We were big fans of Super Bomberman R upon the launch of Nintendo Switch. Its continued focus on multiplayer brought players together to enjoy a franchise that had laid dormant on Nintendo hardware for nearly ten years. However, its single-player campaign that left a little bit to be desired, and it’s here where developer Mode4’s Bombslinger is looking to pick up the explosive baton. Pitched as a throwback to the likes of the 1993 classic Super Bomberman, does this blasting experience light the fuse for a new cowboy to rise to the top, or is it more of a dud?

After a long and harsh life as one of the Wild West’s most ruthless bandits, you’ve decided to settle down with your wife and see out the rest of your days tending to a ranch and its inhabitants. But after your former posse betrays you, burning the ranch down and killing your wife in the process, you vow to exact revenge. It’s a simple and well-worn premise, but don’t expect story proceedings to ever amalgamate into a real driving force for progression. The stand-offs between you and your former gang members provide some context as to why they double-crossed you, but it’s nothing too in-depth. Thankfully, the gameplay is far more extensive.

In classic Bomberman fashion, the game is played from a top-down view in which you will navigate a 2D grid by placing and detonating bombs. Take out every enemy in the area and you can move onto the next stage. What’s trying to put a stop to that progress is, of course, the adversaries, but also a number of obstacles that will stop you in your tracks. Shrubbery must be blown up to pass through, camp fires will deal damage if you walk across them, and red barrels explode with a huge blast radius if one of your bombs ends up next to them.

Meanwhile, enemies pose even more of a threat. Farmers will roam the grid with rakes for prodding, goats will charge at you, and dogs chase you while making attempts to dodge your bombs. Things kick up a further notch once you’ve made some headway with armed guards, crazed labourers that will stalk you across the map, and larger foes that throw chemicals at you which result in explosive consequences. There’s a good variety in the enemies you’ll encounter, and it’s this that keeps you on your toes. Learning the mechanics of each enemy is definitely a process because due to how deadly they can be, taking it cautiously is the way to go.

But when you are successful in a kill, you’ll gain XP that funnels into the upgrade system and coins to spend at the shop. Enhancements can increase your movement speed, supply you with extra bombs, re-fill your health meter, and boost your chances of dodging bullets. There’s a lot of variety to be found here as you fine-tune your character to your preferred playstyle, and the shop’s inventory of items and boosts further aids you in that aspect.

There are other ways to boost your arsenal, as enemies will drop their weapons upon death. Handguns and shotguns are aplenty in later levels, but you’ll also find ranged weapons such as a tomahawk that can repeatedly be thrown to take down more distant foes. Getting your hands on these game-changing items is essential if you plan on overcoming Bombslinger’s later levels.

Speaking of which, it’s actually the difficulty that’s going to make or break a lot of potential purchasers. This is a roguelike that will send you back to the very beginning of the game if you die, losing every single item, weapon, and upgrade you amassed in the previous run. Combine this with the procedural nature of the title, and you’ve got a recipe that spits out a new set of levels every time alongside an incredibly punishing death penalty. We think it’s far too harsh, especially because the game has a clear progression system of giving you a set of levels and having them culminate in a boss fight. Had the game reset to just after the defeat of a boss, things would be a lot fairer. But in its current state, Bombslinger’s death penalty is far too harsh.

To make matters worse, the controls can feel a little too imprecise at times. When using the Pro controller, there were multiple occasions where we’d navigate ourselves into the path of our own bomb and deal damage to ourselves, despite never meaning to. Combine this with the game’s unforgiving nature, and it’s all too easy to get frustrated.

Outside of the campaign, a multiplayer battle mode for up to four players keeps the action going once the credits have rolled. With Deathmatch and Last Man Standing modes to choose from, your options are a little limited but there’s still a ton of fun to be had. It is slightly mindless, however, because items that are a commodity in single-player, spawn continuously in multiplayer. It’s utter chaos as several items are activated at once, even to the point where it’s tough to tell what’s really going on. It’s definitely fun, but it’s hard to build up any real strategy due to the random spawns and chaotic nature.

Conclusion

Bombslinger is a decent game, but its brutal and unforgiving difficulty is sure to turn many potential buyers off. Building up a character with abilities, items, and weapons is engaging as you find new ways to deal with what’s put in front of you, but to have that all ripped away upon death is truly heart-breaking. If you can stomach the set-backs then Bombslinger is sure to please, but if you’d rather take your belongings to the grave, you’ll be in for a tougher and more frustrating time.