By Josh Speer / April 19th, 2018
While it’s true that we already reviewed Bombslinger earlier this week, thanks to the efforts of Mathew Imfield, this piece is gonna be a little different. For one, this is giving my take on the Switch version of the game. For another, this article is from the perspective of a longtime fan of Bomberman, which Mathew admittedly was not. With that in mind, let’s talk about this cowboy rogue-like, shall we?
Let me start by saying this – I had really high hopes for the latest official Bomberman title, Super Bomberman R. Those hopes were utterly dashed by the horrid and botched job done by Konami. They created a game that was unsatisfying, played horribly and just nearly ruined my appreciation for the classic series. Thankfully, indies have a way of redeeming lackluster AAA efforts. They understand how to give tribute to the source material without ruining it by trying too much or too little. And that’s exactly how I see Bombslinger – the Bomberman game fans didn’t know they wanted, but which we certainly deserve.
Our review did a good job of covering the mechanics of the game, so I’ll just gloss over things real quickly. In Bombslinger, you have the best elements of Bomberman meshed with rogue-like mechanics and cowboy influence. I initially wasn’t sure about that design choice, but it works shockingly well. In this tale of revenge, your job is to blow all that stands before you to ash, and while you primarily do so with explosives, there are lots of other ways it spices things up. At the start of every game, you can select items from the loadout to buff yourself and provide different tools, such as a bomb kick or increased health. You can also find subweapons to aid you as you play, and these range pretty widely. You can get guns to fire on foes from a distance, hurl tomahawks in a arc, rend the heavens themselves to hurl lightning bolts at foes and much more. The bombs you use can also be swapped out for different models, giving you homing blasts, massive concussive waves, remote explosions and a lot more besides those. The point being, there are a lot of ways to personalize the experience to make it work better for you. I especially liked how earning achievements in the game, such as maxing out your Luck meter or killing multiple foes with a single explosion, unlocks more items for your game, as well as opening up more space to equip them from your inventory. It’s a very addictive loop that keeps a simple game quite compelling.
While it’s true that the game is procedurally generated, our review was right to say that the formula never changes things up very much. You’ll always find a series of interconnected rooms, most full of enemies, as well as stray chests and shops to buy more items. One of the more rare occurrences I found was a chest set to a timer, and if you don’t reach it fast enough, the treasure inside would be annihilated. That said, I don’t mind the lack of variety. If you’re coming into the game expecting the level of possibility found in something like The Binding of Isaac, think again. But that’s not really an issue. As a rogue-like, Bombslinger is good, but as a tribute to Bomberman with a rogue hook, it’s fantastic.
The graphics in the game are a bit of a mixed bag, but I prefer simple, nostalgic fare, so it looked great to me. There’s a lot of personality in the game, ranging from the terrified yips of stray hounds to the cries of alarm as pitchfork wielding farmhands chase you. You can especially find a lot of charm in the various bosses in the game, all of which are totally different and many of which are very strange. Unlike the painful bosses in Super Bomberman R, which abused certain attacks and cornered you, the bosses here all provide a fair challenge. You’ll only lose due to your lack of skill or from not memorizing a boss’ patterns. I really loved the bosses in Bombslinger, ranging from demonic goats to fire happy pyros to gold-crazy prospectors. Likewise, the enemies in the game are pretty varied, and many will force you to put on your thinking cap, since several are armed with guns to hit you from afar and other nasty tricks.
Musically Bombslinger is a joy. It’s a lot like a Cowboy rap at times, but it mixes that up with eerie weather effects, like a ghostly wind. Each area has slightly different music, so you won’t get bored by it. Though the game is only composed of a few levels, the difficulty ramps up pretty well in each progressive stage. I would hardly call the game unforgiving, but it definitely gets a bit easier the longer you play it, since you’ll unlock more and more tools to tweak things in your favor. Pretty much the only aspect of the game that frustrated me is that if you want to return to the start screen, you’ll lose all your progress from any given run. I like being able to return to rogue-like games whenever I want, a bad habit instilled in my by The Binding of Isaac. Still, overall the game plays really well.
Speaking of how Bombslinger plays, I thought it was silky smooth on the Nintendo Switch. I loved playing it portably, and encountered nary a mechanical issue. The only glitch I found in my playtime was running across an invisible block that I couldn’t blow up. Other than that, it was a smooth ride. Well, other than the final boss, but I put him out of my misery eventually, so it’s all water under the bridge.
If you’re a fan of classic Bomberman and want to scratch that itch, you need to play Bombslinger. The marriage of rogue elements with classic explosive fun is a match made in heaven. I didn’t think going to the old West would bring my beloved franchise to life again, but sometimes the best games are the ones you don’t expect.