I moved house this weekend. I mention it not as any sort of bragging, but because it hopefully serves as justification for the frankly embarrassing amount of fast food I’ve been getting through – delicately packing about 60 amiibo and an unfathomable number of Gamecube games into a box takes time after all, and obviously out-ranks things like preparing meals and generally being a functional human being. Perhaps this is why I’ve struck a chord with Bomb Chicken – I’ve found a kindred spirit in its protagonist: two noble beings, man and chicken, both trapped within the iron fist and licked fingers of the fast food industry, our only hopes of being a delicious chicken god or, failing that, an unlimited supply of explosives. I think that metaphor fell apart somewhere about halfway through…
As alluded to, Bomb Chicken’s plot isn’t exactly complicated; I’m sure a more analytical (and more pretentious) critique would call it a surrealist vegan-motivated allegory for the misdemeanors of the fast food industry when actually it’s about a chicken that’s also a bomb. Said chicken (who as far as I know is nameless so I’m going to call him Nuggets) doesn’t really fancy being turned into Colonel Sanders finest and facing the wrath of the 11 secret herbs and spices – and who would, really – so under the guidance of a mystical chicken deity (who I shall name Eggs Bombadict (sorry)) sets out to bring hell in an eggshell to the employees of BFC and earn his freedom. Along the way, Nuggets can collect powerful blue crystal… things, to present as offerings to the chicken gods and increase his health and also present his entry for the “funniest walk cycle 2018” competition. I mean seriously, the Ministry of Silly Walks will be in touch about that waddle.
If you’re getting serious Abe’s Oddysee vibes from the plotline (aka. Protag doesn’t want to be food, bad guys would really rather he was), the gameplay is going to be even… vibier? More vibey? Somebody get Suzie Dent on the phone. Anyway, Bomb Chicken falls into a style of gameplay that Oddysee really popularised, and does it rather well; a 2D platformer with both action elements and a strong puzzle presence. Nuggets is rather slow and can’t jump thanks to his circular, delicious physique, and only has a single point of health, but can fire bombs from his backside at a rate of knots, giving him vertical mobility and an offensive option, assuming he doesn’t cook himself in the process. He can also do his best Wario impression (asides from being fat and slow) and shoulder-barge bombs towards enemies. This limited pool of abilities lends to a more tentative, thoughtful approach to gameplay, which developer Nitrome takes full advantage of.
Let’s talk specifics (or should that be sPECKifics): I really like Bomb Chicken. Nuggets’ abilities are limited enough to set up interesting puzzles but just versatile enough you can’t bomb yourself out of a pinch if you’re lucky, which is really satisfying to pull off. Every screen sets out clear goals and challenges, with the blue crystal thingies being optional and off the main path to promote partaking in more difficult puzzles without making it mandatory. The spritework is among the crispest I’ve ever seen ( and I say that having accompanied this game with bouts of Sonic Mania, which looks crisper than a big bag of crisps); the colour composition is bordering on perfect, with Nuggets’ vast white expanse contrast the plainer greens and greys of the still gorgeous backgrounds. This is all the more impressive considering the framerate is smoother than a baby’s bum playing jazz, even when the screen is packed with explosives like the 4th of July at Yosemite Sam’s house. In short, it’s a lot of fun and plays like a dream, and manages to keep new mechanics and level concepts coming throughout the experience – such as throwing a Sawblade of Impending Doom (™) behind you and forcing the player to take abilities they’re previously had all the time in the world to think about and putting a big, spiky, whirring timer on them. Good stuff.
I’m not without my complaints about this game, but they’re fairly minor. The music is fun, mostly funky spy, Metal Gear Solid-sounding stuff, but there’s a bit of a lack of variety as the game goes on. I don’t know if I’m on board with the slightly unconventional health system or not; Nuggets dies in one hit, but the crystals unlock extra retries for the screen. It makes the game more challenging and discourages brute forcing puzzles, but it is infuriating to get booted back to the start of a section because one of the pudgy poultry’s arse-feathers grazed the flat end of a spike. Speaking of, the hitboxes are lovely on the whole, goomba-stomping enemies feel really good, but sometimes the collision on the aforementioned spikes feels a little too precise – in that barely, barely scraping one is enough to deal the damage. It’s a tricky balance to strike given the perfectly spherical playable character, and it only bothered me a couple times, but I said already this was gonna get nit-picky. Finally, bosses are a fun inclusion, not something you typically see from a game of this type, but their attacks range from “a joke” to “a pain in the bomb” with almost no in-between – you’ll be slogging through a series of attacks multiple times just for another go at dodging the last one.
Ultimately, Bomb Chicken is an all-around solid package. Bursting with character, lavishly designed aesthetic and levels and a surprising amount of content, all told makes for a delicious combo meal of goodness for your Nintendo Switch. Now I, too, will be offering up a prayer and some weird blue fragments to an all-powerful chicken deity, hoping he will lead me away from the evil fast food mega-corporations also, and hopefully towards a salad.