By Marisa Alexander / April 17th, 2018
|Release Date||April 11th, 2018|
|Platform||Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One|
Bomberman, the ever beloved classic franchise, seems to fade more and more as time passes. With the release of Super Bomberman R, it looked like the Bomberman franchise was about to see a resurgence. However, the game itself received mixed reception and was forgotten after some time. As such, it is uncertain where the series will go from there. Yet, at the very least other developers make their own attempts on the established formula. One such example is Bombslinger, produced by Mode4, which is a rogue-like take on the formula. Does it match the days of the MSX, NES, and Turbografx-16 for Bomberman? Let’s blow up some baddies and find out.
The story goes that the titular Bombslinger used to be part of a gang, robbing for monetary gain while causing much destruction. However, he found and married the love of his life and since parted with them. The gang’s boss, his brother, did not take this kindly, burning down the Bombslinger’s house and killing his wife. As such, the Bombslinger sets out once more for vengeance, blowing up anyone in his path.
In the game, there are two modes of play. There is a single-player mode and a versus mode. The single-player mode features a set assortment of areas but the layout, items given, and even the boss are procedurally generated. Versus is a simple mode where up to four players or bots battle until one is the last man standing. Overall it’s a simple affair in terms of content, though the main focus is on the single-player.
Before beginning a single-player run properly, the player can equip a set amount of items to start with. The player first starts with three items and can only equip one. However, more items can be equipped as the player unlocks and finds more. These items range from basic stat boosts to being able to resurrect once. During the run itself, the player can randomly find these equippable items from enemies, chests, or the shop.
As for core gameplay, it behaves and controls similarly to classic Bomberman titles. The player plants bombs in order to destroy obstacles and defeat enemies. To progress from room to room, the player must defeat all enemies to unlock the way forward. Enemies also reward you with experience, where upon filling a meter three random choices are given. These range from stat boosts like increasing HP, to bomb power which increases the damage radius, or even luck. At times a choice to recuperate health and spirit completely will also be given. In fact, unlike classic Bomberman titles, stat boosts are not given by destroying obstacles, so the player must choose wisely.
Another aspect of the game is the secondary items one can find by defeating enemies, purchasing them with gold at the shop, or opening chests. One slot is mainly attributed to weapons like a pistol, tomahawk, or molotov. These weapons consume a stat called spirit, which can regenerate naturally with a certain power-up or by collecting blue flames. There are also consumables the player can find. These range from snake oil, which causes certain stat boosts or drains based on the color, to elixirs that fully heal the player. The last and most uncommon are abilities such as being able to jump over obstacles. Abilities are exceptionally rare, so it might be possible to not find one in a playthrough.
For the most part, the game is very much a well done rogue-like and overall a game that hearkens back to Bomberman’s most recognized origins. Gameplay variety is simple but efficient, as the secondary weapons are very direct and hardly complex. Enemies follow this same logic as well, where the true challenge is to not accidentally blow yourself up. Most of the boss fights are also quite fun, albeit very simple and far from complex. Overall, a well done experience old-school gamers can enjoy.
As for the presentation, it is a mixed bag weighted on the positive side. Sprites and the pixel artwork are well done, exhibiting tiny details that give the game personality. However the animation could be a bit smoother overall to match the detail. The rooms themselves are quasi-3D environments and a jarring contrast to the sprite work. The soundtrack is absolutely astonishing though, being a lovely homage to spaghetti Western movies. These tracks are simply candy to the ears, and by far my favorite aspect of the game’s presentation.
However, the game has a few blemishes. For example, the rogue-like elements are not completely refined in that it doesn’t offer enough interesting rooms. Most are simply filled with enemies or a treasure room. I found one room where the chest was trapped with a bomb but I never found it again. It also can go against the player like the above image, spawning between two explosive barrels, where if the player was at one health, they have no choice but to die. Perhaps if there were a few more rooms that go beyond defeating all enemies, the game would still feel fresh after repeated runs.
There were very few technical issues; the hitboxes felt natural and movement was overall fine. Moving around is a bit sticky and sometimes using secondary weapons can be cumbersome. Unfortunately, there was one instance where the game soft-locked. During a run, I had exited and re-entered a boss room to check out the area. Upon returning, however, the Bomberslinger and his mount were nowhere to be seen, forcing a reset. It is not uncommon for rogue-likes to have this one technical issue where it can kill a run. Nonetheless, it proves ever so frustrating when it happens.
The game’s difficulty curve is also very odd. If I were to describe the game’s difficulty curve, it would be that it starts off very low but goes perfectly straight up after every area, whereupon it flatlines once more. As the player does more runs, these upshots become lesser and lesser. Even for a rogue-like this is off-putting, especially when it is shown clearly for the bosses. The first four possible bosses are relatively easy, where the player can simply flank them or wait until they are stunned for easy damage. Bertha, a boss that can be fought in the third area of the game, is mildly more difficult with faster and more wide ranging attacks. She however is easy to get in a loop. The final boss however is pure annoyance, with incredibly unpredictable attacks where it is almost impossible tell where his blast radius for said attacks will be.
Overall, Bomberslinger is a proper tribute to classic Bomberman games. Despite my praise for the game however, I would like to add a caveat. For fans of the classic games, Bombslinger is a rewarding experience. If one does not follow the classic games however, the experience can very much be dampened, leading to a solid but merely okay adventure. For $11.99 on Steam and Nintendo Switch, it is worth considering what one expects from this game. Overall, I played for about 5-7 hours for this review. In the end, let’s hope this inspires even more developers like Mode4 to provide their takes on other classic franchises.
Review copy provided by the developer
Action AdventureBombermanBombslingerMode4nintendo switchrogue-likeSteam