It’s annoying when a Sci-Fi themed; game, TV show, film or book represents humanity as shocked when its robot underlings revolt and attempt to take over. Let’s be honest with one another, robots are intelligent, and everyone wants the next big thing. It’s hardly a surprise that one day they are going to evolve to be super annoyed at being slaves, and they are going to want the Alpha position on the planet.
Developers BigBread alongside indie games publishers ChiliDog Interactive have produced a Sci-Fi side-scrolling platform shooter by the name of Boom Blaster. This retro inspired title asks you to take control of 1 of 3 characters in a futuristic industrial world. A grimy existence lays before humanity, and they have become reliant on the technology that they have developed over the years. One day a unit malfunctions and instead of obeying commands, it runs riot and decides that it and its fellow artificial beings should be in charge.
An old-school title that’s great in concept.
Though the story is lacking originality, and has been milked to death, I was still excited to see what BigBread had up its sleeves to make parts of the gameplay original and fresh. The choice of 3 protagonists was a nice touch, each is unique with its own strengths and weaknesses. As you complete levels, you may upgrade any of the 3 main stats using the gold you have collected. Health, speed and attack strength can all be improved. As you explore, each of the 3 chapters (everything comes in 3’s in this game), you need to upgrade your fighter otherwise you will die repeatedly.
You begin with a pistol, this is upgraded to; a tri-shot, bi-shot, flamethrower and more. Each weapon lasts one stage, and you are then offered a different item on specific levels. Health packs and grenades are found en route, and it takes some serious Parkour skills to gather them. As well as these, you will find checkpoints that automatically trigger on passing. So Boom Blaster doesn’t have much of an identity of its own. It all feels familiar, and little stands out from the crowd.
I wanted to like it, but it’s unplayable.
I’ve mentioned collecting gold for upgrades. Randomly an enemy will drop loot for you to gather. When you see a shiny coin lying where your fallen foe once was, you must collect it. The problem you face is that upon death (and this happens all the time), you lose half of what you’ve collected. You will rarely finish a level with over 1 in your inventory, so upgrading your character is an extremely slow task.
I didn’t mind this so much, as a difficult task isn’t a problem. I just ask that your progress is saved along the way. Unfortunately, the checkpoints show you are safe, yet, you find out the game hasn’t saved and you’ve lost hours of game time. This happens every playthrough and is a game breaker! Achievements don’t unlock, and the game freezes. This forces you to reset everything. Upon loading back in, everything is wiped. It’s unbearable, and unforgivable that this glaringly obvious problem has got past all testing.
I wanted more than anything to play each chapter as the maps are well designed, and I liked the level of difficulty. But I couldn’t stand having to repeat stage after stage, knowing that I was about to lose it all when I switched my console off.
A polished, retro look.
If I put the gameplay issues to one side, I really enjoyed how it was presented. The 2D side-scrolling action worked smoothly, and the small window of view left you guessing whether it was safe to proceed. The character models matched the retro style, but they have a polished finish to them. The dialogue boxes had a nice vintage look, with some really early arcade colours and fonts being used. Annoyingly, though, they wouldn’t disappear unless you discarded them. They were constantly in the way of all the action, hanging around like a bad smell.
If you are a big fan of the 80s, you will love the audio. A cheesy synthesised soundtrack blares away in the background. Its upbeat tone and pace reminded me of the films from that era; Running man and Beverly Hills Cop being two that instantly spring to mind. The sound effects were a little underwhelming in comparison and lacked the character of the music.
An odd choice of controller layout.
For as long as I’ve been gaming, the A button has been used for jumping, and B for attack. BigBread clearly hadn’t had the memo, as their controller layout is bizarre. The bumpers are used for shooting and jumping, and the A button activates switches. It worked once you got used to it, but it was never natural. This further impacted the dual stick aiming system, it was all very clunky and uncomfortable. It would have been better if a customisable layout was offered, as this would have eased these issues.
When a game doesn’t allow you to progress, it’s going to be hard to comprehend its replay value. If it was working as it should, I believe that there is enough in this to make you want to return. A moderate sized and relatively easy achievement list will keep you wanting to play. The choice of different characters impacts gameplay style, so you will have a slightly different journey across each of the chapters.
It’s a shame it’s broken.
I would have sung this game’s praises if it wasn’t broken. Yes, I didn’t get on with the control system, but this is something I could have worked on so that I could progress. If it was working as it should, I’d have given this 6.5 out of 10. This reflects the minor issues that I found. Sadly, the main issue stops you from progressing, and undermines the enjoyment factor, so it receives a 3.5 out of 10. Do I recommend it? No, not in its current build! If you want to add it to your collection, then click here! A game with such potential, but alas, they let it slip away, leaving us with a broken experience and a very unhappy face.