On paper, Bouncy Bullets sounds excellent. A first person platformer – Nice – set in a neon coloured world – Great – where you have a gun that fires pink and yellow bullets – Interesting – at pink and yellow enemies that can only be defeated by a bullet of their corresponding colour – Excellent – as well as black enemies that can only be destroyed by a bullet that has bounced off a surface before hitting them – Brilliant. When reading this description, I was the personification of the “Vince McMahon getting progressively more excited” meme. Unfortunately, the delivery of this concept doesn’t make the most of these idea’s which, coupled with some technical issues, makes for a frustratingly shallow experience.
As described above, Bouncy Bullets is a first person platformer that challenges you to get from the start location to an exit portal across 3 chapters of levels. Standing between you and the way forward are a hand full of pitfalls and obstacles to overcome. Underneath each of the levels in this game is a brightly coloured sea which will force you to restart a level if you touch it so initially, the game just wants you to get from A to B without falling off. To do so is simple enough, it’s just jumping over gaps. Then there’s a stack of pink and yellow blocks that can be shot away with their complementary bullets. Soon enough, spikes and lasers are introduced, raising the difficulty somewhat, as well as bounce pads that launch you into the air (more on those in a second).
After a few levels, enemies are introduced alongside the most ingenious mechanic in the game. Foes come in a variety of colours and each has to be defeated by using a specific tactic. Pink block enemies have to be shot with a pink bullet (left trigger), yellow enemies have to be shot with a yellow bullet (right trigger), Black enemies can be shot with either bullet but before they land a hit they will have had to have bounced off a surface to kill the enemy. There’s also enemies that cycle between appearing as yellow and pink on a timer and others that require two hits, one pink and one yellow. Lastly, there’s hostages that appear as grey boxes and if they’re hit by any type of bullet, you’re forced to start the level from scratch. As a concept, this is quite unique but unfortately, Bouncing Bullets doesn’t make the most of it.
Each of the standard levels can be completed in under a minute and contain a maximum of 5 enemies. The foes, little more than colourful LEGO bricks with smiley faces on them, are more often than not positioned high on a platform and can be easily picked off. They have no attack pattern or intelligence other than turning to face you and firing off in your direction. They don’t move apart from a little shuffle when they fire (which will occasionally be enough for them to hilariously fall from their perch into the deadly sea below) or have any other moves in their repertoire. They’re just really dumb antagonists that don’t offer much of a challenge. Even the black enemies, those that need a ricochet to kill, are far too sparsely placed and are always in a position that needs no more thought than lowering your crosshair at the floor in front of them to bounce a shot up into their body. Reading the concept, I’d imagined bouncing bullets off walls or around corners but the game really squanders the potential with its design. The most difficult the game gets is when it places Grey hostages next to other enemies so you’ve got to be a little more precise with your shooting and even that’s relatively straight forward.
Bouncing Bullets can be a little masochistic in its design too. One level puts up a wall of pink and yellow blocks at the end of a slim walkway and directly behind it, a grey hostage. It took 3 forced restarts until I’d figured out I’d accidentally shot the hostage behind the wall by shooting through it rather than being shot by an enemy I’d not seen yet. In other sections, grass foliage is put on a platform which also has a set of spikes. The grass makes it difficult to see the spikes and the game knows it too.
Now for those bounce pads. The usual, on-the-ground movement is very responsive in Bouncing Bullets, as is while doing a small jump – but the moment you hit a bounce pad, the game turns to treacle. When flying through the air, the frame rate slows down as to does your movement. This means you’ve got to judge your jumps before taking them and the design of this game often prohibits this by putting the pads on step like platforms.
The soundtrack, a mix of dubstep and trance tracks, are actually very good in Bouncing Bullets. It’s the kind of music that really complements the wacky, colourful atmosphere you’re bombing around in and urges you to press on and be quicker – which is handy because the game judges you on how quickly you complete each level with a 3 star system.
Unfortunately, Bouncing Bullets is over all too quickly. It took me just over an hour to complete all 3 standard chapters of the game. There are then a selection of “Special Stages” to play but this is just a remix of each normal level with more enemies in them. These Special Stages feel like the difficulty the game should have pitched itself as to start with, making a little more use of the core mechanics, but even those pale in comparison to other games in this genre like Deadcore, QUBE2, Valley and Mirrors Edge.
Of course, being a game published by Ratalaika means that Bouncy Bullets comes with an easy Platinum trophy that can be earned by simply playing the game and then a few of the special stages. We’re talking 80 minutes between starting the game and hearing the Plink! of a Plat popping.
Bouncy Bullets is one of Petite Games’ better concepts but it’s a game that doesn’t make full use of its potential with its design. It’s a colourful game with an excellent soundtrack but the frame rate issues when using bounce pads, the thicker than custard AI and the shortness to the game relegate this to yet more Trophy Hunter fodder and little else. A real shame.
Bouncy Bullets is available now on PS4 (review version), PSVita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Developer: Petite Games
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy please go here.
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