STAFF REVIEW of Bombfest (Xbox One)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Bombfest Box art I guarantee that if I mention video games and bombs, the overwhelming majority of you probably instinctively think of the Bomberman series, and for good reason. Indie developers, Sudden Event Studios, are looking to change that status quo though, as they’ve created a bomb focused party game for four players to enjoy, but use completely different mechanics and gameplay from what you’d expect from a bomb-filled party game. Yes, there’s still tons of explosions, and it’s inspired by a myriad of other titles, but it’s completely different from what you'd probably expect, nor is it grid based gameplay. Simple concept and execution make for an entertaining party game for when you have company over.

Gameplay is as simple as it comes; four players are placed on a small playfield, and the last one standing is the winner. BOMBFEST changes things up though, and your characters are actually simple block-like figures, fighting it out in, or on, everyday objects, like the kitchen sink, a jenga-like board table, a toy train track, a rubber ducky and other interesting backdrops. Obviously, your weapons of choice will be the varying line of bombs at your disposal, and knocking back your opponents off the board is how you win.

Not good at games? No problem, you really only need to know how to pick up and toss your bombs while moving away from any explosions. It’s as simple as it comes, yet it works to be easily accessible for all. For example, my 6 year old daughter was able to join in and play alongside me after a single match of practice, even if she wasn't able to completely follow along with what's happening on screen at all times.

What if you don’t have 3 friends that are awaiting your beck and call to come over for every new party game you get though? Worry not, as even if you don’t have any friends (not like THAT) available for some couch co-op, as it’s rare for me to have a lot of company over these days, AI can step in and challenge you to some quick matches should you desire. Sure, the AI won’t be as fun as your real life counterparts, as there’s nothing quite like swearing or throwing something at your friends when they win/cheat, but at least you’re able to actually play by yourself if you want.

Matches are very quick, and as you unlock more modes and bombs, the chaos only becomes greater the more you enable at a time. You’re able to completely customize your matches however you wish, from the types of bombs in play, the amount they are generated, the arenas and other bonuses I’ll leave for a surprise for you to figure out and unlock. I became quite fond of the 1 round with instant nuke death bombs raining from the sky, but some may opt for a 10 match d20 BOMBFEST instead, it’s completely up to you.

Matches only last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or so. Physics are a real thing, as you can use bombs to topple over building blocks, or use the toy train going around the track to block you from being blasted off the playfield. Chaos really sets in once you start some crazy chain reactions with bombs on the floor coupled with what’s being tossed in every direction. You’re able to choose from a handful of different characters, and will unlock more as you play.

With almost a dozen bombs to unlock and toss, there’s some really interesting combinations that can be quite deadly with some quick thinking strategy. Obviously you begin with your standard bombs that blow up after a few seconds, but eventually you’ll have many other types, like mines, d20’s that explode with a random effect based on how it lands, nukes, ice bombs and more. I enjoy playing with all bombs unlocked, as it can give almost anyone a chance at winning if they get lucky with the better more powerful ones.

What I enjoyed the most was BOMBFEST’s unlocking structure. I would have initially guessed that you would have to win a certain amount of matches to unlock new arenas, characters and bombs, but instead, you simply need to play a lot of matches. In the beginning, you’ll earn unlocks every match or two, eventually taking 5 or 6 to get to the next unlock. The costume unlocks are always fun, as you can customize your character however you wish, and I have to give bonus points for adding a Bob Ross inspired beard and afro; it’s like they knew what I wanted, and they delivered. You’re always progressing to something new, so something is always in reach with just a few matches, adding to the replayability.

Yes, BOMBFEST is very simplistic in design, mechanically and graphically, but it has a certain charm to it, and most importantly, it’s accessible to anyone to simply have fun in short bursts. Online multiplayer is lacking, but to be expected for a small indie title, so make sure to call some friends over for some hilarity. Bomberman could learn a few things from BOMBFEST, so get those bombs ready and your curse words prepped, as both will be flying towards your friends.

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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