Founded in 2004, London developer Nitrome has made a name for itself over the years creating a bunch of quirky internet-based flash games and mobile titles. Now, the company has made its next big step with the release of Bomb Chicken on the Nintendo Switch - an action puzzle-platformer equally as bizarre as its previous concepts. As the name of the title somewhat indicates, this is a game about a bomb-powered chicken. Don't be fooled into thinking the bird is a distant colleague of the iconic 'man', either. While there appears to be some inspiration derived from the Bomberman series, there are also many other influences fuelling the design.
The story behind this outing would no doubt have animal rights activists up in arms if it were real. Fortunately, this is an entirely fictional plot, so it's safe to say absolutely no poultry was harmed during the development cycle. In fact, if anything, this is actually a revenge story, where you take control of a heroic bomb-laying free range hero intent on taking down 'BFC' (an obvious parody), after a freak accident with the evil fast food corporation's blue hot sauce.
With the motive clear, progression is rather straight-forward in terms of design. You travel from one level to the next, as the plucky hero works its way through three worlds in total. The feathered protagonist is quite distinctive with no real skills save the ability to lay bombs at a limitless rate. This requires you to apply some thought to each challenge. Tasks such as jumping across a pit of lava from one ledge to another will call for slightly more effort than usual - with the requirement being to stack bombs underneath the chicken in order to take the necessary leap of faith. A similar process is needed to reach higher ledges.
Other puzzles throughout levels have you kicking and bouncing bombs to destroy barricades and enemies or activate switches - much like Bomberman. There is added complexity, with locked off areas requiring swipe cards and pressure sensitive triggers able to be activated by bombs. Each level expands upon these basics over time. There are even secret rooms filled with gems. After a while, the bomb-laying mechanic becomes second-nature, which is evidence of how well it has been implemented.
The 29 levels across the three areas in Bomb Chicken are made up of conveyor belts, meat crushers, spikes, dangerous spinning cogs, blocks, launch pads, warp pipes and plenty of other appropriately themed traps. All of these combined ensure you get just the right dose of platforming and puzzling. Eventually, many of the levels include multiple pathways that must be navigated in a certain order before completion. Common scenarios you might face can include having to hide the fat chook in a safe space on a conveyor belt - using the assistance of bombs, and in other areas, you might have to outpace a giant mechanical threat - reminiscent of scenes from Super Meat Boy.
Despite the fast-food focus, the theme of the game draws ideas from ancient civilisations - with plenty of references to temples, tribes and even fictional chicken gods. Not only will you have to deal with BFC employees, you’ll also be taking on the local natives and wildlife. It’s simply a matter of outsmarting the spear-wielding enemies who will cause you problems when you are trying to solve a puzzle. Bombs generally make quick work of enemies - provided you attack at the right angle. Often you'll need to stack of them or send a few flying in a certain way or you can halt any impending threats by creating a barricade. You can also bounce on enemy heads (if they have them) to solve the problem. As you progress, you'll encounter more varieties of enemies, all with different patterns.
In addition to this are boss encounters – again, these events are all designed with the use of bombs in mind. If you take too much damage, it’s game over. The challenge increases quickly, but shouldn’t be too hard to overcome if you persist. You can upgrade your life points as well, if necessary. Overall, each level has a good sense of flow to it, and the precision required feels similar to Mutant Mudds. The controls are just as responsive as well, with easy controls and utilisation of HD rumble.
In terms of visuals and sound, Bomb Chicken captures the spirit of retro platform games perfectly. The music emphasises the foreboding nature of the environments, the bombs sound just as you would hope and there are plenty of noises right out of the chicken coup along with dripping pipes and deadly machinery. Visually speaking, this title looks like a combination of Mutant Mudds and a castle level from the Super Nintendo hit, Yoshi’s Island, with beautiful pixel art on display. Each environment does a great job of capturing the harshness of the situation, and the chicken, enemies, and hazards are all charmingly animated. On the big or small screen, the game runs smoothly and looks great.
There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about Bomb Chicken, it’s enjoyable predominantly because of its classic approach and how refined each aspect of the game is including the core bomb-laying mechanic. Each level is intelligently designed and has a great sense of flow. The puzzles and enemies are fair but challenging and the controls are precise and responsive. Unlike fast food, this isn't a cheap, quick and nasty solution that will leave you regretting your purchase - this is a blast.