Boomerang X — Putting the Movement in Movement Shooter

This isn’t structured to make sense as a review, more so a reaffirmation to those who played and understand BX’s mechanics. But follow along!

Image courtesy of Devolver Digital

Perhaps I was too harsh on my initial impressions. Nevertheless, initial impressions matter. So this was how it started, how I dropped it, and how I came to kind of love this.

This is NOT Doom Eternal or Ultrakill. It appears frantic and fast on the surface, but it’s a series of on-the-fly plans you make as you zip around the arena. It’s a blend of different genre staples that just ended up worse off than sticking to one.

It’s almost like a turn-based game as you slow time to pick the perfect movement to execute. It walks a weird mix of intentional movement (The kind you see in soulslikes), but placing it in frantic fights akin to Doom, but also slowing time is almost a necessity during your first playthrough so it takes on a strategic turn-based-esq feel.

Controls are good but a bit unintuitive, as it’s easy to dash to your boomerang on accident since the fire and dash are both bound to the left mouse button. Deeper movement options are very hard to nail down in a first-person view, and I don’t think they quite hit the mark considering how important movement and depth of perception is in this game.

Image courtesy of Devolver Digital

There were exactly 2 instances where it REALLY clicked. I was in a state of flow, the fight felt fun to engage in. But that was mired under fights bordering on light frustration that made my overall verdict take a dive.

One thing I can say is that the enemy variety and abilities you have are very fun, at least in concept. In fact, I liken this game to Ghostrunner. Having a single attack that can one-shot enemies just doesn’t lend itself to engaging gameplay, at least for both of these titles. There’s not much variation possible.

Boomerang X definitely has something going for it, but some issues, chief among them being arena design and enemy placement/types can lead to an experience that was confused on what exactly it wanted to be.

It was a concoction that just didn’t do it for me.

Image courtesy of Devolver Digital

Now for the revisit.

Once you get into a flow of chaining together abilities, purposefully moving and recalling, repositioning, you get into a pretty damn good rhythm.

Where Doom Eternal doesn’t reward spamming the same abilities, Boomx actively punishes it. At first, it seemed counterintuitive to a fast-paced game. Of course I’m going to panic spam the same button multiple times. It’s natural.

But this is Boomerang x, not Doom. Each action is calculated, even more so than Doom. Positioning is even more important, and things quickly escalate to bullet crescendo.

The health system seemed tacky and counterintuitive to fast gameplay, having to wait on a pad to regenerate just one heart, until you realize that you need to either quickly reposition to gain health away from enemies, take out the ones that can immediately hit you and negate the heal, or save it till near the end of the wave. There is strategy there.

Image courtesy of IGN

You can’t spam jump. You can’t just keep firing off the boomerang. You gotta recall it sometimes if the new position will be disadvantageous. It’s a refreshing experience that can be strangely cathartic.

The dash will be a contentious breakpoint for many players. It doesn’t just require deliberation in planning, but execution as well. Just as it’s a tool, it will also be your downfall when used incorrectly. Consider your position, velocity and acceleration against the many hazards as you judge where and if to dash. Fire, charge fire. Recall to maintain position. Dash can be your best ally or worst enemy.

Hordes of enemies will deal with your scattershot, chain together sick kills or hit multiple weakpoints with the Pierce. Or get a free rechargeable shield with blaze if you play the air (which you should already do), an excellent nod to the glory kill mechanic without ever allowing you a moment to overstack defence and get careless. One misstep and your safety net is gone, or you can instead aggressively use this “safety net”, trading defence for a powerful aoe and short moment of freedom to breathe.

Even the air halt is fantastic. The only mechanic that I don’t think should be here is the jump, as it infringes on halt, but like the rest of the game, it works on intentionality and punishes twitch reactions alone without more thought. It’s a thinking man’s game.

Flux (slow-mo) is also fantastic if you use it sparingly or as much as you want. It keeps the games pace at whatever you want.

Enemy designs are creative, inspired and fun to dispatch. The invulnerable eyes can be outmanoeuvred in fun ways, the Storm Giraffe can be crushed by a smart blaze landing on their back, and scattershot can deal with swarms of insects. Frogs can be pierced through in one hit.

At times, Boomerang X is criminally good. Inspired. Fast but deliberate. As fast as you want it to be, but always impossibly hectic yet phenomenally readable considering the stuff on screen. But at the end of the day, it sits pretty at a comfortable 7/10 for me.

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