Release Date: April 11, 2018
Developer/Publisher: Mode4/Plug In Digital
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, Steam
Bomberman tends to have a monopoly on it's niche genre. Off the top, there's not much different you can do. Bombslinger tries to prove me wrong on this one, with a single player tale of revenge set in the Old West slathered on top of the traditional multiplayer free-for-all. As the titular Bombslinger, you are out to avenge the death of your wife at the hands of the Gunslinger, your brother. While the multiplayer will seem familiar to Bomberman fans, the solo game utilizes procedurally generated levels, skill upgrades, and character progression to tell a tale of revenge.
Bombslinger's multiplayer mode is what I'm sure a lot of people would be buying it for, and it'll provide just what you need. Up to four players can brawl it out in a variety of levels, and the game progressively throws more power ups your way to keep the battle intensity ramping up. You can use computer AI if you see fit, though I had a few times where the AI just stood still. If I put a bomb near them they reacted, but several times I'd have a gun power up and be able to shoot from across the level and hit them. I've never been much of a Bomberman fan, but Bombslinger does do something I think is different: allowing multiple powerups at once. You can upgrade your bombs, number dropped at a time, and also pick up side weapons like bear traps or shotguns. If you destroy enough obstacles, a few more drop out of the sky. I had a few times where a perfect strategy was foiled because I couldn't get out from an area after a tumbleweed got in my way. There are a slew of bugs inherent in the Switch edition that are promised for a Day One Patch that I wish reviewers would have had access to. For me, I had several situations where the Bombslinger decided to keep walking right after I had stopped, which would lead to my demise.
Solo mode tries something different with character progression, but it's a struggle for me. At the start of the game, you are obviously at your weakest, only able to drop a single bomb that has the smallest explosion at your slowest pace against plodding enemies. They don't start dropping bombs themselves for a bit, but their pitchforks will take a life. Even worse when they decide to walk away from you and your slowly ticking bomb, getting just out of range, as well as the ever-frustrating "bomb yourself out of a corner" that happens in Bomberman as well. The procedural generation does advertise a "new adventure every time," but it also means you could be dropped in a difficult situation of the start or have easy progression simply based on roll of the die. It took me a while to progress to where I felt powerful, and I died many times only to have to start back at the beginning. I even had one death when I went into the General Store, a safe haven where the camera pans behind you from the overhead POV. I walked back out the same door to discover that one of the wandering enemies was right in front of the store, leading to a death I could not have predicted or avoided. If you can up your speed even one notch and be able to drop two bombs at once, it becomes a fun strategy game, but it takes time to get there, and the first few screens are plodding. I have yet to get anywhere near the destruction evident in the trailer footage, which looks like fun gameplay, timing explosions into chain reactions or throwing weapons over obstacles to start your mayhem.
The game has a wonderful retro-graphics style to it. The animation and pixel art reminds me of the 16 bit era, in particular one of my favorite games, Sunset Riders. There isn't a lot of storyline, but what there is is told well. By the end of the intro video, I knew exactly what was going on without a word being spoken. It is neat to see such a story mixed into the arcadey gameplay. There are bosses at the end of each zone as well, who are more than just other bombers. The first level sees you fighting a pyromaniac who lobs flaming balls and blasts at you from all directions.
If you are looking for classic bomber action, there is a Bomberman game on the Switch already, which allows you to play a story mode in co-op as well, and with the right combination will let eight players duke it out at once. Bombslinger suffers in that the number is dropped back down to four, and as a digital only title really doesn't have any "instruction manual" for you to figure it out. I know it's simple gameplay, but even a page with basic controls and the upgrade tree on it would have been appreciated. I hope most of the glitches get ironed out of this game with the Day One patch, and can honestly say a few simple add ins (like co-op story mode or some sense of progression per round of story) could really cement this as one of the simple, fun games on the Switch.
-Multiplayer mayhem for fans of Bomberman
-Wonderful retro graphic style
-Very simple: no instructions
-Story mode starts slow and is hard to progress in without some dumb luck
-Procedural generation: great idea, but hard to execute in a game like this
Thanks to Mode 4 and Plug In Digital for the digital copy for review!