Boomerang X Review: Will You Keep Coming Back?
Boomerangs are underrated weapons. You throw them. They come back. It’s easy to see the appeal. Unfortunately, outside of the Zelda series, it feels like they’re underused in gaming. The developers at DANG! clearly get this because they’ve built their entire game around a boomerang. Boomerang X is an arena shooter where you’ll use your titular weapon to clear out a lot of nasty looking nightmare creatures. While not the most complex game ever, it manages to keep combat feeling fresh until the end.
A Mysterious Island
You wake up on a beach of a strange island in the opening minutes of Boomerang X. With my arms wrapped in bandages, I wondered if I was a mummy. While you never find a mirror to confirm this, you soon find something even cooler. A boomerang. This isn’t just any boomerang however. It’s a mystical boomerang with all kinds of cool powers which you’ll unlock throughout your adventure.
Searching the island, you come upon a giant millipede named Tepan, who turns out to be friendly. He’ll explain the history of the island and what happened to its original inhabitants. While you never take a time-out for any sort of cutscenes or anything like that, learning the history of this island and how its people fell is interesting and mostly shown through the environments. These areas are beautifully drawn and along with Tepan’s information they help fill in the blanks.
Waves Of Fun
As an arena shooter, Boomerang X drops you into isolated rooms frequently throughout your adventure through this island. In each of these rooms, you’ll hit a giant crystal to start spawning waves of enemies. You’ll have a variety of ways to dispatch them. At first, you mostly just throw your boomerang and then press a button to have it come back. It feels great with precise aim. The enemies in these early sections are easy to take out, and they do a great job of easing you into things.
Things get more complex with each area you venture into. New enemies start showing up, which you can’t kill just by hitting them with a boomerang. You’ll need to hit weak spots, often well-protected. You have ways to handle that, though. New moves regularly make you feel more powerful, and the game does a great job teaching you these slowly until you feel like an all-powerful boomerang god. The most important is the ability to pull yourself to the boomerang instead of pulling it back to you. At that point, you can fly around the arena, quickly getting behind your opponents and hitting them where it hurts.
Take To The Sky
When I say fly, I mean that too. The areas you face these waves of enemies get more and more complex. Many will have you flying through the sky and some of the later ones barely put you back on solid ground at all. Instead, you’ll mostly fight in the air, throwing your boomerang to zip to another spot repeatedly. The ability to slow down time while charging a shot makes this not only possible, it makes it feel like a breeze. The controls here have a bit of a learning curve, but the game only requires a little of them at a time, so you have the time you need to get them down.
More difficult, boss-like creatures bring additional challenges but I rarely felt like I couldn’t cut things down to size. The one exception to this was toward the end of the game, where there’s a pretty significant difficulty spike. It took some real work to push through, but there are so many accessibility options here that anyone should be able to see the end. Modes to help the color blind, those who need things slowed down, and more are welcome. There’s also a variety of gameplay modifiers which can make things easier, or harder. Want invincibility? You got it. How about a no shields mode to up the difficulty? It’s here. You can even turn off gravity if you just want to mess around.
Whip It Your Way
A variety of control options keep everything feeling excellent. Standard mouse and keyboard and controller options are here and work great. I usually feel more comfortable with a controller in my hands so that’s how I played most of the game but both work well. Excellent mapping options let you fully customize how you want to play. You can even set multiple things to one button or one thing to multiple buttons.
If you’re feeling adventurous, though, the real revelation here is the motion controls. I plugged in a Dualshock 4 and found them incredibly responsive. Not only that, this is one of the few games to officially support a flick stick. This allows for quickly zooming the camera around for more precision. After getting used to the flick stick, I can’t imagine playing a motion-controlled shooter without it. I did need to decrease the impact of my flicks a little to get as much precision as I wanted, but once everything was adjusted, playing this way is a blast.
If there’s any drawback to Boomerang X, it’s that it’s both a simple and fairly short experience. While new moves and powers keep things fresh, the core loop never moves beyond killing waves of enemies and some very light platforming using the boomerang. New enemy types help keep it fresh, but towards the end, I would have loved to see what other inventive ways the developers could have used the boomerang. This is also a short game, taking only a few hours to complete. While speedrunning tools are built right in, if that isn’t for you, then unlike with a boomerang, there’s not much to keep you coming back.
Boomerang X doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it gives an underrated weapon the spotlight it deserves. With tight controls, frantic combat, and plenty of options, I had a fantastic time from beginning to end. I’d love to see what else DANG! can do with a boomerang, but this is an adventure worth taking.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Nintendo Switch; Publisher: Devolver Digital; Developer: DANG!; Players: 1; Released: July 8th, 2021; ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Boomerang X provided by the publisher.