Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most brutish of them all? Hopefully my Brute, and on that simple premise Bulkypix & Motion Twin have invited iOS gamers to a worldwide network-enabled slugfest. After logging in with his or her Game Center ID the player gets down to the business of founding a dojo – or perhaps joining a friend’s – and training Brutes in hopes of one day seeing them at the top of the world ranking chart.

For better or worse, My Brute‘s most compelling moments lie in its first few minutes, which task the player with creating up to three Brutes. With such a dizzying set of options for defining everything from hairstyle to armor color to body mass laid out before the player, it’s difficult not to geek out over every detail. One might imagine that certain combinations of features could turn out unsavory, but thanks to lush cell shaded sprites the player will have a difficult time producing anything other than really stylish warriors.

My Brute revolves around one-on-one gladiatorial matches that pit the player’s Brutes against those of other players from all over the globe. The game server does a truly admirable job of pairing comparable Brutes and even allows the player to select one of three opponents drawn from the wider body of My Brute players. While the player can see the stats of his or her opponent’s Brute, unobservables also come into play: a  Brute with unimpressive stats might be armed with a special weapon or accompanied by ferocious animal familiars liable to make short work of the player’s Brute. If the player has been rewarded for previous victories with a certain type of potion, he or she can use the pre-battle screens as an opportunity to Hulk-ify his or her own Brute for extra insurance.

What’s so tragic about My Brute is how empty it feels during the segments that should have been most central to the player’s experience. Once the player sends a Brute into combat he or she watches idly as the match proceeds automatically, completely devoid of interaction! It’s difficult to understand from the player’s perspective because there’s plenty of action going on in the arena: the opposing Brutes are busy dodging attacks, whipping out weapons and knocking them from the hands of the opposition, snaring animal companions in nets, and even lobbing explosives at one another. The matches are certainly fun to watch, but the player can’t help but feel a little sad at the prospect of being stuck on the sidelines.

My Brute follows streamlined RPG conventions in rewarding the player’s Brute for victories. Item acquisition and level-up results appear to be heavily randomized; the player’s Brute might earn a weapon, a pet that will join him or her in combat, various useful potions and combat abilities, or significant stat bonuses. These rewards make a great difference in the Brute’s long-term success, and this places great weight on the player’s early decisions regarding which foes to accept; an unsuccessful match goes nearly unrewarded but could still push the player’s Brute into more advanced tournament brackets.

The player can also serve his or her Brute’s needs by aggressively recruiting other players into his or her dojo — doing so allows the player’s Brute to collect gifts from disciples. Weapons and other equipment earned on the battlefield or in the form of gifts aren’t manually equipped by the player, but rather automatically utilized mid-battle as the Brute sees fit.

As if the automatic nature of duking it out doesn’t create enough distance between the player and those beautiful Brutes he or she lavished so much attention on during the game’s opening minutes, My Brute enforces a strict limit on the number of battles the Brutes can engage in during any 24-hour period. There’s simply no more efficient way for a game to scream: “Put me down already, I don’t really want you to play with me!” It’s sad, too, because I experienced nary a hiccup in My Brute‘s network connectivity — this is seriously one of the smoothest functioning MMOs on the iOS market. One can only wonder whether the 24-hour limit has been instituted specifically for the sake of reducing server load.

At least My Brute‘s overall presentation is utterly gorgeous, with cell-shaded characters and beasts that look just as impressive in motion as they do in screenshots. Battles play out against beautifully rendered backdrops and the music – albeit consisting of just a few tracks – is fittingly quirky with a tinge of the epic. The menus outside of battle aren’t immediately self explanatory, but quickly familiarized and reliable.

iFanzine Verdict: Despite its slick presentation and top-notch character customization, My Brute simply lacks the player interactivity needed to make it a fully engaging experience. It would have been a fun distraction at a lower price range, but at $4.99 it feels like the monster-raising minigame that should have been attached to a meaty RPG.

If you’re on the lookout for a fling with a beautiful game you won’t have to commit much time to, My Bruteshould do nicely since its interface – at least as much as it exists – is well executed on the iOS. If you want an engrossing experience with enough substance to match the price tag, best to look elsewhere or wait for a sale.

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