Everybody knows Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (SSBU) is the dominant game in the platform fighting genre, leaving little to no room for competition. Within the last year we saw the largely unsuccessful projects of MultiVersus and Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl try to dethrone what is thought to be the untouchable game in SSBU.
But with 2023 comes a new challenger, and one that seems to have the potential to challenge SSBU. Fraymakers is a celebration of all that indie games have to offer, featuring characters from countless titles with the technical polish of the big development studios.
In late 2020, a Kickstarter project was formed expressing McLeodGaming’s idea for an entirely new platform fighter game. With the Kickstarter promising multiple fan favourite characters, online services superior to Smash’s, and an in-depth stage and character customiser, the audience was sold.
Within 3 hours of the Kickstarter being live, McLeodGaming had reached their goal of US$46,000 (AUD$69,000) and in a further 4 weeks, raised a total of over US$360,000 (AUD$541,000). With this investment, the founding five-man development studio suddenly had a budget capable of producing their dream platform fighter.
Come January 2023, McLeodGaming’s much anticipated project has finally arrived in early access. While the game is not fully released I can safely say expectations are exceeded in every microscopic detail of the game.
The game also has an extremely in-depth stage and character editor, allowing players to create new stages and new character models. The editor feature ensures you can never be bored by giving players the chance to create their own battleground.
Playing online matches in Fraymakers is a modern and unique experience, far ahead of the outdated and frustrating connections Smash Bros always provides.
One feature that was highly anticipated for Fraymakers, especially among current Smash players looking for a new experience, is ‘rollback netcode‘. This essentially reduces the perceived connection latency when playing against other players online. Considering this is something Smash does not possess, this was immediately a big deal and it truly delivers.
The kickstarter funding really helped the game to develop the main cast of fighters with McLeodGaming managing heavy hitters from various Indie titles.
Perhaps the most recognisable is Octodad from the 2014 game Octodad: Dadliest Catch, who makes his fighting game debut. He is a slow and clumsily range character trying to keep opponents at bay with his long tentacles.
In terms of gameplay your options are limitless. With a current roster of four characters and more to come, each one has entirely different playstyles. With each new combo, the imagination kicks in, inspiring moves that can be chained, giving the player a chance to make each character their own.
The game flows much faster than others of its genre and movement feels smooth but rapid throughout the entire cast of characters. All the big mechanics of staple platform fighters like Smash return, although none feel to have been copy and pasted. All have a distinct Fraymakers feel. Often games in this genre feel like Smash but this game truly feels and handles like its own beast.
Assists are a new system in this game. Players choose a beloved indie game representative as a non-playable character to help out during the match. While fighting you build up a meter and gradually earn the ability to use the assist, who will spawn in for a few seconds and use their unique abilities to turn the tide.
Indie staples like the tank mascot from the entertainment website Newgrounds may jump into your match, or you may instead choose the crewmate from Among Us to lend you a hand. With assists being available to every playable character, it once again opens the player up to vast creativity to use whenever and however they wish.
At the time of writing I have played this game for just over 30 hours. I have put most of my time into the character, Orcane, an orca panther hybrid with great combo and escape ability. Although I have focused on Orcane, I am still constantly learning and adapting my gameplay to suit different strategies as I think of them on the fly.
Every time I boot up this game it simply blows me away with every aspect it possesses. Even the music is incredibly lively and exciting, enticing you to play ‘just one more game’.
With Fraymakers to release on the Nintendo Switch, and therefore set to directly rival Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, this game is a must buy for any fighting game fan. A love project by the small indie team of McLeodGaming is definitely something to be excited about.
Photos by Jackson Brimble