In contrast to the common consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation, iOS devices have popularized a more casual style of games. Mac gaming has come a long way in recent years, but this trend towards a more relaxed gameplay has been clearly influenced by iOS games. The Mac App Store has seen a surge of these casual games, some even directly ported from the iPad or iPhone.
BombSquad, a game by Eric Froemling, involves using different types of bombs to blow up your opponents. It takes this simple premise and expands it into various game formats. It won’t be mistaken for a blockbuster console game, but its simplicity lends itself to a less serious iOS-like diversion.
BombSquad mixes several different game formats, from Melee to a couple types of sports. You command a miniature gladiator who must use a collection of bombs to destroy your enemies. A melee-style mission puts you inside a setting, such as a raised platform or a wooden tray, and forces you to defend yourself from various types of opponents.
You’ll face everything from fast-moving, bomb-wielding ninjas to slow Sumo wrestlers who just want to smack you with their bare hands. You have four controls that you will use: Punch, for when you are face-to-face with someone and can’t use a bomb; Jump, to get across spaces; Lift, for picking up objects (or an enemy if you want to toss him off a ledge); and of course, Bomb, which lets you toss your explosives.
Making the game much more interesting is the random appearance of “power-ups,” which are just boxes that will temporarily grant you new powers, new bombs, restore your health, and more. The full list includes:
Med Pack – Fully restores your health
Shield – Creates a protective bubble around your character
Boxing Gloves – Increases punching damage
Triple Bombs – Lets you throw multiple bombs at once
Ice Bombs – Freezes any opponent that it deals damage to
Sticky Bombs – Sticks to whatever it hits, (the ground, power-ups, opponents, yourself if you’re not careful, etc.)
Trigger Bombs – Instead of waiting for a fuse, these just blow up the second they touch something
Land Mines – Blow up when someone steps on them
The controls certainly take some getting used to because of the physics of the game. Your character doesn’t turn on a dime when he runs, so you have to anticipate a little bit of a slide. Throwing bombs is a matter of facing the direction you want to aim, running forward, and using your momentum to force the bomb forward.]
Your default bomb is an old-fashioned bowling ball shape with a long fuse, so timing becomes important if you want to land your shot right in front of someone. These bombs will roll as well, so harder throws have a tendency to roll too far.
My biggest frustration with the gameplay was the bomb-throwing. The fact that you have to run and toss a bomb made things awkward. Perhaps touchscreens are starting to spoil us, because I found myself wishing I could use a flicking motion to vary the power at which I tossed a bomb. Perhaps having the ability to hold down a button in order to increase the throw’s distance would alleviate the issue for me.
This challenge often led to me just running in a circle until I could adjust my path towards an enemy. The inability to increase the power of a throw also meant that I would often just drop a sticky bomb right on my head because of a lack of momentum, killing myself instantly. In maps where there are little towers with enemies tossing bombs at you from above, getting your own bomb to reach them was a serious challenge.
The blast radius is relatively small, so it usually takes several bombs to kill a character. Punches can be a useful alternative, but only when you are facing someone one-on-one. Getting ganged up on in close hand-to-hand fights will usually mean a very fast death.
The standard melees occur in waves, so you might get through the first five of six, only to die and have to start all over. It would be nice to be able to save your progress as you complete each wave.
Other types of games you’ll find include football, hockey, capture-the-flag, and more. Sports like football involve carrying a flag to the end zone while avoiding increasing numbers of attackers. These add an exciting layer of strategy, as you have to deal with dropping the flag at times to deal with an opponent who poses a threat to your forward progress.
By default, you will use both hands on the keyboard to move your character, as well as to punch, throw, etc. This leads to a couple of issues. First, you are playing in an environment that involves 360 degrees. You will need to be able to run and attack in all directions, but being limited to four buttons on a keyboard means that you really can only move in eight directions (up, down, left, right, and the combination of any two).
The designer anticipated this problem and offered a solution to players who own an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. You can download a free controller app that will connect to your computer via your home network. I tried out this controller and was very pleased at how easily it connected to my computer and how seamless the controls were.
Of course, the downside is that you will be looking at your computer’s screen and using your touchscreen in your hands without looking. Screens don’t offer the tactile feedback of a console’s raised buttons, which often led to me pushing the wrong controls as I lost track of where my fingers were on the screen.
The computer missions are fun, but multiplayer gameplay makes things even more exciting. You can connect up to eight controllers to the game and blow up your friends. I only got as far as a four player game, but the performance was just as good as one player missions. Playing with your friends means you can either team up to take on the computer, or create two teams and fight each other.
The graphical theme of the game is pretty great. It certainly won’t blow you away with detail (pun intended), but the bombs and certain graphical elements look like they have been molded out of clay, making it appear as though you are watching something that has been filmed with tiny sets.
Explosions have nice detail and are fluid in their animations. The only visual disappointment is the characters, whose polygons are a bit too clunky. The upside to the simplistic characters is that performance never stutters, the game loads very quickly, and I never experienced any crashes.
Don’t expect this game to suck you in the way huge titles will. Think of it like a fun time waster like many of the games on your iDevice. The game has its shortcomings, mostly in the area of controls, but will certainly entertain you. Sometimes the best way to let off steam after a tough day at work is blowing up little guys on your computer, and this game will let you do that with style.