Spicy Chicken with a Side of High Powered Explosives, To-Go Please!
When I was tasked with writing a review on the upcoming Bomb Chicken by Nitrome, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After all, the breadth of my knowledge on the game itself was a little scarce. I’d only heard mutterings about how well received it was at E3, and knew you played as a chicken that lays bombs, that’s pretty much it. I’m glad to say that my time spent with this quirky little puzzle platformer was far more fun than I thought it would be. Bomb Chicken’s premise is very straight forward; you’re a chicken that has ended up in an ancient Mayan ruin, where some fast food chain thought it would be a bright idea to set up shop. Apparently they think the secret to good chicken isn’t about 11 herbs and spices so much as trying to dig up some ancient ingredients are. Anyhow, you get imbued with the power to lay bombs instead of eggs. Using your mysterious, explosive new powers; it’s up to you to get yourself and your fellow avian brethren off the dinner plate, and out of the temple to freedom.
As absurd of a concept as that sounds, Bomb Chicken is a wonderfully crafted experience that teases your brain at the same time. Platforming is part of the overall game, but your little chicken friend is not so, well, little. He’s quite a rotund individual, and as such is incapable of any sort of jumping. This makes things clear right away that puzzling is the other half of the gameplay. In a manner similar to games such as Out of This World, Flashback, and Oddworld, you have to be clever and use your abilities (or lack thereof) on hand to solve puzzles and evade the numerous baddies out to get you. You can’t just run and gun your way through the whole game. You can, however, lay as many bombs as you want so you can reach the otherwise inaccessible. You can also kick bombs to hit switches that your little chicken friend can’t activate himself. While you can’t kill every enemy you come across, they also help in dispatching baddies as well. Though it may not seem like much at first, Bomb Chicken’s protagonist is quite capable, despite appearances. While your bomb supply is infinite, you’re not immune to them, so not getting caught up in the blast that follows laying bombs plays into the puzzle aspect as well.
Eat Mor Chikin? Not Today!
YOU THINK THIS IS A GAME TERRY? TAKE OFF THAT MASK IMMEDIATELY.
Bomb Chicken does a wonderful job of doing what I feel makes a good game. It progressively teaches you what you can and can’t do. Rather than inundating you with text box after text box of tutorials and halting gameplay; the Mayan world of Bomb Chicken is constructed in a way that gets you to use your brain and parse together a solution based on what you’ve learned so far. From initially learning to lay bombs to go up steps to building bomb walls to stop poison darts, the thought that went into the level and puzzle designs themselves is nothing short of genius. The farther I got while playing through Bomb Chicken, the more I felt challenged and found myself needing to think more about what I was doing before I did it. While the game does ramp up the difficulty around the mid-teens levels, I never once felt that the multiple deaths I experienced were cheap or unfair. The controls are tight and responsive, and every time I died was the result of me misjudging where to land or having bad timing dodging an obstacle.
While the game can be difficult at times, the way the levels (and the game itself) are constructed help alleviate frustrations. The levels themselves tend to not be very long, so the game encourages you to take your time and think things through, with a few exceptions. There are also multiple blue gems to collect littered throughout the game that you can use to “purchase” extra lives in between levels by offering them to an ominous giant chicken statue. These are permanently added to your stock as hearts, so it’s worth your time to explore and find as many as you can. There are multiple hidden areas in the world of Bomb Chicken in a Metroid style fashion, so the gems aren’t solely on the beaten path, either. I had to look quite carefully in some areas to be sure I wasn’t missing anything. Thankfully, you can revisit levels as much as you want. So missing some gems is just a matter of coming back and looking for them later.
Don’t Forget to Tithe to Your God-Chicken!
He’s probably using the gems to buy himself a private jet.
The environments and overall graphical presentation itself are beautifully crafted and designed. I’m a sucker for pixel art, especially pixel art done right. Nitrome has done a stupendous job of making a simple game very pleasing to look at. The backdrops are gorgeous and wonderfully detailed with subtle details sprinkled about. Lights swing when a bomb explodes, the levels become increasingly littered with fast food supplies as your progress, the Mayan temples eventually turn to jungle, it’s all very nicely put together. This is all accented by some nice ambient jungle music to complete the package. On top of all this, your chicken buddy and the enemies that want him turned into a five piece platter are all animated very well. Bomb Chicken moves like you’d expect an obese chicken to, he bounces and flops around, and it’s adorable watching him squeeze into elevator exits between levels. The enemies look like something from a Saturday morning cartoon, and move around fluidly with their own movement patterns. The sprites are nice and big, so playing in handheld mode on my Switch still felt nice and comfortable.
Legends of the Hidden Temple Gone Horribly Wrong
I just want my trip to Space Camp, man!
There are also a couple impressive looking bosses to go up against. The most
stressful memorable encounter for me was the Chicken Chopper boss level. Think about your reaction to when the drowning timer starts counting down in Sonic the Hedgehog and the panic music starts playing. Now, add in a giant Kill-Bot with a huge buzzsaw attached to it chasing you down, with red sirens blaring in the background and you have to run like hell to stay alive. It was a little nerve wracking, to say the least. Normal enemy encounters can be hectic as well. Trying to avoid getting hit while avoiding your own bomb blasts can prove to be tricky at times. Certain enemies can only be taken out through certain means, with some being immune to bombs entirely. On top of all the puzzling you have to do, thinking about how to get past or take out enemies adds to the challenge and brain crunching Bomb Chicken throws at the player.
A Mildly Stressful Boss Encounter
Thank you Nitrome for the mini-heart attack.
While my time with Bomb Chicken was very enjoyable, there are a couple of things holding the game back from being truly outstanding. The game does a good job and challenging your brain, but overall it’s fairly short. The game consists of only 29 levels, which for a puzzle game feels fairly short. If you’re good at these sorts of games you can clear the game within a few hours, and going back to collect 100% of the gems hidden throughout the game will only add a few more on top of that. There isn’t anything post-game either, so when you’ve found everything in the main game, you’ve seen all there is to see. As a whole I really loved and appreciate what Nitrome have built here, I was just hoping for a four course meal instead of three. Either way I highly recommend checking this game out, whether on Steam or on Nintendo Switch. Though short overall, Bomb Chicken is a quirky and clever indie experience I feel is worth checking out, with plenty of quirk and charm on tap to make the experience all worthwhile.
FINAL VERDICT: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC ; Publisher: HighWater Group ; Developer: Nitrome ; Players: 1 ; Released: July 12th, 2018; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Bomb Chicken given to Hey Poor Player by the Publisher