The Legend of Bum-Bo

The Legend Of Bum-Bo Review

Revolting, gratuitous and brilliant.The Legend of Bum-Bo

Edmund McMillen is once again chucking unsuspecting naked humans underground, leaving them to fend for themselves against hoards of disfigured and mutated foes. This time, instead of crying at your enemies – you’ll throw urine, faeces, bones, and snot at them, just in case the concept wasn’t puerile enough already.

The Legend of Bum-Bo takes the world of The Binding of Isaac and turns it into a cardboard cut-out connect four with extra fart sounds. There’s a concept of mana and spellcasting (?) for some reason, and the same rugged difficulty and unforgiving checkpointless slog that was somehow so enticing in the first set of games. Flinging piss and poop at your enemies in the style of a moderately more advanced Candy Crush leads to the collection of mana – items that will allow you to use certain power-up spells that collect in your inventory between fights.

Bum-Bo himself is an unflattering caricature of a homeless man, unclothed and obsessed with acquiring coin, who speaks in broken English and wields some of the filthiest weapons known to man. To allay the fears of the quaking edgelords and their Isaac fanart pages, The Legend of Bum-Bo is a genuinely fun game with a similar ascension style to its canonical counterparts. You start with something fairly simple, then move on to encounter literally anything – from a simple gas-filled poop to a deformed baby with extraordinary HP.

The Legend of Bum-Bo

Defeating the waves of enemies requires adherence to a sharp difficulty curve, and a chess-like ability to see moves ahead. Luckily, all those hours on Slay The Spire weren’t wasted, as I quickly picked up the tell-tale movements and move capabilities of my foes. It’s a fair game – giving you ample time to choose your moves and allowing for board shuffles – but it is damn hard. Your starting hand allows you just two moves at a time, rendering you often just one move away from a sweeping victory.

It’s surprising how such a simple game can have so much charm, but the draw of this Bum-Bo should not be underestimated. Scatological humour turned up a notch or two from vanilla Isaac, and tabletop style play mean that somehow Bum-Bo occupies a space in the addictive-casual-games corner of the ring. A solid departure from Isaac’s cry-em-up gameplay, this grotesque outing seems to pride itself on having no-frills, and absolutely no decency.

For those expecting an actual prequel, firstly where have you been, but secondly – this ain’t it. If you played through The Binding of Isaac, the chances are you wondered at some of the backstories of characters like Eden, Maggy, or even a few of the boss-type monsters. You probably never even spared a thought for poor Bum-Bo, the more violent counterpart of the simplistic Bum Friend. Still, he has an important story to be told, one as old as time itself – that of a man and his coin.

The Legend of Bum-Bo

Or indeed multiple men, as the game soon reveals. You can Bum-Bo it classic-style, or go for a fat Bum-Bo, a nimble Bum-Bo, and so forth. Much like Isaac’s unlockable characters, you are given goals to reach in order to harness these questionable likenesses, each bringing their own skills to the table. You’ll also encounter NPCs who will aid you on your journey – allowing you to spin stat wheels or pick up new spells.

Everything is animated with a rugged collage of paper, cardboard, and pen scribbles. It’s messy and somewhat more wholesome than the other games in its universe, but still maintains a menacing aura with its use of 3D lighting and holographic reflection. Often, enemies will have a colour-coded light focused on them that spins and adds to the claustrophobic feel of the environment. Despite the obvious graphical limitations, the game feels dirty and cramped, making the necessary violence come as second-nature and the villains make perfect sense.

Bum-Bo is repetitive, childish, revolting, and gratuitous – and most importantly, it’s a stroke of genius. The team behind Bum-Bo have thrown caution to the wind with this one, revelling in the stuff we all loved about The Binding of Isaac but didn’t want to admit. We’ve no need for a story when we have the basement-dwelling combo of tabletop gaming, semi-edgy humour centering on the grotesque, and fiendishly difficult completion tasks. The game is fun, irritatingly so. It makes no sense whatsoever, but you’ll be glued to it from the first trial run.

It reminds me of that age-old peer-pressure question, a favourite of unimaginative parents the world over: ‘If so-and-so jumped off a cliff would you jump off too?’
And so the question remains, if Edmund McMillen pushed a naked homeless guy into a sewer to have shit-slinging matches with an aborted fetus would you jump down too?

I’m already there.

[Reviewed on PC]