Boomerang X was a game that made me tired. Not because it was boring or tedious or pretentious in any way, but because of how much it demanded of me in small bursts. It's a game heavily steeped in an old-school design philosophy of taking a simple gameplay idea, throwing a boomerang around, and building an entire game around it. The result is a fiercely refined action title that will give adrenaline junkies that precious high they crave.
The gameplay is straightforward. You are strung along to increasingly elaborate combat arenas full of enemies. In order to progress through each escalating wave of enemies, you have to take out specific ones marked by yellow. Enter the boomerang weapon, which you can throw at the press of a button, have it bounce and ricochet off enemies and objects, then you can recall it back to your hand with another button press.
It seems simple at first, but the game does a great job at teaching you just how versatile the weapon really is. You can sling your own body towards where the boomerang is, turning you into a human catapult. There's a bullet-time mechanic where you can slow things down and plan your next throw in the heat of the moment. And while in the air, you can hit a button to cancel all of your speed and momentum to avoid dangerous obstacles and terrain. Finally, there are special attacks you can unlock by hitting multiple enemies or staying in the air long enough.
This is Boomerang X's greatest strength. Every single battle is an exciting burst of controlled chaos. The arenas slowly introduce new elements like verticality or new enemy types, forcing you to stay on the move and use every tool you have at your disposal. I cannot recall how many times I spent speeding through the air to avoid swarms of flying foes, only to activate the slow-mo ability to unleash a blast of shurikens at the horde behind me only to go back into another high speed chase while avoiding lasers and fire, but it was definitely the norm.
And yet miraculously, Boomerang X manages to introduce all of these elements naturally thanks to a fantastic progression curve. By the time I was handling poisonous clouds, deadly spikes, fiery ribbons in the air, and miniature lightning storms all at once, it was after I felt like a martial arts god treating gravity and acceleration like playthings.
This kind of twitch-aiming madness reminded me a lot of Devil Daggers since they both share this refined approach to gameplay. This even extends to Boomerang X using a minimalistic 3D visual style, like something out of the late PS1 era. When your enemies are generic black and white monsters contrasted against colorful and vibrant locales with no elaborate lighting, motion blur, or particle effects drawing your attention, the action remains crystal clear.
The downside to this dedication to pure arcade action is the game's runtime and the worry of burnout. My first completion of Boomerang X clocked in at around four hours according to my Steam clock, but it felt much longer than that. Getting stuck on certain levels, taking a break to let my hands stop cramping and let my eyes actually blink, then coming back to win happened constantly.. In a way, it felt like I was experiencing a highlight reel of action scenes and setpieces from a martial arts movie all cut together with barely any connecting tissue. It is exciting and thrilling at first, but after a while, the spectacle and sensory overload start to take its toll.
Boomerang X is currently in development, but I have to applaud the developers for their dedicated focus on this exceptional action. This does mean the current game is thin on content, aside from a New Game Plus mode there is really not much else on offer. On the technical side of things, the game isn't demanding if your rig isn't sporting the best GPU, and aside from one odd screen freeze near the end, it runs smoothly. There is the potential for things to become much grander and weirder if some of the more cosmic elements in the story are further explored, but right now the focus and polish is right where it belongs.
TechRaptor previewed Boomerang X on PC using a copy provided by the publisher.