Review – Boomerang X
Someday, I’ll meet whomever is responsible for Devolver‘s title curation and pay that superhero a drink or three. The way they so frequently manage to find and publish so many games with crazy ideas, most of them following a very cohesive “Devolver-esque” attitude emphasizing fun above everything else, is just amazing. Even though their last game, the good but flawed Essays on Empathy, wasn’t exactly as attitude-driven as most of Devolver’s portfolio, they’re now back in their comfort zone with Boomerang X, a great game I can’t imagine anyone else publishing but them.
In Boomerang X, you play as a castaway stranded on a mysterious island. There is not a lot of setup in here: you wake up, collect your main weapon, the aforementioned boomerang (even though it looks and acts more like a shuriken), and begin to explore this portal-filled land you’re in, mowing down waves enemies and occasionally talking to friendly NPCs along the way. This is a game with very little puzzle-solving or branching paths, as you’ll mostly follow down a linear path until the credits ensue.
The core gameplay loop revolves around going down a corridor, obtaining a brand new powerup, beating a platforming session with said new powerup (on occasion), then reaching an open arena where you’ll be tasked with beating a certain number of enemy waves with a very limited, but upgradeable, health bar. The thing about these sections is that you’re not necessarily forced to kill all enemies onscreen. There are a handful of them that will shine in yellow, and these are the ones you should focus your efforts on. With that being said, it’s not exactly easy to ignore the other enemies coming your way, so you’ll basically end up killing everyone in sight with your
shuriken boomerang regardless.
Yes, you only use one weapon throughout the entire game, but that’s not an issue at all. The game showers you with different abilities to use in conjunction with your boomerang, such as being able to propel yourself towards it after launching it. You’re essentially using your boomerang as a grappling hook, as well as slowing down time while aiming, creating a one-use shotgun-esque spreadshot after killing more than one enemy with one throw, and so on. Every single arena you’re thrown into is large enough to allow you to jump around and use your powers like a ninja flea, allowing for a lot of experimentation. You can easily play a game of “the floor is lava” if you so choose.
It does take a while to get used to all of Boomerang X‘s mechanics, however. No, the gameplay isn’t bad, but the game is insanely fast-paced at times, and things might get a bit confusing in some specific platforming sections. Your boomerang “grappling” mechanic, for instance, propels you toward your weapon like a rocket, barely giving you time to properly aim and time your button press. You need to take into account that you also throw your boomerang around stupidly quickly, so some of these sections feel more like a blind fly hitting a wall until finding a hole to go through. Thankfully, these sections are few and far between. You won’t have any problems during combat sections.
All in all, Boomerang X features a pretty solid presentation, but it has one major issue. It has a striking art style that looks great on a smaller screen, and its sound design is basically comprised of tribal drum beats which are playing only during combat sections (the rest of game is silent, with the exception of some compressed sound effects). The problem lies in the framerate. The Switch’s weak hardware is probably why the game is capped at 30fps, with occasional drops beyond that as well. This hinders the sensation of speed and fluidity the developers were aiming for.
The reduced framerate on the Switch version of Boomerang X might be a bit of a downer, since the game feels perfect on a handheld, but I still had a great time with it. It’s fast-paced, arcadey, stylish as all hell and allows you to experiment a lot with its combat mechanics. Regardless of its technical shortcomings, it’s yet another banger from Devolver, a fun little title from the single best indie curator in the market.
Even if it suffers from some framerate slowdowns, and its enemy design is a tad too repetitive, Boomerang X features a striking art style that is very pleasing to the eyes.
Boomerang X‘s gameplay is fast-paced and insane, but you’ll need some time before getting used to all of its mechanics. Its limited framerate is also a bit disappointing for a game all about moving around as quickly as possible.
For the most part, the game is silent, with only a handful of compressed sound effects following you around. Music only plays during combat sections, and they do get the job done.
Fun Factor: 8.5
As it stands, Boomerang X is awesome, and its gameplay loop is a fantastic fit for a portable. It would have been better if it wasn’t hindered by the Switch’s hardware, which limits its framerate significantly.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Boomerang X is available now on PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Boomerang X was provided by the publisher.