Bulb Boy is a point-and-click adventure horror game, following the story of our titular hero as he wakes from a nightmare to discover that his house has been taken over by evil. Using a mixture of puzzle solving, exploration and Bulb Boy’s unique abilities (having a light bulb for a head is surprisingly handy it turns out), your goal is to rescue your family and restore peace to your home.
The gameplay consists of a successful mixture of ideas that see you doing different things as you progress through the story. Each room of the house – and other areas later on – feels like its own level for you to clear with a main goal to complete and several mini steps needed to get there. This is presented as a puzzle in which you’ll figure out what needs to be done (get through a door that is guarded by a spider, for example), and then work out how to do it by interacting with things and collecting items in the room to see what they do. If you try to use an item in a way that wasn’t intended Bulb Boy will shrug off the idea of using it, so you can keep trying different things in a trial and error method if you get stuck. Several objects in rooms can be used by Bulb Boy in ways you may not expect thanks to the fact that he can detach his head, often offering new ways to travel or hide.
The controls are incredibly simple; the left control stick controls both your characters’ movement and cursor (which is used to select objects located in drawers or cupboards), the ‘A’ button interacts with items, objects and other people and the ‘L’ and ‘R’ buttons are used to cycle through any items you’ve collected. Despite having point-and-click elements, the Switch’s touchscreen cannot be used; everything is controlled using the traditional controller setup. Although the lack of touchscreen control may seem like a missed opportunity, this does mean that all players will have the same experience regardless of whether you wish to play in handheld or TV mode. It also helps to emphasise the fact that Bulb Boy’s puzzles are designed to make you explore the rooms as you walk, thinking about what could be used where, rather than just tapping on every single pixel until something happens as is the case with less-creative titles.
For the most part, you play solely as Bulb Boy as he tries to find his family members, but at times he has flashbacks to happier days where he remembers activities they have shared. During these flashbacks you are sometimes granted control of his Grandpa, or their pet, Mothdog (who unsurprisingly is a strange cross between a moth and a dog). These levels aren’t vastly different in terms of gameplay, but still add a nice change every now and then to keep things interesting. After progressing through lots of these small areas you will come to a final boss of sorts who – without wanting to spoil too much – offers a slightly different experience that is put together very nicely.
Perhaps Bulb Boy’s biggest selling point is its charm. The game has its own quirkiness to it and a unique identity – qualities often seen in the best indie titles. The characters are full of personality despite not being able to speak, often laughing maniacally together and generally being creepy in the cutest, most loving way possible. Often, Bulb Boy will kill a monster, destroy an object or do something that would be deemed naughty and let out a fantastic little giggle as he does it, which – along with other great moments – helps to show off its humour. There aren’t many games that see you desperately shuffle along to the toilet to have a poo, see said poo grow into some sort of hideous excrement-monster and then throw you into a battle with it using a mixture of water pipes and an air freshener – yet now these dreams have become a reality.
Bulb Boy won’t stay in your memories forever; it is a relatively small game that shouldn’t take too long to complete, but whilst it lasts it offers nicely designed puzzles and an underlying humour that offers a different experience. It is clearly lovingly put-together and refreshingly manages to make horror cute and fun, rather than taking itself seriously. Bulb Boy didn’t take our breath away and isn’t revolutionary, but its appeal comes in the form of its characters, craziness and toilet humour – a deadly combination that deserves to be played.