stolen from the tavern. It’s a fun setting with a certain boozy charm to it. Besides the projectiles you hurl in twin-stick fashion (move with one stick, aim with the other), you get lots of powerups to blast the enemies with, all of which involve some variety of alcohol.

My personal favorite is the “Moscow Mule,” which summons a giant mule statue from the sky to smash enemies. It bears a striking resemblance to the Concrete Donkey from the Worms franchise. But there are many others, from Molotov cocktails to champagne bottles. Each hero also has an offensive and defensive special ability which has no limit on use but a long cooldown. The controls are fluid and intuitive, although currently only controllers are supported. Let’s hope that gets fixed, as any game on PC should have mouse and keyboard controls available.

Also, the game currently appears to be entirely offline. While you can certainly use Steam’s Remote Play Together feature, not all of us have friends that can just come over anytime to play some couch co-op, so I hope online support is in the works.

On my trip through the demo’s solitary multi-stage level, which had a bit of a hybrid look somewhere between a dungeon and a tavern, things felt a bit slow compared to other such games, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The enemy encounter rooms didn’t seem to have the large hordes of enemies I’d typically expect from this style of game. Though I would wager the number of enemies scales with the number of players, and there are also traps all over the rooms which are as likely to hit you as any enemy. So you definitely have to be alert to all areas of the screen to avoid damage, which I like.

The level concluded with a bizzare boss fight against a giant drunk knight with one of those beer hat contraptions. Damaging the boss requires beating him at beer pong, by picking up balls and throwing them into plastic cups on a moving platform, after which it becomes vulnerable to attack. While most of the rest of the level felt pretty generic, the creativity does shine through more in this encounter. It is definitely quite random in a genre known for weird boss fights (See: Ninja Baseball Bat Man).

This is definitely the sort of game that’s going to be better with friends than by yourself. It’s quite obvious from the large battle areas with few enemies when playing alone. Thus, if you’ve got a co-op game itch that needs scratching, then keep an eye out for this game at Steam’s Next Fest, as there is a lot of potential with Brews & Bastards. Just… let’s get that online play and mouse/keyboard control in there, please?

Demo copy provided by Mune Studio. Screenshots taken by writer.