With an art style that’s like Adventure Time mated with World of Goo seen through Sam Fishers tri-night-vision goggles, this kickstarted game comes out of left field to a slightly underwhelming response. Upon starting Bulb boy, you are presented with nothing more than an animation of a finger pressing a non-descript button. Follow its advice and you’re in for a couple of hours of strange beasts, point and click style puzzles and next to zero explanation of what is happening along the way. There is no text, or speech and just a few thought bubbles to give some indication of what is going on. The story seems to revolve around some spooky shenanigans, with Bulb boys family being kidnapped by some otherworldly creatures just because and it’s your job to rescue them via some point and click puzzles and light platforming.
The puzzles rarely amount to more than moving around the room you are in and finding the few prompts, then simply figuring out the correct order to use them. An early example has you feeding 3 bugs to a giant spider, who’s blocking your exit. All are contained in the small room you are in and each has its own solution that’s pretty obvious, if a little contrived (for one, you need to actively electrocute yourself in order to zap a moth on the ceiling light). Even in later rooms, if it’s not immediately apparent what you need, simply ambling around will give you the prompts and as there are no filler items, everything you can interact with is to be used in some way.
Unfortunately, usable items blend in with the background a little too well, meaning rather than paying attention to what is happening, you are just looking for a little green arrow to appear, undermining the situation and distracting from the scenes wonderfully gross designs. Once you have solved one rooms puzzle you move on to the next and repeat. Some of the scenarios played out are funny, others gross but all a bit disturbed. From cooking a pie for a decapitated chicken to try to eat, to traversing a sewer system with nothing but your bulbous head, it’s a shame the controls seem to want to fight against you enjoying these wonderfully crazy scenes, especially as some enemies are a one hit kill on poor Bulb boy.
A generous auto-save negates some of the frustration but that doesn’t make up for constantly dying when it doesn’t feel like your fault. It seems as though classics such as Limbo and Inside are influencing these sections, but both of those games were crafted to such a high degree that sloppy sections such as these just don’t cut it. After a couple of traversal rooms, you encounter a boss of sorts. Again, these use point and click mechanics to beat, but thanks to the sluggish controls and hard to read detection areas, you’ll likely find your chances are high of dying multiple times before succeeding, even if you have the solution. Again, the designs of these are very good, but it’s a shame that the gameplay lets it down.
The visuals are all presented in night-vision green, with the titular Bulb boy’s head emitting a bright green glow throughout. Despite appearances, this is not factored in to any puzzles, more of a design choice rather than a gameplay one. And aside from a red hue when you die, it would have been nice to have a slightly more varied palette, even just to help certain objects or characters stand out. As mentioned, the designs of characters are quite unique with some seriously gross and frankly unnerving specimens showing up through its short run time. Some of the boss characters are genuinely creepy, and the payoff for beating their solution is generally met with an ‘ewwww…cool’. Coupled with some meaty sound effects, there was more than one occasion where I audibly asked myself ‘what IS that?’. Sadly, audio elsewhere is lacking with little more than an ambient drone playing in the background. Some interlude sequences feature a little jingle, but nothing really of note as they tend to be very short, even compared to the already short nature of the game.
Overall, I liked the designs of the characters, and some of the environments (if disturbing and creepy is your idea of good..), but the game is let down by sluggish controls and puzzles that require no more thought than finding every interact icon and using it in a certain order. Once beaten, which only takes around 3 hours, you can replay each scenario but other than mopping up the last couple of achievements, there really is no incentive to do so. More complex puzzles, smoother controls and a longer run time could have pushed this up to recommended, but as it is I’d say play it if you have nothing better to do, but don’t expect your gaming world to be lit up too brightly.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.