Part point-and-click adventure, part puzzle game, all weird! Bulb Boy is one of the most peculiar and oddly intuitive games I’ve played in a long time, perhaps the entire generation. To be able to dive into a puzzler and successfully figure things out on my own was a joy itself. I can’t tell you how many times I avoid puzzle games because I feel the need to follow a guide, or I take it on, quickly miss something and get stuck. I was shocked to never encounter this problem throughout my journey as Bulb Boy. Everything felt so weird, so strange and oh so enjoyable.
Part boy, part lightbulb, Bulb Boy is in a world of trouble as monsters have overrun his home. These creatures have taken over and put the lives of himself, his Mothdog and grandpa in danger. As Bulb Boy you use your head, literally, to help solve puzzles and traverse areas. Bulb Buy can disconnect it from his body and move across areas in a variety of ways. He might take over the body of a dead fish, or a headless armored statue or simply hop across light fixtures. Since he is a bulb he is immune to electrocution, but quickly succumbs to any enemy attacks whether he be eaten, squished or burnt. You move from area to area in the house, where there usually is one main boss character to defeat. Beating them is usually a multiple step process that requires the right combination of items. There is no traditional combat, just find the solution, execute it…and the bad guy.
An early example is the headless chicken, found in the kitchen. If you walk up to him he will immediately kill you. Instead, Bulb Boy must collect an item to cut loose an ingredient in the fridge, collect eggs as well as matches found elsewhere in the room. Sneak past the chicken, combine the items in the stove and soon the headless chicken will be gourmet dinner for one. When not traversing a level in sidescrolling fashion, the scene shifts to more of a point and click style where you can pick up useful items. It’s always easy to tell what items are usable and the game doesn’t waste your time allowing you to re-check an already cleared area. Items always need to be used somewhere, so if you have something in your inventory, there is a logical place to put it. A bucket might go under a spout, an egg in a nest, you get the idea. Figure out what to do, defeat the creature in your path and move on.
In addition to fighting disgusting monsters like a gigantic mask-wearing turd or goo-spitting zombie plant, there are some more pleasant flashback levels. In these areas you might play as Bulb Boy or Mothdog, but the concepts are still the same. There is even a level where you control both characters alternatively with the use of both analog sticks. The game moves you from one area to the next, which limits your sense of freedom slightly but also leaves less room to get stuck. Once you have completed all the levels you can replay them in any order. Overall there is not much replayability to Bulb Boy, aside from experiencing the story a second time or mopping up some of the missable achievements. I’m willing to give developer BulbWare a pass on this, as the modest price of $8.99 USD for a couple hour experience is comparable to what you’ll find at your local cinema.
Art direction, graphics, setting and characters are what make Bulb Boy unlike any other game. The innocent and unassuming Bulb Boy has genuine emotions of glee, fear and confusion that create an instant connection. Just the thought of his naughty laugh when he devoured a poultry boss brings a smile to my face. You might notice that Bulb Boy has a green graphical hue to each level, this will quickly turn to red any time Bulb Boy or his family meets their demise. Levels typically take place somewhere in the house: kitchen, bathroom, hallway, bedroom, etc. It doesn’t take long for things to take a turn for the weird, like jumping into the sewer pipes or destroying a monster from within its body. Bulb Boy has its own distinct look, thankfully the bizarre color saturation and locations enhance the presentation rather than detract from it.
Bulb Boy managed to hit the perfect combination of linearity, instinctiveness and charm. Since each area is separate from the others, everything you need to progress is in your current location. There will be some trial and error gameplay, especially against a boss. But I never felt discouraged, as the solution was always something I hastily overlooked, like an item I didn’t realize I could acquire. The gameplay does a nice job of mixing things up, putting Bulb Boy in the shoes of a variety of hosts, journeying from underwater to upside down. Overall, Bulb Boy is a short experience, but highly enjoyable and easy to recommend to the majority of gamers, dim and bright.