I had high hopes for Billy Bomber, given its unusual puzzle mechanics and a style of play that should have allowed for creativity, despite the fact that it has a really lo-fi style – and not in a good way. Sadly, it resembles a mid-00s web browser game and unfortunately plays like one too.
Billy Bomber is a puzzle game in which you must get the eponymous Billy – a spherical character – to the flag on each stage. As he’s immobile, the only way you can get him there is by placing TNT and other objects, detonating the explosives and allowing the somewhat rudimentary physics to kick in and get him to the aforementioned flag. Three stars are hidden throughout each stage – you collect these to improve the star rating for the level you’re tackling.
It should be a really fun and satisfying little puzzler, but there’s a number of glaring issues that drain all of the fun from the proceedings. The physics really aren’t great, for a start – and placing explosives and objects like springs requires absolute perfection. If you are even slightly out of the position that the developers want your object in, Billy’s resulting trajectory will see him fail to reach the stage’s end and – unless I’m missing something – you can only undo the last item you’ve placed, with the only other option being to remove all previously placed objects and start again. There should be a satisfying feeling when chaining together objects and TNT, but instead you’re forced to backtrack and place items one at a time until you get everything exactly right.
Placing objects in a specific spot is frustratingly imprecise with traditional controls, though this does improve massively if using the touchscreen. However, even using touchscreen controls, it really does speak volumes when even tutorial stages are punishingly difficult due to the terribly implemented controls. Was this not playtested at all? The mind absolutely boggles at how this game was considered to be in a fit state for release.
It’s the type of game that gives indies a bad name, unfortunately. When those gamers who tend to gravitate towards AAA-games think of indie titles, it’s games like Billy Bomber that come to mind. It looks and plays like a really bad mobile game, unfortunately, with no thought whatsoever put into its appearance or mechanics for Nintendo’s platform. What’s interesting is that this is a port of a mobile game – the mobile version actually plays better than the Switch version does (unless you’re using touch screen controls on Switch too), but of course has the same issues with over complicated level design – that stifles the potential for creativity with the somewhat open-ended gameplay – and poor physics. Not only that, but the mobile version is absolutely riddled with ads too – so neither version has much going for it (though upgrading to the non-ad version is only 99p on mobile, which makes it a much more attractive proposition).
It’s a shame; there are some great ideas in the concept but I think it just needs more work. Not a game I can recommend in its current state on Switch, unfortunately.
Many thanks to Ultimate Games for providing the Billy Bomber code for review.
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