Boomba! Review (iOS)
*Following recent changes to Boomba!, we have amended this review to reflect the improvements made.*
If there’s one game from the past that works well on a touch screen device, it’s Worms. Setting the trajectory and power of the missiles actually feels more suited to a touch screen than a mouse or joypad. In fact, the essential gameplay of Angry Birds – the most successful mobile game of all time (probably, I didn’t actually look it up) – is based on how intuitive it feels to line up a shot on a touch screen device. A new and original spin on the essential Worms is therefore a great prospect, and Boomba! brings enough new ideas to the genre to make it worth playing.
In the singleplayer game, you select a stage and take on a team of robot enemies. Using a selection of different weapons and ammo types tailored to the level, you take turns firing these munitions in an attempt to wipe the other team out. You take a turn, then the robots take one, and choosing the right weapon is the key to success. As well as firing a weapon you can also move a little by tapping in a direction, which will make your cute little character hop around.
Early on though the experience is compromised by some rough presentation. It can be hard to tell what the level you are selecting will involve. You select the team that you will play as, depcited by a little icon, but you don’t know if you’re heading for a snow world, a level thats got water or one on the moon. It’s not so much of an issue once you just accept that wherever the level takes palce you’ll be doing the same thing. Killing robots! Still, a little thumbnail of the level you would play would have been nice
The enemy AI is decent and puts up a good challenge. Figuring out the best way to eliminate as many as you can in one turn is the key to success, and although there’s an element of luck involved, skilled play is rewarded. The little enemy dudes can also be diabolically sneaky too.
The games biggest weakness though is it’s visual roughness. The weapons lack the particle effects and visual, visceral impact that even the first Worms game had. It’s attempting a cartoonish aesthetic, but it just doesn’t work and the explosions and weapon effects looks placeholder. Its certainly a stylistic choice, but I still longed for a more effect laden explosion when I hit an enemy. I would even have liked to have seen a more retro, pixelated approach, and have the game look more like the classic Worms or Lemmings. It’s maybe in this area that the game could be refined the most in future, because there’s no real ambition in the visuals. I wanted to set my enemies on fire or dragon punch them with visceral, satisfying results, but instead the effects were more Loony Tunes that Dragon Ball Z. Thankfully, the characterful designs of the teams give the game some character and personality.
There’s about sixty of these teams, and the thought that has gone into creating them is the highlight of the game. Full of little references and nods to popular culture and games, you’ll go through every single one trying to spot all the little funny touches the artists have put in there, and you’ll never find them all. I could list them at length, but I don’t want to spoil the fun you’ll have going through them. I love The Ninja’s though, with their little cute version of Gray Fox, and The Scientists, with one of their members having a goatee, and another wearing an orange jump suit.
When it comes to the actual stages, there’s some clever design. For example, in one level everyone is on high scaffolding above a ground littered with explosive. Your main weapon is the disintegrator beam, and so you spend most of your time trying to make your opponents structure crumple so that the enemy combatants will fall off onto the dangerous terrain below.
There’s an unpredictability of the combat that’s fun too, especially in the mutliplayer games. More often than not, the most enjoyable moments are when something unexpectedly lethal happens, either to your own team or to your enemies. Whether it’s missing an enemy but bringing down some blocks on their head, or accidentally wiping out your own little dudes with a misplaced missile, you can’t help but have fun. With local, WIFI and game centre multiplayer, there’s plenty of options for killing your friends. Local is where it’s at for me though, as there’s nothing better than seeing your friends face when you come up with something especially devious.
The physics based environments of Angry Birds combined with the gameplay of Worms proves to be an excellent combination in Boomba!. It can take a while to discover how all the weapons work, but there’s so many of them and they are so deviously clever that experimentation is fun and rewarding.
With clever weapons and well designed levels there’s a lot of fun to be had. With just a bit more visual spectacle and a bit more polish, this could have been essential. As it stands, it’s a fun little title, and once you get used to its quirks it’s one of the most enjoyable multiplayer games you can find on the App Store right now.