GAMES PAVAN SHAMDASANI

Game reviews: Bombshell fails to go off, and Klaus is cute yet deep

The dampest squib to be seen in gaming in a long time, and a fresh, imaginative take on the platform genre

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 February, 2016, 2:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 February, 2016, 2:01am

Bombshell

3D Realms

Remember Duke Nukem 3D? The wisecracking, shotgun-shooting, jetpack-wearing badass who slaughtered aliens in the time before first-person shooters went all grim and realistic? Or how about Rise of the Triad? Killing pixelated bad guys with two-fisted gunplay? Those were the days.

3D Realms remembers them – it ought to, it made the damn games. It remembers the era so well, in fact, that it’s tried its hardest to recreate those crude but amusing worlds in Bombshell, only to fail laughably, hopelessly, miserably. The game’s influences aren’t immediately obvious – it’s top-down for one, an action RPG in the Diablo vein, with heavy FPS mechanics that attempt to keep things fresh.

Let’s start by ignoring some major factors here. Let’s ignore the fact that a one-armed bomb disposer is somehow the only person on the planet tasked with saving the president from an alien attack. Let’s ignore that the humour goes far past juvenile into kill-me-now territory. Let’s even ignore the fact that, yes, in a male-dominated medium, this female-focused game has a gun called the PMS.

Really, that’s all fine, because it’s down to the gameplay. Or, what little gameplay is there. Action games, be they FPS or RPGs, are all about the combat – clever, cool little ways to keep you on your toes. In Bombshell, available for the PS4, Xbox One and PC, that isn’t a concern, because you literally don’t have to move. The monsters run at you in a straight line, you point-and-click, they die. So simple it almost hurts.

OK, that’s sad but manageable, but what about loot drops, the sole thing to keep us powering through? There’s ammunition, which is almost endless to begin with, and cash, to upgrade your absolutely pointless weapons. What fun. Bombshell looks unfinished. The graphics stray from decent to grubby, the levels long-winded and often lacking in any sort of enemy, and the cut scenes sputter so much you always fast forward.

The funny thing is that Bombshell actually did start its life as a Duke Nukem game. Copyright issues meant that 3D Realms had no choice but to retitle and realign. It’s almost a blessing though, since we’d rather not see that crop-topped action-man’s name sullied any further. If you haven’t guessed it by now, Bombshell is a massive dud.

Klaus

La Cosa Entertainment

Klaus is a weird game. Just look at the name, which gives nothing away. Just try saying it out loud: Klaus. Hmmm. That’s almost what the game’s character feels when he wakes up in a basement with no memory of who or where he is, save the word “Klaus” written on his arm.

On the surface, Klaus is a puzzle platformer for the PS4, and fanatical proponents of the genre would be forgiven for thinking the game is nothing more than some refashioned Super Meat Boy rip-off. It’s not. Well, it is, but it isn’t at the same time. What makes the game stand out from the massive, decades-long heap of Mario/Rayman types, is that Klaus is completely aware of your existence.

Clever, eh? As you coerce Klaus to run across levels, he’ll share his thoughts via wall-lit conversations on how things are progressing, the way the game’s designed and where we should be going. There are hints at ’80s buddy-cop movies, ’90s classic platformers and other bits of nostalgia, and the fourth-wall-breaking dynamics are shrewd, sure, but not exactly anything to shout about in the current era.

And then things get really weird. Like some brilliant piece of postmodern fiction, Klaus starts to rebel. He gets tired of your controlling ways and begins to do the exact opposite of what you demand. Go right, you say? He’ll go left. Follow this path? He’ll go down another, and then kill himself. The trick then becomes to balance Klaus’ newfound sense of free will, against your own existential need for him to live.

It’s at these points that Klaus truly succeeds, a harbinger of creative thinking in a world full of increasingly bland platforming games. Sadly, the genre is such that it must also meet the demands of those who fear change, and the game often reverts back to its standard side-scrolling obligations. It’s disappointing, but to be expected really. For developers with limited means and a lot of imagination, Klaus is an example of how it should be done: a fresh take on tired conventions