I can’t explain why, but the combination of bombs and chickens in video games has always been a favorite of mine. It should come as no surprise then, that a game called Bomb Chicken would be one of my most anticipated games of the year. I’ve had the pleasure of playing through the majority of the game ahead of its proper launch next week and I am absolutely in love with this bizarre work of art.
Way back in March, Nintendo had one of their Nindie Direct videos where they show off a bunch of cool-looking indie games. Several titles in that presentation caught my eye, but the thing that floated right to the top for me was a game called Bomb Chicken. Ever since the Power Pad game Eggsplode! on the NES, I’ve been tickled by the combination of chickens and bombs. Really, exploding poultry of any kind is hilarious. I was even rather entertained by Angry Birds before it got too big for its britches. Anyway, the #1 reason Bomb Chicken caught my eye (besides the obvious exploding water fowl) was its delightfully absurd look. It’s beautifully animated in a very sort of souped-up 16 bit fashion. Just look at this thing go.
The game showed up on the eShop a while back with the option to pre-load. I jumped on top of that in an instant. I don’t even remember how much I paid for it because it didn’t matter. I had to have this game. What I do remember was that the release date listed when I pre-purchased it was June 29th. Shortly after though, Bomb Chicken vanished from the “Coming Soon” section, and I started to get concerned. Why would they take that down? Well, not long after that, Nitrome (the company behind Bomb Chicken) announced the game’s official release date of July 12th. I was bummed about having to wait another 2 weeks or so to play this awesome-looking game, but it’s not like I’m hurting for things to play these days. I returned to my other games and waited patiently for Bomb Chicken Day to arrive. But then the most wonderful thing happened. On the evening of June 29th, I went to turn on my Switch to try and complete another Gem Run in Runner 3 and the icon for Bomb Chicken popped up on my home screen. Could it be true? Did my preorder mean I get to play the game before its official release date?
Yes, that’s exactly what happened! And it’s just as magnificent as I imagined it would be. All joking aside, Bomb Chicken is a remarkably well-crafted game that absolutely nails it in a number of categories. First and foremost, let’s talk about the gameplay. You play as a chicken trapped in some sort of dystopian KFC factory. Somehow, you have the ability to lay bombs instead of eggs, and the less you think about the logistics of that the better. You can lay unlimited bombs, too. Just stack them up to the ceiling. It doesn’t matter. The bombs come out lit though (again, logistics be damned) so don’t wait around. They will explode and kill you. These bombs are pretty much your everything in the game. You can’t jump, duck, slide, shoot, nothing. You can walk and lay bombs. That’s it. So it’s sort of a puzzle platformer in that you have to figure out how to safely traverse the various environments to find your way to the chicken elevators at the end. I don’t know if that’s their official name, but my son called them that and I’m sticking with it.
Your bombs also stack as you lay them. So, say there’s a platform above you that you want to get on. Just start pounding the B button and lay enough bombs to reach where you want to be. Or, say there’s an enemy in front of you. Just lay a bomb, step off of it, and walk into it. That will send the bomb flying forward, becoming an excellent explosive projectile. The game’s mechanics never really get more complicated than that, though, and it really works to the game’s advantage. You’re forced to figure out some rather creative ways of using your bombs to solve all the puzzles and collect all the gems, and it’s immensely rewarding and well worth your time to do so. This is simple platforming done right.
I mentioned the visuals earlier, and that bears repeating. This game looks amazing. Much like the gameplay, the visuals are simple and effective. The chicken’s idle animations are basically just its head twitching around with a subtle clucking sound in the background, and it’s just perfect. Everything else in the game is animated to that same level of perfection, too. From the guards enthusiastically distracted by their cell phone games to the weird floating, flaming skulls, the attention to detail on display is just right. Everything is super expressive, and it adds a real sense of life to this deranged Invader Zim-style world. Of course, the explosions are spot on as well. Which in a game called bomb Chicken, they would kind of have to be.
Finally, we have the music. I obsess over video game music, so it’s weird for me to say that this game’s music is brilliantly forgettable, but that’s really the only way I can describe it. There aren’t any sweeping melodies on display here, nor are there any super fun earworms to get stuck in your head. The music is all like super spy stuff, and it couldn’t be more perfect. It’s very serious-yet-goofy in the best possible way. There’s a certain absurd tension to the whole thing, and this music really sets that atmosphere flawlessly. Normally if a game had forgettable music that would be a big downside for me, but honestly what’s here in the game couldn’t possibly be better. It fits like a glove, and I absolutely love it.
So, the bottom line here is, go buy Bomb Chicken when it’s released. If you think chickens are funny, and you love retro-style platformers, this game will make you smile.
As a little side note, this is the latest in a long line of incredibly cool games I’ve had the pleasure of playing through this year. My favorite era of gaming was the SNES and the games I’ve spent the most time with this year have all been like modern SNES-style games. Celeste, Dandara, Kirby; Star Allies, Blossom Tales, Kamiko, West of Loathing, even Runner 3, all simple fun taken to the next level. Don’t get me wrong, the big 3D modern marvels out there like Splatoon, Wolfenstein, Horizon, etc. are really fantastic and I’m every flavor of glad that they exist, but it wasn’t that long ago when games like the ones I love most simply weren’t being made. Once the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 hit the market, 2D gaming on consoles was basically dead. That’s not the case anymore, and I personally think we’re all better for it. I absolutely love the gaming landscape these days. I hope it lasts.