2D Meets Western Meets Bomberman.
The Nintendo Switch has sold like hot cakes (whoever coined that phrase probably could have chosen a better noun to sell, right?) since its release last March. This success was due in large part to amassing a collection of games with stellar critical and user reviews, along with cult like followings for its major titles (like Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey). This paved the way for many third party developers to finally crack Nintendo hardware, especially after the utter failure of the Wii U. An exorbitant amount of indie developers followed suit, producing both excellent and awful experiences for Switch gamers. Bombslinger is one of those indie games, but which category does it fall under?
Bombslinger follows the story of a former bandit known as the bombslinger. His wife is killed in an attack by former acquaintances, and his home is burned to the ground. As he carries the corpse of his beloved through the fire and the flames of his newly broken home, Bombslinger, with a single tear sliding down the hill of his cheek, vows brutal revenge. Equipped with his trusty bombs, the bombslinger makes his way through his land and into conflict.
This is a story we’ve all heard before, but it’s not particularly the forefront of the experience. Narrative devices in Bombslinger serve to advance gameplay, which is the “main” feature of this game. Still, as you set off on your journey of explosive vengeance, you begin with a choice to carry one item with you. One gives you an extra heart, one restores your spirit, and the last is your wife’s pendant, which saves you from a game over once. As you progress and level up, more beginning items unlock, and you’re able to carry more than one.
Gameplay in Bombslinger is very Bomberman-esque. Maps are fairly large and filled with mostly removable obstacles and enemies. To progress, you’ll need to clear each area map of enemies, as you’ll be locked within the zone until they’re all dispersed. Enemies range from rams to dogs to pitchfork wielding farmers to men with guns and more, and they become increasingly difficult as you make your way through each stage. At the end of each stage, too, you’ll face off against a sort of “world” boss, if you will, where you’ll need to learn attack patterns and devise a strategy to dispatch your foes. Boss battles shine in this game, but making your way to them is another story altogether. You see, gameplay in Bombslinger dulls rather quickly, especially if you perish often in the beginning. While I do appreciate the requirement of both skill and speed combined, the Switch joycons aren’t the greatest platform to move your character (especially when you’re playing on the go). And even though the game procedurally generated each stage with every play through, I never found much variation in the overall set up.
Visually, Bombslinger will either tickle your fancy or trigger your pet peeves. The game looks like a mixture of a 2D, kind of cel shaded adventure with map setups like The Binding of Isaac. I found the style all right, but it’s an ugly game; the cinematics, if you can call them that, were portrayed in what reminded me of old flash player videos you’d find on albino black sheep or ebaumsworld. Bombslinger does score a few points for humor, as the interaction between the first boss and Bombslinger did make me chuckle each time I battled it. Along with the visuals, the sound in Bombslinger is average – if forgettable.
If roguelike games are your jam, or you’re a huge fan of Bomberman, then you might find a lot of love about Bombslinger. Upgrading your bombs and abilities can be an enjoyable task, especially when it comes to strategizing your combat on each map. With that sad, casual gamers or newcomers to this type of game will most likely find themselves bored immediately, and I hated being forced to blow up dogs in order to advance to the next area. When a whimpering dog and the realization that I blew it up was the first thing my wife noticed in all the times I played Bombslinger in bed in the morning, that’s not a great look.
On the whole, Bombslinger offers fans of the genre a fairly fresh and definitely humorous new experience, but this title will most likely be pretty divisive. You’ll either love or hate the gameplay, visuals, and roguelike gameplay – or maybe enjoy and dislike a combination of all three – so this one comes down to each gamer. It may earn points for having a multiplayer feature, so if you enjoy that or have friends with you, you may find a little extra value. For me and my extensive library of contemporary games, this one definitely won’t make it back on my Switch anytime soon.