Boomerang X is a high energy arena-based first-person shooter developed by Dang!, an American indie game studio based out of New York. The game initially caught my eye when I noticed it was being published in partnership with Devolver Digital, but when I saw the first gameplay trailer, I knew this was a title I couldn’t pass up on.
Like a flashback from 90s FPS titles, Boomerang X delivers a story that is treated like a side dish. There are bits and pieces of lore fed to you by a bug named Tepan, about the Yoran civilization that was wiped out by the monsters you now face. Since the story is not the priority of the game, there isn’t a lot to dig into. That’s part of what makes this genre of shooters so special but can also turn many people away. The plot is structured similarly to classic FPS titles such as Doom and Wolfenstein.
For what writing the game does have, it is all done really well. It balances humorous interactions with Tepan, alongside darker monologues about the fate of the Yoran. Not having a lot of meat to a story isn’t an inherent downside as Boomerang X is a great example of what “show don’t tell” writing can do for someone experiencing a piece of media. This strategy leaves people with questions. Who were the Yoran? Why did they go extinct? It draws players in, while simultaneously giving the developers a base to build off of in the future. Even if the developers choose not to expand upon it, the essence of a mystery helps make the shallow story have a deeper punch to it.
Whilst the lack of story may turn some people off the game, the gameplay is what makes Boomerang X truly shine. Each level is an arena-based onslaught of enemies. They come in waves based on when you kill each of the required monsters, which are shown by a glowing cover that helps them stand out. The rest of the enemies are meant to distract and kill you. This leaves you with two options really, to avoid them, or to eliminate them.
Fortunately, there are mechanics in place that allow you to use these extra enemies for your own benefit. Killing two or more enemies in one throw will net you a use of your Scattershot ability which is basically a boomerang shotgun. Using it effectively can earn you a use of Needle, which is a highly accurate sniper-like move. Needle allows you to more accurately hit enemy weak points, especially as you’re flying around mid-air.
There’s also a variety of movement mechanics that give Boomerang X a unique feel to it. You can teleport to where you throw your boomerang, slow down time by using the Flux ability, charge up your boomerang to throw it farther, call it back to you faster by right-clicking the mouse, and so on. Many of the various arenas will also test your skill with specific movement abilities like not allowing you to touch the ground, or pushing you down towards the surface with various hazards. Each level also introduces one or two new enemy types that take advantage of the new arena which helps diversify the offerings of the title.
The variety that the different mechanics offer makes Boomerang X a title with immense replayability. With its New Game Plus mode, you keep all of your abilities right from the get-go, allowing you to try new strategies to take on the waves of monsters that face you. However, not every mechanic is as useful as the rest, and oftentimes they can feel a bit unbalanced and it would not be difficult to clear the entire game using just the slow time ability. The overall polish of the game however is something that many high budget titles fail to deliver on to the degree that Dang! managed.
Graphics & Visuals
Boomerang X possesses a rich, vibrant art style and feels almost like a comic book being brought to life. Every aspect of the game comes together to create this colourful world despite the chaos that our character goes through. This contrast helps make the visuals really pop and since the enemies are primarily black in design, it also helps make them stand out. Since you will be attacked from every angle, all while dashing through the air rapidly, this contrasted style actually helps generate a cohesive sense of self for those playing the title.
I especially love the use of colour theory. Each level embodies a specific colour hue. This not only affects the mood of the arena, but also personifies it. While some might see the monochromatic approach as boring, I believe it highlights the previously mentioned use of contrast to create a more cohesive environment.
Audio & Music
Any good FPS title needs to rock a solid soundtrack, and have satisfying audio design to go along with it. The soundtrack helps paint the frantic action of Boomerang X. The soundtrack was composed by Ben Caulkins, who was also a developer on the title. Overall, the soundtrack maintains a high energy and intense flow to it, but there are a few tracks for in between levels that manage to balance it out with a bit more calm included.
While the audio design makes eliminating monsters a non-stop joyride. I never would have imagined that the sound of throwing a boomerang would be so fun, but the team at Dang! made that a reality. It goes much further than the boomerang as well. Each ability has a unique sound that accompanies it, and the enemies are full of their own sounds as well. Since you’re often flying frantically with enemies attacking from all directions, these different sounds help you keep track of and place various different enemies.
Although it does not hold up to its predecessors or the stiff modern FPS competition in this regard, it still offers a good slate of musical and auditory design. Boomerang X may not lift the experience to the larger highs of the rest of the genre, but it never detracts from the experience either.
As a disabled gamer, accessibility to games is near to my heart and going through the options of the game led me to many great mechanics. Boomerang X lets you adjust the colours of ‘Required Enemies’, weak points, and so on, allowing people with various forms of colour blindness to find a setting that functions for them. They have difficulty modifiers that can make the complex movement mechanics more achievable for those who may need assistance as well. Modifiers such as invincibility, gravity alterations, and toggles for mechanics such as charging your boomerang.
You can also make the enemies more visible as the game has a high contrast mode, you can adjust the Flux mechanic so that it is more suitable for the skill level and needs of the person playing. I experimented with all of these options upon completing the game for the first time, and regardless of what combo of modifiers they have on, the core experience was untouched. I have to applaud Dang! for their work on ensuring that as many people as possible can experience their work.
Speaking from a personal standpoint, the adjustable colours and extra visible enemies helped ensure that I was able to have the best experience I could while still being challenged throughout my playthrough.
Overall, Boomerang X offers a fast-paced, fun, not too long, but with enough depth that you can continue playing experience. While it suffers from a few general balancing problems, and may not stand up to all of the competition it faces, it still offers a unique FPS experience that no fans of the genre will want to skip. If you’d like to give the game a go for yourself you can find it on Steam and the Nintendo eShop for €19.99
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Reviewed on: PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital