Wednesday, January 30

Review: Bombfest [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Making games that are pretty well meant to be exclusively multiplayer is a tough proposition. While it’s great that the Switch has encouraged the full return of local multiplayer fun it also has an eShop full of options and competition, making the task to stand out even more difficult. In the case of Bombfest it appears the plan has been to aim for simplicity in both concept and controls, and then compliment those with a wide and weird variety of environments and unlockables.

While thankfully if you’re short of the full 4 people that help keep the intensity high and the fun chaotic the AI does a fine (perhaps even too good) job of filling in, this is a game that works best with other people, optimally filling all slots. In terms of control there’s actually very little to know, you’re able to pick up and throw bombs as well as do a sort of leaping dive to either close the distance to grab one before someone else or try to escape a blast. This keeps things light and means that it’s very accessible both to new players and likely people of all ages.

As you’d expect even with humble controls there’s some nuance at play here. When bombs get closer to exploding they’ll flash with a red glow representing their blast radius, blinking faster as the time ticks away. If possible you’ll want to be somewhere else when they go off, especially if they’re in a cluster, since it’s being blasted out of whatever environment you’re in that ends the important part of your round. You’ll then come back as a small bomb that can be controlled still, affording you the opportunity to settle a score, try to keep everyone roughly even, or just create some random chaos. Once 5 rounds are over the scores from each stage will be tallied and a winner will be crowned.

Where the game struggles is with variety and staying power. While the various settings that take advantage of the theme where you’re toys battling it out in oversized real-world environments is novel and cute at first that feeling is also fleeting. Granted, watching the stuff in the environment react and get destroyed by bombs going off everywhere is fun, but once you’ve played the game a bit that wears off. The promise of a stream of unlocks then becomes the focus for replayability with new weapons, stages, and characters, but since the core fundamentals of the game remain mostly unchanged the question is how long the honeymoon for fun can last.

While Bombfest has many elements that can add up to fun, unfortunately unless your group is really taken with the simple but fun nature of things I don’t think it’s likely to hold people’s attentions for long. Granted, this is a problem shared by pretty well all games in this space that are exclusively multiplayer focused. New things to unlock can have an influence on play and make it more unpredictable, but the lack of any other real variety makes it run out of steam pretty quickly on its own merits. Though mileage may vary if you’re a massive fan of the gameplay Bombfest is fine overall, just not terribly inspired.

Score: 6

  • Chaotic fun for anyone with simple and approachable controls
  • The gimmick of being toys mixed with some of the settings can be fun
  • In a pinch the AI will challenge you, perhaps a bit too much

  • While some specifics in aesthetics and small refinements in play will change the game as you unlock things, the core gameplay never changes or evolves
  • It’s truly meant to be played with other people, and while you can solo against the AI that’s in no way an ideal sustained experience
  • Possible some gamers with less experience will find the action overwhelming and confusing