I like myself some Bomberman action. In fact it’s a series that’s not quite as dominant as it should be, often releasing new entries every few years or so. There’s a long wait until Super Bomberman R releases this year for Xbox One, so you can imagine my excitement when I found that Mode4’s Bombslinger was arriving much sooner. Make no mistake about it, Bombslinger is no Bomberman, not even close, but it does manage to scratch that itch in the meantime. Furthermore, Bombslinger is more story-heavy than the most recent installations of its comparison material, so if you’re looking for a light plot to follow, you’re in luck.
The game is set within a western theme and centers around a ruthless bandit turned peaceful rancher. That is, until your former group of like-minded bandits turns on you, destroying your ranch and murdering your wife in the process. Much like any western themed form of entertainment, this is a story of vengeance. The game provides some context as to why you were betrayed, which is mostly delivered during stand-off events with your old posse. I’m not going to spoil any beats for you, though I will say that it does prove to be satisfying when hitting the endgame. Don’t get me wrong, it wont blow you away (pun intended) but it’s an element that mildly supplements the experience nevertheless.
Bombslinger plays from a top-down perspective and sees you maneuvering around a collection of well detailed 2D stages, blasting your way through anyone that’s accountable for your loss. The formula sits very much inline with Bomberman, being that each stage takes place on a grid, tasking you with clearing each grid before ultimately progressing to the next. Farmers, wildlife and other bomb-slingers will be placed on each grid. The only way to clear them out is to fling your own bombs and hit your opponents with the blast-line, whilst avoiding the blast-line yourselves. Obstacles that stand in your path can also be cleared with this method and once a stage is clear of inhabitants, you’re free to proceed.
The kicker here is that there’s some obstacles that will attempt to hinder your progression, such as devastating TNT barrels that will release large blast waves, as well campfires that will damage you if stepped on. Bombslinger offers a surprising amount of variety across its level design and pool of enemies, lending the game a solid portion of diversity throughout. These foes often need to be taken out via simple blasting, but there’s a few that require more forward thinking too. The difficulty curve is also well met to begin with, with the game throwing tougher and more capable foes at you as you climb deeper in. What sets Bombslinger apart from its peers is that the game comes with a simplistic upgrade and shop system, throwing in an extra layer of depth that helps to neatly tie everything together.
Specific pathways unlocked at the conclusion of each stage can lead you to a range of different locations. These can take you to other confrontations, to an all important shop to spend your hard earned gold at, or even to chests for you to unlock with keys obtained on your journey so far. Items either gathered from chests, leveling up, or purchased at shops will typically buff your character in one way or another. This includes extra bombs, increased health, quicker movement speed, better luck and more. Fallen foes will also drop useful items such as weaponry, which proves to be a godsend later in the game. Again, variety here is top notch. Sadly, Bombslinger isn’t quite as solid as it could have been.
You see, whilst I did indeed enjoy my time with the game and had a blast moving through the randomly generated world, it rapidly become tedious and repetitive throughout. I’ve already touched upon the difficulty curve, which tends to be lenient to begin with, but this does have a tendency to spike inconsistently later on in the game. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the perma-death that players will regularly meet due to some delayed control feedback. Death in Bombslinger is far removed from anything that resembles fair, sending you way back the beginning of a run without any unlocks or progression you will have gained beforehand.
I can get behind this system in the likes of Necropolis, but in Bombslinger, it just feels unnecessary, despite the random world generation. I often stumbled directly into the path of danger, despite clearly trying to move out of it, only to see myself caught up in health depleting circumstances. This delay to the control input isn’t something that frequently occurs, but it happened on too many occasions for me to overlook it entirely. It’s fair to say that Bombslinger takes some time to adjust to and certainly a whole lot more to truly master. It can indeed be overly frustrating to begin with, but if you can forgive that punishing death sentence and the (at times) tedious controls, you’ll enjoy what’s in the proverbial box.
Bombslinger demands quite a lot of perseverance. Whether it’s sussing out the movement and behaviors of the enemies, or working out the best way to buff up your character, it takes some getting used to. I suspect this is where it will split the crowd; frustration vs fun. Still, when all is said and done, Bombslinger gets much more right than it gets wrong. It helps of course the game is well detailed throughout its distinct environments, upheld by a soundtrack that helps to set the mood of the game quite well. When you’re done with the campaign there’s a multiplayer section to dive on too, with support for up to four players/bots. This includes Last Man Standing and Deathmatch, which hardly need much introduction. Safe to say that if you’re looking for a quick session among friends, Bombslinger’s multiplayer has your back.
Bombslinger provides a challenging, detailed, diverse and well developed experience. There’s no denying that its unique spin on the formula provides it with a compelling edge, though with that being said, this game does become repetitive, tedious and frustrating before too long. Still, it’s well worth a visit if you’re looking for something to fill the void before Super Bomberman R arrives.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.