Combining gameplay elements of Bomberman in a rogue-like western setting, Bombslinger is both ambitious and challenging. The variety of locations and randomness of layouts and pickups make each playthrough feel slightly different. Just when I started to get comfortable with my loadout, Bombslinger threw a curveball at me. The combination of a brief quality solo campaign and endless local multiplayer potential make for satisfying, yet occasionally frustrating experiences.
Playing as the Bombslinger, you are a former bandit turned rancher with revenge on your mind. Your ranch was destroyed, and your wife murdered by your former posse. As the game begins you venture away form your property, killing all enemies in your path until you reach the level boss. Defeat all the bosses across a handful of levels to complete the campaign. Every time you play the level layout is slightly different, once you unlock the boss you can still continue to explore before and after defeating him.
It’s not surprising that a game modeled after Bomberman plays the same way as the classic franchise. You control your character and move him in 4 directions with either the control stick or d-pad. When you start off, you won’t be able to equip many perks, as they are earned through the game’s achievement system. Unlock achievements and unlock perks, I love the idea! There are 32 possible item perks, 5 of which can be equipped at a time (unlocking all 5 slots might take you awhile). They range from a memento from your wife that will resurrect you upon death and other trinkets that will increase your health, spirit meter or allow you to kick bombs, to name a few. The Bombslinger also has his own stats that increase such as: health, number of bombs you can place at a time, and flame strength. A green XP bar across the bottom of the screen allows the Bombslinger to level up and choose one of three stat boosts; XP is earned by killing enemies.
So how does it play? For the most part quite well! I preferred using the d-pad and rarely had issues with the controls. I do feel like the gameplay is a bit slow for what I would expect from this type of game. I also found Bombslinger to be quite difficult, almost to the point of frustrating at times. Like many games with procedural generating levels, the “run” has a lot to do with your success. If I faced against a difficult boss in the first area, I usually could count on dying. When I did die, especially after making good progress, I usually wanted to switch to a different game. The process of playing can feel so slow that the thought of retrying after a heartbreaking death just felt too daunting. I also found a glitch where my character got stuck outside the play area, which was unfortunate.
Local multiplayer is included for up to 4 players, known as Battle mode. This mode is frantic, crazy and a must play at your next social gathering. There are items dropping everywhere, you can kick bombs across the map, and it is just good fun. Don’t expect to play against any bots or online though.
Bombslinger has a beautiful 2D western art style that presents itself quite well. The perspective shifts when you enter the store (see above) and the pixel art is just so nice. The music is another highlight, as guitar riffs and western themes combine with explosions and exclamations from the bad guys. Everything loads quickly and menus are simple and easy to navigate. Priced at $11.99 USD, Bombslinger will likely pay for itself after a run through the campaign and one good multiplayer session. Hats off to developer Mode4 for creating a stylish world where each level feels unique.
The amount of longevity one will get from Bombslinger depends on two factors: your skill level and access to local co-op players. If you are typically bad at games, you might struggle to pass the first couple of worlds. Also if you are a solo gamer, then Battle mode won’t carry much appeal. The process of repeated playthroughs did get slightly easier as I unlocked achievements, which led to unlocking items. Like most roguelike games, the more you stick with it, the better your likelihood of success. Thankfully the pricetag is low enough to take a risk, Bombslinger might just end up your go-to party game.