Billy Bomber (Switch) Review
There are some genuinely well designed puzzles here, especially on the higher difficulty level.
The terrible controls and incredibly short length leave this game feeling unfinished.
Sometimes I feel that, with a little more work, a bad or mediocre game could become something really worth playing. I am not sure that this is the case for Billy Bomber. This game feels like a knockoff mobile game from five years ago, and while it would be a decent enough diversion for a free, if not riddled with ads, afternoon with your smartphone, it is not quite enough for the Switch eShop.
Billy Bomber is a physics based puzzler in which you play as a round blob of a construction worker, tasked with gathering stars and reaching a flag. If you reach the flag without gathering any stars, which give you nothing, anyway, you still clear the level. In easy mode, this makes for a trial and error based slog. You get an infinite amount of bombs and springs with which to manipulate the titular Billy, then get the joy of watching him roll around the stage as you, occasionally, set off one of the bombs that you placed. If your setup doesn’t work, you can start over and place more items. Billy can slow to a crawl if he loses momentum, though, making this really tedious. A fast forward button could help, but there’s none to be found.
Hard mode is a little better. Limiting the items available to you makes the puzzles more interesting. Some of them really do have clever designs, but easy mode’s infinite options make endless item placement a better strategy than careful thought. On the higher difficulty level, you’re forced to appreciate how the levels are meant to be played. Once I got used to the play mechanics and interested in tackling a few more puzzles, however, the game was over. There are only 25 levels here, and they’re the same in both easy and hard mode. Even though I was pretty awful at this game, I cleared it in an evening.
This game’s length is far from its biggest problem. Billy Bomber has awful controls. All that you do in this game is place items and set off the bombs that you’ve placed. Thankfully, setting off the TNT is trouble free and fairly precise, making the actual execution of the puzzles pretty smooth. Placing the items, however, is a challenge. You’re free to use either touch or traditional controls, but while the game demands you to be pixel perfect, placing the bombs and springs is infuriatingly imprecise. If you don’t get an item lined up exactly how the game likes, it will disappear or register as something that can’t be in that position, all due to a pixel’s breadth of imprecision. At the same time, as you move the items around the screen, they’ll jerk from side to side, and sometimes entirely out of sight, making it feel impossible to get things even close to where they should be. It can be done, but it takes an extreme amount of effort and patience.
The graphics and sound in here aren’t great, but they’re passable. Some of the sprites have an extremely Flash game look to them, while others, such as the TNT crate, are a bit more 8-bit. They’re clear, keeping the puzzles easy to follow, but the style is just inconsistent enough to be a little bothersome. The cheerful music is also fine, but in an extended play session, its endless looping becomes grating. Still, neither the graphics nor the sound make the game any worse.
If Billy Bomber were a free game, I’d have no problem half recommending it with a shrug. Some of the levels are pretty cleverly designed, and hard mode makes them a decent, thoughtful challenge. However, the incredibly short overall length and bad controls mean that for five dollars, it’s very difficult to recommend. It wouldn’t be an awful mobile game, but on Switch, Billy Bomber leaves a lot to be desired.