Bombshell is the sort of game that you really want to enjoy. Blowing up aliens as a strong female protagonist with a robot arm? Awesome, I thought. We’re looking at the next Metroid. Unfortunately, every aspect of the game outside of its concept is not only lacking, but completely absent. From basic errors in gameplay to a nonsensical plot, Bombshell is the “Shark Sandwich” of gaming.
In Bombshell, you play as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison. Winner of the “I’m All Out of Gum” award for most badass protagonist at PAX Prime 2015, Shelly seems pretty awesome on the exterior—she’s got a robotic arm and looks like a no-nonsense Neve Campbell—but unfortunately in this case, badass is only skin deep.
Not committing to whether it wanted to be tongue-in-cheek, feature a strong female lead, or just cater to teenage libidos, Bombshell excels at nothing. Each one-liner is heard hundreds of times over the course of the action-RPG, with no situational context to make them relevant. Many revolve around Bombshell’s car, which—outside of the expositional intro cut scene—is never shown nor talked about in the rest of the game. These comments were so out of place that I was convinced for a long time that the voice actress simply had a unique take on pronouncing the game’s alien race, the Kyrr. (I was so baffled by these mentions that I started a second play-through. I found Bombshell’s jeep does get destroyed in the opening scene, but the event is so insignificant that the developers don’t even leave a charred chassis on the ground once the cutscene ends.)
Sadly, Shelly’s dialogue wasn’t even close to the biggest audio issue I had with the game. In its latter half, players encounter robo-hybridic creatures that announce “SHIELD ACTIVATED” quite frequently. You will continue to hear their proclamation —even if you leave that section of the map—unless you hunt them down and kill them (and sometimes after that). Even unprovoked, this can build to over 80 maddening utterances per minute.
On the gameplay side of things, the top-down shooting felt reminiscent of Diablo at first, but constant issues and irregularities soon overshadowed any sense of nostalgic joy. Shots failed to register at an alarming rate, and small enemies like the mech-spiders were near impossible to hit—even when standing still. Additionally, I frequently encountered situations where Shelly’s gun would stop firing until I swapped to one of the various other weapons and then back.
Bombshell’s arm can transform into one of several guns, or detach completely, becoming a remotely-controlled device. Regrettably, none of the weapons ever really felt like they were working as they should. For instance, the “MotherFlakker” shotgun—yes, they all have painfully bad names—isn’t effective at point-blank range, and deals more damage at about 25’ out. I spent most of the game using the initial gun you acquire, finding it the most accurate and sensical.
Special powers also exist in Bombshell, but seem more like an afterthought due to their unimportance. Not only do they rarely work as intended, but it’s also not clear when you receive a new power. After beating the final boss, I found out that I had *SHIELD ACTIVATED* unlocked two new powers at some point earlier in the game. These abilities charge up by performing executions or other dynamic kills—a source of my favorite “mini-game” within Bombshell.
Upon dealing a certain amount of damage to a foe, the enemy will enter a sort of Mortal-Kombat-fatality-state, waiting for you to tap a button to perform an Execution—a quick animation where Shelly generally unleashes a dramatic decapitation. However, if you accidentally (or purposefully) enter the map while an enemy is in this state, it will come back to life, but will not attack you. Instead, it will just follow you around the map.
The first time this happened, I was shocked to have a new sidekick. I named him “Phil.” Once I figured out how to replicate this glitch, however, game on. Unfortunately, I lost Phil due to a rare jumping section, but quickly acquired Stephen, Alec, and Daniel. Billy was next to join the parade, but for some reason he was able to invincibly attack Shelly. At one point, I was leading a 15-creature conga-line through blue, crystalline labyrinths, so I guess you could say that saving the world wasn’t all bad. *SHIELD ACTIVATED*
Sadly, such unscripted parts of Bombshell were the only fun ones, *SHIELD ACTIVATED* as plot holes and amateur writing issues also plagued the game. In one hilarious case, you encounter aliens that speak in a foreign tongue. Despite the fact that English subtitles are displayed as the alien talks, your AI will still “translate” for Shelly, making the player have to experience each line *SHIELD ACTIVATED* twice.
If you were hoping that gameplay would succeed where plot failed, you’re out of luck. Everything from invisible walls to falling through the floor occurs in Bombshell, and not in just one location. Sometimes you even get stuck *SHIELD ACTIVATED* just running down a hallway. In later levels, issues like these make the game seem to be in nightmare difficulty. In one particular part, I found that if I was shot while on a moving platform, Shelly would either freeze in place on the platform, unable to move, or the enemies would freeze in place in space—falling to their *SHIELD ACTIVATED* demise as the plate moved from beneath them.
While I hoped this game could have been good, I now wish that it had even been fun. Late-game puzzles showed promise of what could have been, but monotonous and unintuitive level design sapped the experience of any enjoyment. A lack of attention and basic game-design knowledge made the difficulty curve impossibly irregular, and even defeating the final boss was unrewarding, as dodging out of the way of his first attack caused a glitch that had him sitting motionless in the corner.
Overall, *SHIELD ACTIVATED* Bombshell is not just *SHIELD ACTIVATED* a bad game due to poor plot, *SHIELD ACTIVATED* poor design *SHIELD ACTIVATED* choices, or *SHIELD ACTIVATED* even personal *SHIELD ACTI*SHIELD ACTIVATED* pref*SHIELD ACTIVATED*erences—it’s just a bad game.
Playing Bombshell is like a horrible online date. They had a great profile and pictures, but as soon as you sit down with them, you realize that there’s nothing beneath the surface except crazy.
M – Mature
|Bombshell is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PC. Review code was provided by 3D Realms for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of one to five stars.|
Matt learned how to play video games from his grandma, who bravely adventured with him through the “terrifying” halls of Shadowgate. He plays a lot of Dungeons & Dragons on a podcast with comedians.