Warm yer boots by the campfire friend. I’m about to recount the tale of the legendary Bombslinger. Whose sole mission is to rid the world of rootin’ tootin’ varmints and villians
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 19 July 2016
Wear the poncho of the Bombslinger, a former ruthless bandit turned rancher, as he sets out on a journey to avenge the brutal murder of his wife.
Bomb your way through hordes of enemies, defeat your former posse and get to the final showdown with its leader, the Gunslinger.
Explosive Bomberman-inspired single and multiplayer gameplay
Procedurally generated levels and tons of items make each play unique
4-player battle mode and AI bots for classic local multiplayer action
Bombslinger is the creation of Mode4. A new Brussels based startup founded by Ferry Keesom and Andrea Di Stefano. Back in 2015, the pair met by spending hours commuting to their regular job in Belgium and talking about games they would like to play. After a few years in the game industry, they decided to have a go at making their own games. The culmination is in their words “A weird reinvention of the classic Bomberman gameplay into a retro-ish cowboy adventure”. The game is currently launching out of Steam Early Access on April 11.
Bombslinger takes the Super Bomberman gameplay loop elements and transplants them into a procedural level design with boss battles. It’s kinda like Bomberman meets The Binding of Isaac within the setting of the wild west. For readers who are not familiar with the classic arcade game. Here’s a brief description of the core gameplay system. The game takes place on a single non-scrolling screen. The screen shows the top down view of the playfield. In this case, a wild west themed farm or homestead. Objects such as corn plants or rocks restrict the movement of characters so they can only move horizontally or vertically around the screen. Pressing a button will make “the Bombslinger” drop a bomb at his feet. This bomb will pulse for a few seconds (allowing the player time to run away) and then explode, shooting flames horizontally and vertically. The game revolves around the idea of using these bomb blasts to destroy objects and enemies.
The robots in the original game have been replaced by a whole bevy of Wild West vagrants and villains. There are old timers in their Walter White undies, hillbillies in dirty long johns, irate goats, Molotov wielding farm hands and gunslingers. These patrol around the stages with varying levels of threat and behaviours. The goats once alarmed will run straight at you, whilst gunslingers are a different ball of wax. They are cunning and have lightning trigger fingers. Once dispatched these foes will leave all manner of power-ups and money. The items can range from gold bars, coins, snake oil, weapons and spirit bottles. Power up drops includes extra bombs, speed, and heart containers.
All these Wild West hijinks take place within procedurally generated stages that are linked together to form an episode. The level design algorithm is quite sophisticated and can conjure up a variety of stage shapes. Within these stages, various fields, shops and treasure chests are placed. No two levels look the same apart from the overall art tone, which can range from homestead corn fields, burnt out settlements and dusty prairies.
Once you have rid all the stages of their varmints a boss level gate is unlocked. During my gameplay sessions, I’ve encountered two different high-level foes. One a flame-spewing outlaw, who I have yet to best and super powerful Black Goat, who charges at you from great distances with speed and ferocity.
There are currently two local multiplayer modes: Deathmatch and Last Man Standing. Deathmatch can be played from 2-4 combatants. These can be made from real opponents or AI Bots. There are twelve stages to choose from. Various gameplay tweaks can be altered by the number of rounds, time, frag count and health points.
Deathmatch between four bots is a tad too chaotic for my feeble rat brain to process. The AI moves at such a pace they can corral you into dead ends and cul de sacs at their leisure. The last man standing is more my cup of tea. This is fantastic fun. The AI is very clever and doesn’t walk intp traps with good reason. Sometimes it stops completely just like a Mexican standoff. It would be nice if you could choose the level of intelligence of the opponent. There’s a decent amount of variety in all the stages. The playfield arena isn’t restricted to the classic oblong shape. There’s a huge amount of replayability on offer here. It would be cool if there were some extra features such as a replay mode and stat tracking.
Quality of Life features
PC options include sliders for audio ambience, music and sound effects. Graphics wise there are display resolutions and screen mode toggles. Gamepad support comes out of the box and there is a rebindable keyboard menu, for folks who have a penchant for a custom layout.
This is all basic Unity engine fare. It would have been nice to have a few extra graphics options such as filters, FX, colour schemes to add to the retro aesthetic.
Mode4 have openly talked about taking inspiration from the golden age of Lucasart for the aesthetic employed. You can clearly see the resemblance to the classic Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle era pixel art style. This has been faithfully executed and gives the title a suitably retro feel. Even thought the graphics are a tad chunky, they have bags of character and charm.
There is a cinematic zeal to the opening scenes. The game uses a top-down viewpoint ala The classic Zelda Link to the Past, but it has been created in Unity’s 3D engine and this has been utilized to great effect. From the title screen the camera slowly pans down to a burning homestead and from within, Mr Blomslinger emerges with his dead wife in his arms, silhouetted on a nearby prairie hilltop stand his now ex-bandit band members laughing at their dirty work. Its stirring stuff and sets the tone for the games vengeance storyline.
The soundtrack is in the classic spaghetti western ballpark. Twanging tremolo-heavy guitar riffs compete against howling harmonica and banjo melodies. Conjuring images of Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef duking it out on a dusty high street in Nowheresville, New Mexico. The main theme of the McMean Ranch stages sounds strangely familiar. After scratching my noggin’ I had a eureka moment. It has the same vibe as the recent Arctic Monkeys track – Do I Wanna Know.
Bomblsingers is shaping up nicely for its big launch in April. For any fans old or new it’s a bold and refreshing take on a classic arcade game. The multiplayer element retains the frantic and highly addictive core gameplay with loads of stages and modes. The Bot AI is challenging and allows the solo player to battle against a formidable and intelligent opponent. The adventure mode adds further content, with a roguelike twist offering a rewarding and evolving experience. There’s a lot to enjoy in this rootin’-tootin’ Bombslinging romp.