When the Nintendo Switch first launched, Konami surprised us all with Super Bomberman R, a flawed but fun entry in the long-running series that has seen some neat additions and improvements in the months that followed. In an industry full of games inspired by others, it’s hard to believe it’s only now the Nintendo eShop has provided us with a similar effort. Bombslinger is a Bomberman-esque experience set in the Wild West that might share a lot of traits with Konami’s explosive expert, but still tries to inject a few fresh ideas of its own.
Perhaps the game’s biggest attraction is its Adventure mode. In it, you play as McMean, an ex-criminal who after giving up a life of crime with his posse, decides to see out his remaining days with his wife on a ranch. Unfortunately, there’s no happy ending to be had here with McMean’s old crew burning down his home and killing his wife. What then follows is your fairly standard revenge tale where you’ll have to take down each member one by one.
Stages consist of a series of mazes littered with enemies trying to kill you. Using well-placed bombs your aim is to blow up every single one of them within an area before moving onto the next and so on until you reach a boss battle. Bombslinger includes a decent range of enemies that pose their own unique threats. Pitchfork-wielding townsfolk and goats make easy foes to introduce you to the game’s mechanics early on while later gun shooting enemies or chasing dogs make things much tougher. The bosses too also prove worthy opponents using a repertoire of moves to try and take you out.
As you progress through the game you’ll pick up gold from chests as well as defeated enemies that you’ll be able to then use to purchase upgrades and items. These can have an array of effects whether it’s increasing your movement speed, reducing the amount of spirit needed to use items, increasing the reach of your exploding bombs, refilling your health or even adding extra abilities to your moveset such as bear traps. Much like other games like The Binding of Isaac, I found discovering each power-up and what they actually do to be a major draw every time I played.
You’ll also gather experience on your journey as you kill enemies. Ranking up will then allow you to choose one way to improve your character including refilling your health and spirit or even increasing the amount of gold fallen enemies drop. These act in a similar way to the shop purchases minus the financial cost.
One area sure to split opinion is Bombslinger’s roguelike nature; throwing you back to the very beginning of the game should your character die. No checkpoints. Not only that but any upgrade, item or weapon you’ve accumulated on your journey is snatched away from you too. While this sort of thing is nothing new in video games, for some reason it feels especially harsh in Bombslinger. Maybe it’s down to the amount you actually lose (level and items) when you die or how easy it can be to slip up as you approach the game’s finale – the fact is frustration becomes a frequent occurrence, which some might hate and some might be fine with.
This is made even tougher on the player thanks to the fact levels are procedurally generated meaning no two playthroughs will be the same. Everything from the maze placement to the items available in the shop to even the boss encounters are random. This feature certainly adds replay value but it can also fall prone to placing some luck on the outcome. Sometimes your route may be easier than others or the items may be more useful, for example. A playthrough that is unpredictable is exciting but one where you feel the cards are stacked against you – less so.
The game’s controls feel a little less accurate than I’d like too, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, in particular, causing problems every now and again when trying to navigate particularly treacherous areas. Analogue or D-pad, sometimes my character would slip in the path of an explosion accidentally – a frustrating occurrence to say the least. I actually found the Joy-Con to be a better solution.
Bombslinger rather unsurprisingly also features a local multiplayer mode for up to four. Just like Bomberman, the aim is to blow up your opponents on a grid-based battlefield using your bombs. Power-ups can also be picked up too. The Last Man Standing mode is exactly what you’d expect with everyone on a single life while Deathmatch allows respawns with the aim being to kill as many opponents as possible. Unfortunately, options are slim when it comes to the multiplayer limiting player choice to just level selection and time or kill limit.
As much as I enjoy the pixelated visuals of the game (especially the zooming in effect when you enter a shop in Adventure mode), the action at times can also prove too chaotic in multiplayer, the style less than ideal when it comes to the clarity of explosions firing off from every direction. Still, it’s a fun enough addition albeit a little light on depth.
Bombslinger is a fun time whether playing alone or in a group but its tough and often frustrating difficulty can prove too punishing at times. While I welcome a challenge, levelling up your character and purchasing an assortment of upgrades only to have them stripped away upon death be it through mistake or controller accuracy just plain sucks. That being said, Bombslinger offers enough to make it a nice alternative to Super Bomberman R and its lower price point certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Mode4