Mode4 has developed a concoction consisting of a recipe that brings the flavors of a few classic dishes resulting in it being a pretty bomb spaghetti western. Bombslinger takes on a familiar 2D/3D visual style with nostalgia embedded in its mechanics. Gamers from the NES/SNES age will be taken back and its solid rougelike foundations constantly rewards players, much like The Binding of Isaac. With a twist on Bomberman gameplay mixed with the overworld from The Legend of Zelda (NES), bosses, varied enemies & environments, and local multiplayer… all I can say is giddy-up.
There is little story to Bombslinger, but what’s there does provide the motive for blasting your way through enemies. After a cut-scene, you take control of a poncho-wearin’, cigar-tokin’ outlaw who finds his home along with his wife inside burnt to ashes after deciding to settle down by leaving the lootin’ gang he was once part of. A top-down 2.5D perspective is the main viewing platform for 99% of the game. The initial starting point where your house once stood will always look the same, but exiting that first cell is immediately where the rougelike elements unfold.
However, before your session even begins you are greeted with a loadout screen. Here, you can see everything you’ve unlocked and its effects on your next playthrough. You begin with a choice of 3 items and can earn more by completing certain tasks or “achievements”. For instance, you may only choose 1 item when you start, but may continue to unlock additional slot. Loadout items can be exactly that, an item. Or they can be behave like a static ability altogether. Such example of an item is one that makes sure enemies drop more gold than normal. Many of these items may be unlocked just by naturally playing the game while others require a stricter focus. For instance, being able to start with a revolver requires you to first accumulate 25 deaths by shooting them with a gun. Chances are you might not get a gun right away or at all if you’re unlucky, but luck can be raised as well. Thankfully, progress is tracked and carried over to the next session. Essentially, the more items you unlock for the loadout the more items you will be able to begin with. The game wants you to become better & stronger and it does a great job of making you feel that way.
Seeing a new layout of the map is an essence of making your next session feel fresh. Once you enter any cell, you aren’t required to commit to it. In fact, you can reach the boss of one level without visiting the remaining cells if you choose to do so. However, clearing the map of a full level will earn you the improvements should you choose to risk it. If you do commit to a particular cell, the exits will remained closed off until you wipe out every enemy on screen. They can be seen for the most part once entering a cell, but a few steps further will close off the entrance behind you. You will be in a safe-zone at first, blocked off by indestructible rocks and plants, usually shrubs, which can be destroyed creating an opening. If you’ve played any of the Bomberman games then you know what to expect here. Placing a bomb is done by pressing A which only expands from there.
Similar to that series bomb upgrades can be earned, although in a number of ways. Players can improve the area of effect from a bomb’s blast and the number of bombs which can be placed at once, all in incremental improvements. Likewise, players are able to expand their speed just the same. Much like Zelda, players can expand the number of hearts they have and increase a spirit meter which dictates the usage of items in your possession (used by either B and/or X) as well as decrease how much spirit is needed to use the items. The similarities don’t end there. Not always promised, but chests can be found in their own cell which may require a key that can be dropped as loot by an enemy or be opened for a particular price. Bombslinger puts the matter of risk vs reward in your hands. Gambling on spending money to open a chest may or may not be in your favor. However, you may just find an awesome upgrade that would’ve cost more at the shop.
Shops can be found on every level and they may even be 2 at times. Items are always random, but it may just save you in a pinch. Maybe you need to spend that coin on a band-aid to replenish 1 heart or maybe there’s one item that you’ve been saving the money for that calls your name; one that allows you to hop over barriers as many times as you like or a bomb that follows a path to your enemies. What’s great is that it all depends on how you choose to play. If you’ve raised your luck high enough you might find an expensive item in a chest. Since your luck is high, the drop rate of keys are as well. Spending that gold on regaining health might not be worth it as food may drop from enemies. Maybe you’re more of a traditional player only wanting the most health or most powerful bombs. Or you simply just want to focus on your spirit meter to use items hoping a good offense is the best defense since the amount of hearts you have are lower. Each time you play you will know what works for you. Learning how enemies behave and the opportunities you have provides a unique experience to the player.
Whatever the route of play, Bombslinger is unforgiving like a blast from the past. You can reach very far into the game and one small mistake will make you feel it. As said earlier, progress of unlockables are carried over so starting means you only take the experience forward. Since the maps are procedurally generated in a smart way and you’re bound to get new items you’ve never seen before, pain is gain. XP is earned by defeating enemies and chaining them in combos rewards you even more. Completely filling the XP meter will allow you to earn a new upgrade out of 3 which are randomly chosen. Your first enemies are slow dopes which can be taken out easily (although touching them still causes damage). A variant on them will also chase after you as well as know to move away from your placed bomb.
Other enemies have more health as well as weaponry & projectiles. Shaman’s create lightning strikes and the various animals all have their own patterns for when they see you or your bomb. Particular items can be useful in choosing to be offensive & defensive. Finding new strategies to deal with a situation as well as the best method is part of the experience which feels rewarding being able to overcome it and go untouched. There are 7 boss fights in total, though some of which will be randomly chosen at the end of certain levels. They’re pretty good encounters with their own tactics. The map layout of each fight is different in aesthetic, but similar in being an even playing field. It’s a classic square arena with indestructible walls every other space on the grid. Don’t be expecting classic bomb-to-bomb fights here. While some can be a bit challenging, you may even cheese your way through it by a special item and with enough spirit. The end game of the final boss does provide a choice, if subtle.
Bombslinger does have a nice style. It provides a sense of pixel art style while blending it with 3D models, especially noticeable up-close. Sprites and particle effects in a 3D environment looks good in a way. Entering a shop is reminiscent of the earliest first-person shooters, such as the very first Doom. There’s a lot of replayability here. If the single player wasn’t enough, there’s local multiplayer which you can do solo or with up to 3 other friends while CPU’s fill the void if you wish. It’s not a grandiose experience, but for what’s there it does a decent job of a classic Bomberman fix. There are two modes. Deathmatch and Last Man Standing with certain rules which can be adjusted for each, such as time, rounds, health, etc. Players can choose between 12 different map layouts, too. One thing that deserves mention is the sound. Lines said from enemies are for short effect, but can still be funny adding a bit of charm. The music is sort of like classic rock mixed with a western feel. Acoustic and electric guitars riff the melodies while trumpets feel a bit mariachi. It gets the job done.