Many years ago I had the misfortune to play Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War against my then flamate Derek. What Derek didn't tell me was that he was ace at the game and I spent the next hour being battered from pillar to post, no quarter given by a man I previously considered to be a friend. That was my last dalliance with the real time strategy genre until news of Cannon Brawl was airdropped into my inbox. Scared of being hurt again, I did my best to avoid playing, but pretty colours and a good pun are always going to pique my interest, and so it was that I began in the relatively safe confines of the single player mode...
... And I can report back that I really like what I found! After the briefest of expositions I was handed control of my own fancy-schmancy airship, which serves a couple of in game purposes. Firstly, I can use it to zip around the 2D arena to place territory-claiming ballons, and then drop goldmines and weaponry in areas that I own. Secondly, I can dock with any one of my weapons and take aim at my foe with the aim of weaking defences and ultimately destroying their castle.
As a simple 2D artillery game the game would probably work fine, but the inclusion of the airship improves the gameplay significantly as each round is a hectic race to build shields, banks and weapons, while at the same time expanding territory, repairing damaged buildings and digging for precious resources.
Once I have my goldmines up, running and protected as much as possible from aerial attack, it is time to pick my weapons. Each round starts with a loadout of five assets of my choosing, although two slots are reserved for a territory balloon and a bank or mine. The other three slots are used for offensive or defensive tools that range from shields and the eponymous cannons to the more exotic scenery penetrating lasers and rocket pods. Each weapon has a purchase cost and can be upgraded to pack much more of a punch. In dire straights I can sell a badly positioned or useless weapon to get an instant monetary boost.
Learning each asset's idiosyncracies is vital to completing the game, but luckily the game's arc allows plenty of time to experiment. I eventually settled on a brutal laser/shield/rocket pod combo that allowed me to overwhelm enemy shields and undermine defensive positions. With around 20 weapons to choose from there is enough depth to keep anyone coming back and messing around to find a killer combo.
In fact, it's this depth of gameplay that surprised me about Cannon Brawl. On top of the normal campaign, which I finished in two hours (admittedly NOT with three stars on every level) there are ten puzzle levels and a nightmare mode which I haven't been brave enough to try yet. There is also 1v1 local multiplayer, online ranked and unranked multiplayer, and vs. AI.
There are also different pilots to unlock in the story mode which provide various boons in the heat of battle, but I have to admit that I stuck with the first character (Princess) as her 15% cooldown bonus just seemed like the best way to dominate.
To sum up then, Cannon Brawl treated a me gently enough to let me enjoy this genre again, but there is enough depth there to keep more die-hard fans happy. It's11.99€ on Humble, 14.99€ on Steam, but the best value is a 2-pack for 19.99€, so I really think you should treat yourself and a friend to some hectic high explosive fun times!