These days, it’s common for even indie games to feel bloated. So many games want to do a million things at once, making them daunting for players to get into. Boomerang X is not one of those games.
Developers DANG! had a single concept for a game; that being what would an FPS be like if your only weapon was a boomerang? This neat concept and how it is explored encapsulates the entire playthrough of their game.
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the game below.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 8, 2021
Price: $19.99 USD
The player starts stranded on an island, and after only a few seconds of exploration is given the one item they will use for the rest of the game. A 4 sided boomerang. Soon after, the player is attacked by shadowy nightmare creatures and tasked with dispatching them.
Boomerang X has very little story. While there are hints of a deeper lore strewn throughout the island, Boomerang X’s linear experience focuses almost exclusively on its gameplay. Thankfully, that gameplay is novel and well executed.
Along your journey you find rooms that contain magic crystals. Destroying these crystals causes waves of enemies to attack. The goal of the player couldn’t be simpler- survive the waves and kill your enemies. Each success leads to a new room, with a new crystal and more enemies to kill.
What was just described sounds like what you would likely find in a thousand other horde shooters. What sets Boomerang X apart is how it handles this combat. While your boomerang is the closest thing to a traditional weapon you get, the amount of options it gives you means that combat never feels repetitive.
Players throw their boomerang with the left mouse button, and bring it back with the right. Killing multiple enemies with a single swing rewards the player with a special ability that can be used to clear out groups of enemies in front of you. You quickly unlock the game’s most important ability, by double clicking the player is able to teleport to where their boomerang was thrown.
By combining these simple mechanics Boomerang X goes from another generic indie shooter, to a fast-paced high-flying action game. The majority of your combat encounters will be spent in the air, trying to line up multikills in order to unlock special attacks. All while you try to dodge dozens of enemies all swarming you.
Each combat room has multiple waves to clear, and in order to clear a wave you don’t have to kill every enemy attacking you. Instead, you only need to kill the glowing enemies designated in the top right of your screen. This is where the game’s strategy comes in.
Because you don’t have to kill every enemy, quickly deciding what enemies are worth killing is important. While you must complete your objective, you can also make your life easier down the road by killing off other foes, or gaining a special move.
Different enemies get taken out in different ways, along with having different ways they can take you out. Some enemy types go for you head on, while others create stage hazards that you are likely to run into if you aren’t careful.
Each room has a limited amount of health pickups to use if you are badly damaged. However they require you to stand still in a specific area to receive them; something that is often not worth the trouble, given how suicidal staying in one spot can be.
After a few rooms the player unlocks new abilities, which are given to you slowly throughout the game in order to make sure you aren’t overwhelmed. In between rooms, you get a bit of time to absorb the backgrounds, art and music.
While the visuals aren’t impressive from a technical standpoint, the low poly aesthetic can be charming. More importantly, enemies and the environment are quickly distinguishable. This is extremely important given how quickly the player is traveling, and how many enemies are on screen at a time.
Boomerang X‘s music serves it’s purpose, but doesn’t really stand out. While I can’t see myself listening to this game’s soundtrack in my spare time it does properly set the tone, becoming more and more intense as the game increases in difficulty.
The game’s difficulty is well balanced. Starting off simple enough, but over its course gives players a fair challenge. Every death received never felt cheap.
As the intensity level of the combat slowly increases, you find yourself in a 3D bullet hell. Quickly dodging enemies and attacks while trying to kill enemies, while also making sure you don’t send yourself flying into a stage hazard.
In the later half of the game I found myself abusing the slow motion ability you eventually gain. I was quickly dispatching foes, teleporting then going into slow motion in order to process what to do next.
One thing that unique games often suffer from are unique problems. Boomerang X is no exception. By far one of the biggest issues is that constantly left and right clicking in order to kill enemies and avoid them resulted can result in some mild discomfort and RSI after only 30 minutes of play.
This was a first for me, someone who has played games for over 25 years, and required me to take 5 minute breaks between each attempt. For first time players, we recommend changing your button layout early to avoid that experience. Boomerang X is carpal tunnel syndrome in game form.
While the game does get challenging during the later half, it isn’t masochist levels like you see in a lot of shorter indie games akin to this. On the other hand, this brings us to the game’s length.
Boomerang X isn’t long; which is good in the regard that it never overstays its welcome. Given the simple gameplay premise, it could definitely have lost steam if it went on for much longer than it did. Not to mention needing to amputate your hand if it had the traditional 10 hour or longer campaign.
Despite this, it is hard to not criticize the game’s length. At only 3 hours, it’s something many people can beat in only a single sitting. The game thankfully does have a new game +, which mixes things up, and adds extra challenges. Despite that, it can be sad to see it end as quickly as it does.
In the end, Boomerang X is another unique success Devolver Digital should feel happy to gloat about. Their publishing strategy of funding creative and polished lower budget games has resulted in yet another fun and creative experience. Sadly, the game’s short length keeps it from true greatness.
Boomerang X was reviewed on Windows PC using a review code provided by WhisperGames. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.