Flutter Bombs isn’t half bad. Sure, it has its issues and there’s some much needed balance, but for a top-down twin-stick shooter, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun it offered. There’s no story present despite the game’s offering of a campaign mode, but in truth, this sits well in the game’s favor. If anything, Flutter Bombs just wants you to have a good time, without any added nonsense that probably wouldn’t have fit anyway. Booting up the game takes you to a clean and well laid-out menu, offering up three modes in total.
Here, with support for up to four players, you can take to the game’s campaign mode, its survival mode, or its boss rush mode. It’s a pretty straightforward game to gel with. Players take on the role of a butterfly and must traverse through a collection of confined environments whilst blasting hordes of enemies from all directions. There’s a number of different butterflies to select from, all of which must be unlocked via working through the campaign. Regardless, they all handle in the same sort of fashion; move, aim, and shoot.
To the game’s credit, Flutter Bombs doesn’t make things awkward as far as its controls are concerned. Movement is tethered to the left stick, with aiming tied to the right stick. There’s two modes of fire; primary and secondary. Your primary fire will consist of a constant barrage of shots for as long as you hold down RT, with a more powerful shot accessible via LT. The secondary attack will indeed vary for each butterfly that you unlock, ranging simple bombs, right the way up to dual blades that protrude from the ground once dropped.
The kicker, however, is that in order to shoot any attack, you need to collect nectar. Nectar grows on plants that you can harvest from throughout each stage. There’s always several plants that you can pull nectar from, and nectar does replenish after a brief bout of time. This ensures that you have an infinite amount of firepower at your disposal. The game’s rules are simple; kill bugs until the boss appears, kill the boss, and move to the next level. There’s a few added mechanics to keep things at a steady pace; upgrades, and abilities.
Located at the top center of the screen is a gauge that will fill whenever you kill enemy bugs. When you’ve killed a set amount, an upgrade will flourish from a randomly placed nearby flower. Once you’ve collected said upgrade, your firepower will increase in shot breadth and, as a result, damage. There’s five upgrades per-level, and they do indeed stack. Essentially, this means that whilst you’re quite puny starting out, later in, you become a force not to be taken lightly. The twist, however, is that these do not carry over level to level.
Should you chain enough kills, you’ll be granted a temporary ability. These abilities vary quite nicely. You’ll find devastating whirls that surround you and kill anything nearby, right up to hundreds of projectiles that fire from your wings and decimate foes in rapid succession. These abilities tend to only last for half a minute at best, but when you find yourselves in a tight spot, they can oftentimes be the difference between life and death. There’s a scoreboard present too, which ultimately tracks how many points you’ve earned.
This is where much of the replay value will be found at, repeating each level in an attempt to better your scores. Should you find that you’re low on health, the only remedy for this is to kill. Dead bugs dish out health in small supplies, so it pays off to keep a close eye on your health bar. The crux of play sees you fighting through a range of well detailed and diverse groves using the above mechanics. There’s a fair number of enemy variations to be mindful of throughout, most of which house their own movement and attack patterns.
Enemies range the likes of flying ants that will butt you for a take of your health, right up to the likes of towering insects that will fire health-sapping projectiles every time you approach. The key to success is knowing your surroundings, and establishing an understanding as to how enemies behave and attack. Many of the game’s enemies will pursue you no matter where you go, but a large bulk of them will remain static, and tend to stick close to your nectar resources, or, the flowers that may well spawn your upgrades.
Some forward planning will often alleviate these sorts of issues; keeping places of interest clear as often as you can. The game’s handling remains decent for the most part, despite being a bit stiff when it comes to needing to get out from the midst of hordes of foes. It can indeed be a bit jarring when that happens, simply due to not being able to respond quickly enough due to slow turning, but all in all, the game’s feedback is robust enough to see you through most encounters. The same can be said about many of the game’s boss fights.
Once the gauge at the top of your screen is completely full, the level’s boss will appear. The game’s bosses vary quite well, but only a handful of them are remotely interesting. The majority of them can be disposed of quite easily with some concentrated fire, whereas the rest of them tend to be bullet sponges and are devoid of any decent traits. Regardless, they all require the same method to overcome; fire at them until they’re dead. That is all. Occasionally, you’ll meet a boss or two that houses some form of structure, but not much.
One example of this would be a boss that cant be damaged from firing at its head. However, it makes a habit of turning around and facing its ass your way as it unleashes a few mobs. You’ll get in a few hits before it completely transforms into a more lethal creature, and then from here on out, you’ll spend minutes at a time just mindlessly chipping away at health. It’s a tedious affair at best, and there’s certainly room for improvement. It would have been nice to see some form of interaction here, just to spice things up a bit.
Whatever the case, most of them are simple enough to defeat. In fact, I was able to get through most of them via little more than bomb dropping, replenishing my nectar, and rinsing and repeating. Make of that what you will. Sadly, I cant say that the game’s drawbacks are exclusive to the bosses. There’s a few issues with the game’s core design, and its overall balance. First and foremost, each level is home to an instant-kill gimmick or a frustrating mechanic of some sort. The problem? Not a single of these are fun to deal with.
Whether its fish that will emerge from a pond and eat you when you fly overhead, or, a volcano that instant kills you the moment you soar too close, you’re bound to get frustrated. I appreciate that the levels are fairly short-burst and can be overcome in a matter of minutes, but still, being pushed into a literal death-trap and having no way to protect yourself is not my idea of fun. Unfortunately, this happens more than it should, leading to a range of cheap, sly deaths. I can say the same about the less severe mechanics.
Certain levels have other gimmicks such as crows that will waft you to the far side of the screen, or, magnetic shockers that will sap your health when you get too close. Once again, the game’s enemies make a habit of throwing you towards these mechanics, and you’ll rarely have much option but to take whatever punishment sits in wait. Outside of that, there’s little to groan about. The game is a beautiful twin-stick shooting experience that keeps things fresh by constantly introducing new environments and new enemies.
Once you defeat a boss, you’ll unlock a new butterfly (known here as a wing-set) that, as alluded to above, offers an alternate secondary attack. It’s quite fun to see what each butterfly is capable of, but when all is said and done, it doesn’t change up the fields of play too much. That, ladies and gents, is the sum of the campaign’s depth. When you’re done with the campaign, survival mode and boss rush mode await. These are both fairly self explanatory additions overall, and don’t really go above and beyond expectations.
Still, they certainly provide an added challenge for those that seek it, as well as bolstering the game’s longevity. In regards to the game’s visual and audio design, Flutter Bombs gets a safe thumbs up. The game’s environments are well detailed and remain distinct throughout; from the serene vibrancy of Opi’s Grove, right up to the crystal whites of Cloudbreak’s Peak. You’ll find plenty of reason to enjoy the game’s visual presentation. I’ll say the same about its audio design, presenting crisp cues and a solid upbeat soundtrack.
When all is said and done, Flutter Bombs is a decent twin-stick shooter that gets more right than it gets wrong. I daresay, however, that this is more for the casuals than the hardcore. Whilst it can get repetitive and overly frustrating due to some poor design choices, it certainly manages to keep you gripped and entertained thanks to its diversity across the board. Hopefully we see some post-launch support in the near future to chase away its few impurities, and to enforce some more structure as far as boss encounters are concerned.
When all is said and done, Flutter Bombs is a decent top-down twin-stick shooter that manages to get more right than it gets wrong. Whilst the core loop can become repetitive and frustrating due to some fairly lazy ideas, the game succeeds at maintaining player engagement through its commendable overall variation and its rich and diverse environments. That said, its simplicity makes this more suitable for the casuals rather than the hardcore.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.