Bombing Bastards is a recent Wii U digital release, offering an inexpensive take on the Bomberman formula. At $6.99, this title takes up a very small footprint on your hard drive and wallet, but is it worth the price of admission?
I had a real hard time with this game. I’m all for artistic integrity and non-censorship, but when someone takes a controversial curse word and slaps it in the title, it doesn’t do much for me short of a clamor for attention. Add in the fact that this negative slur is really used as a term of endearment for the main character, and it just adds to the confusion. I’m amused that kid-friendly Nintendo let this by, while Curve’s Stealth Bastard had to get a name change to make it on Sony platforms. In the main campaign, the story is twisted to where you are a villain, helping the nefarious Dr. Wallow destroy the mostly peaceful creatures of various worlds to become ruler supreme of the galaxy. The good doctor throws his witticisms into the arena as you succeed or fail, attempting Portal-like humor that is a bit hit-and-miss. The game also grades you on an Angry Birds-ish 3-star completion campaign. Needless to say, BB definitely has its own flavor, but it borrows heavily from other franchises, obviously most notably Bomberman with it’s gridlike pattern and explosive motif. What Bombing Bastards brings to the table positively is a control scheme that allows for any pad or preferred style of play on the Wii U, five-player support, unique boss levels, and an interesting soundtrack consisting of electronic remixes of classical music (though why they chose to start with the very Christmassy Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies I’ll never know).
Power-ups mix up the gameplay, with items that increase your blast radius, speed, or amount of bombs you can place at once. You can pick up downgrades as well, which may not be as bad as you think: your bombs can actually get so powerful you find yourself at risk of blowing yourself up. Each and every level starts you with the basic one-bomb-one-blast radius attack, which can be frustrating in the randomly placed levels, as you have a five minute time limit, the bombs have lengthy fuses on them, and you end up sitting in the corner for ten to twenty seconds simply eating your way out of said corner. While I didn’t have a plethora of multiplayer people to test with, the game does have AI that can play with you, and any multiplayer game starts out the same way: everyone drops a bomb and waits four seconds, then drops the next one, waits…until there’s a bit of distance between bombs and the game seems normal. It really stutters out of the gate. It is a nice touch to be able to drop bombs from the outside of the playing field after you die, though.
As time went on, I found a few exploits that I’m not sure were intended: if you get the “pick up and throw” ability, you can throw bombs off one side of the map and they end up wrapping around on the other. This made some of the later levels rather easy, as the enemies who are good at dodging actually start off fairly trapped, so if you can hit their little zone you can beat levels in record time if you get lucky with power ups.
I wish there were a few more homages taken from other games, namely Super Meat Boy’s insta-spawn. Many times I’d hit the button and realize that I’d bombed myself into a corner, and there’s nothing to do but wait it out, wait out the death animation, and wait for the game to reload. It surely isn’t taxing the Wii U to play this game, a subtle nod to the “okay you died try again” without the lag of loading would have been very helpful. Also, it could have taken a page from the Wii U directly, as the off-screen image is a mirror of the main screen, yet no option I could find in the main menu allowed audio to port down to the tablet, making off screen glaringly obvious, yet mysteriously silent.
Bombing Bastards could find a solid home on a multiplayer gamer’s rotation, particularly a college dorm-room style setting. While “bastard” is truly a definitive word that can be used to state a fact and some even pull it out of “curse” rotation due to that, I’m sure that the title alone will divert some people from the game. I don’t see much confidence from the developer either, as when I was holding the power button to turn off the game prior to writing this review, I heard our announcer Dr. Wallow blatantly state “This game SUCKS!” right before the power cut. I’m honestly wondering why that line was even recorded, lest it solely be there to troll the buyer.
If you like Bomberman, this game is a stone’s throw from copyright infringement when it comes to multiplayer, and its ability to do full-on five player is an inspiration I wish other games (namely Mario Kart 8, for one) would realize is possible on the Wii U. It’s worth a shot for anyone wanting another quick pick up game for multiplayer matches with lots of friends, but not one to recommend to those looking for some in-depth solo play, other than the insane boss levels that definitely change up the gameplay. The inexpensive price of admission, mixed with the fact that you probably are about due to get a $5 coupon for your Deluxe Digital promotion anyways, may make it worth giving the ‘lil Bastard a try.
*Written by guest reviewer Ryan Johnson*