An explosive party game about being the last wooden block standing.
As a kid many of us would have found ourselves setting a scene with our toys — lining up toy cars, hiding action figures around the room, or even just building a little scene with bricks. While the finished creation was fun, perhaps taking it all apart was even more so. Sudden Event Studios’ Bombfest is a realisation of that deconstruction of a play area, but with lots of bombs.
From the very start, Bombfest is extremely clear about what you will be doing. The main menu background is punctuated with a demo playthrough of the game, explosions hurling wooden pieces out of bounds. Up to four players — with vacant spaces optionally filled by bots — move around small arenas and hurl bombs at each other.
Each match’s setting is that of a cutaway slice of a household room transformed into a play area. A small assemblage of bricks, furniture or even Mahjong tiles transform a coffee table, some deck chairs, or a variety of flat surfaces into an arena. They’re small, but only as to ensure that matches are of a quick pace — it’s normally all over before the decorations have been blasted clear.
Players wiggle around these arenas as tiny wooden characters who can jump, pick-up items or roll around on the floor. Jump and roll functions even share a button, which makes for a very simple control scheme. One that is perfect to play on a single Joy-Con, and extremely easy to get to grip with — a good trait to have in a party game.
Accessible as it may be, there are some advanced techniques which you can pick up as you play the game. Bombs will activate if glanced by other explosions, so advanced players can set up domino-effect chains of bombs, while daring players might risk clipping an explosion so as to collect a ticking bomb and lob it at a rival. Combo explosions cause more damage and fling characters further afield, but damaged characters will fly further than most.
There are a few dozen unlockable items within the game, each obtained simply through playing more and more rounds. These include new bombs and new characters, with each of the bombs added to the match customisation options in the main menu. It’s no chore to unlock everything; however, the characters are simply an aesthetic shift — some new colour and clothing texture stretched over the same wooden peg.
The bombs, undoubtedly the crux of Bombfest, come in a wide variety. Within a few rounds of playing you will have unlocked sticky bombs, ice bombs which slide, and bouncing bombs which detonate on location multiple times. These add a massive amount of options to how you chain explosions around the arena — and the quantity and types of bombs can be tailored in the game’s main menu before diving off into matches.
While the game is easy to pick up and play and the overall aesthetic is very cute, Bombfest suffers in the same way many local-multiplayer games now do: variety. It may stick out a few hours, or even push another game out of the circuit, but it is unequivocally a short game with a single (albeit customisable) game mode. Perhaps its saving grace is the ability to have the players rounded up with AI opponents — although it is at its most fun when players are joking, jesting and jostling each other.
Bombfest is a decent, well-presented, local multiplayer game which will sit well in circuit alongside the likes of Samurai Gunn, Super Treasure Adventure and Gang Beasts. Its greatest lack is content, which massively reduces the session time of the game when others are available.
[Reviewed on Switch]