Bad, boring, and broken: It’s a special hat trick performed only by the most special of games and the only accomplishment Bombshell is likely to be remembered for, if it will indeed be remembered at all. Until now, this isometric shooter was known primarily for its laughably awful initial trailer, and at least deserves dubious praise for living up to its marketing’s expectations; it is as underdeveloped and unexciting as our introduction to it.
The “broken” moniker is a tricky one in modern game publishing, of course. The bugs I encountered may be fixed by the time you read this review, but I can only review a game as provided, though I will give some benefit of the doubt to developer Interceptor Entertainment, which provided a list of bugs I am promised will be fixed by full release. The bugs that didn’t appear on that list are numerous, though, and as of this review’s publication, include a game-ending crash that still hinders me from reaching the finale. It’s possible you may not make it that far, however: the first main boss broke repeatedly when I played, finally working properly on the 6th attempt, and leaving me with no clue as to why it broke to begin with.
Presuming that this boss bug is corrected by the time you play, you must still contend with the scene’s vast design flaws, the most pressing of which is that the battle is utterly lacking in challenge or excitement. You can beat the first two of the boss’s three forms with only minimal movement, due to the boss’s very limited, and very predictable, attacks; the third form you can beat when barely moving at all, as there are several safe zones the fiend’s poison attack cannot reach. It may seem odd to analyze a single boss fight before getting to the gameplay at large, but this boss stands as a fine testament to Bombshell’s badness; all of the issues that diminish this boss curse the game in its entirety.
“Boring” is the most obvious of these issues, and one that pervades every aspect of Bombshell. Enemy behavior and level design are the biggest offenders in this regard. You navigate numerous stages on several cliched alien worlds (fire-themed, ice-themed, etc.), gunning down any enemy that comes between you and the generic mission objective at hand. That the levels take a good while to clear isn’t the biggest drawback, though it is a contributing factor to the tedium. Instead, it’s the sheer lack of variety in enemies and scenery that proves the game’s biggest downfall. You take aim at the same few alien types over and over again, and most of them run or amble towards you senselessly, sometimes falling from ledges or getting stuck behind obstacles--and occasionally just standing in place, raising their blades up and down but otherwise doing nothing. (You might get a good laugh out of leaving the area, and then returning to find the same alien perpetually slicing the air, at least.) There is no cleverness to the level layouts, enemy placement, or enemy mix, and there are few activities outside of combat to alleviate the monotony. The simplistic puzzles you encounter are hardly interesting or worthy of mention.
So you shoot some aliens in unexciting, unchallenging encounters, then walk a little while through an ice level that looks just like the last ice level you played, which looked just like the level before that. Occasionally, you might think Bombshell is about to heat up, only for the game to douse the fun. For instance, execution prompts appear over enemies’ heads from time to time, though all too often, a prompt appears but doesn’t work, leading to a few sad seconds of impotent button-hammering. Successful executions are equally sad, however, focusing on the titular heroine’s lifeless animations as she rips off an alien’s head with the enthusiasm of a long yawn. Yet I must give credit where credit’s due: the weapons are fun to handle, and the flamethrower deserves a shout-out for being one of Bombshell’s few, explosive bright spots, along with the bowling mines that seek enemies to destroy, and roll back to you if they can’t find a mark.
Elsewhere, successful artistry is uncommon, most notably in Bombshell’s excruciatingly awful writing.
Environments reveal some artistic savvy, using an array of runes, crystals, and statues to show off how the Unreal 3-powered lighting beautifully glistens and refracts. Elsewhere, successful artistry is uncommon, most notably in Bombshell’s excruciatingly awful writing. It’s tempting to celebrate the arrival of any female game protagonist when they’re in such short supply, but please: hold your applause. Shelly, as she’s usually called, speaks only in the hoariest cliches and dumbest of jokes. “How many aliens does it take to change a light bulb? None. They’re all dead,” she says, all too often, until that alien horse is dead, beaten, buried, unburied, beaten, and buried again. “And they said that aliens would never land on the White House lawn.” Who said that, Shelly, and when?
Perhaps this is Bombshell making a self-aware joke, poking fun at its participation in an old science-fiction cliche; Bombshell makes a number of references to its own failings along the way. Hanging a lampshade on dull fetch quests doesn’t make things better, however, and it sends a disrespectful message: Bombshell’s repetitiveness was a choice.
I don’t like being disrespected--and I doubt you do, either. And yet it’s reasonable to feel that way when playing a buggy, bland game with some of the worst writing you’re likely to hear in some time. It doesn’t make a bad first impression, but that’s how it fools you: it shows you the Bombshell that could have been, only to disappoint you by becoming the bomb it soon becomes.