What’s a boomerang without its property to return to its user? A dull and flat piece of wood. I bet that various people loved to call it that way after the tool didn’t work as first intended. It’s truly unusual to throw a boomerang and have it come back to you on your first try, albeit not impossible. Because of that, boomerangs don’t fall into the same category as spears, swords, hammers or what-have-you, because these don’t possess an almost life-like property. You swing a sword as an extension of your arm, but throw a boomerang and you’ll quickly discover that it nearly has a mind of its own. Not too different from a cat that dismisses each of its owner’s commands, but I digress.
That’s one of the main reasons I felt a bond between me and my titular x-shaped boomerang. At first, it would struggle to find its way back, but after some magic abilities entered my arsenal — like recalling it in a snap or slingshotting myself onto it mid-air — we became more and more dependent on each other. Gone were the days of yore when I would throw that wooden stick out in the open only to remain disappointed at the faulty trajectory of its comeback. Boomerang X let me live a superhero fantasy, one of which I would soar through the air with the aid of my trusty weapon and decimate our enemies like an anime duo.
Another Devolver Digital banger, Boomerang X, is available now on Steam and Nintendo Switch for your regional pricing.
Story – Lurking in the background
As the Doom Slayer in Id Software’s 2016 reboot, I showed no interest in Boomerang X‘s plot in my first playthrough. There’s no incentive to rummage in each crevasse for collectables, hidden lore pieces or secondary tasks because they’re absent from DANG!‘s picture-perfect combat; the entire worldbuilding is done by environmental storytelling and little bits of info carried by Tepan, a meek and friendly millipede. This creature is the last remnant of the previous civilisation — the Yoran mantids — that inhabited the island which temporarily hosts you.
Speaking of, you play as a badass ninja mummy, tasked with taking revenge on the creature dwelling beneath the island, the one which brought doom upon the Yoran. To be fair, that becomes your main quest, but it’s not fully clear-cut what the protagonist’s purpose is when he wakes up after a shipwreck. While it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme, it would’ve added some depth to the silent eastern warrior’s character.
Tepan offers an explanation for the black creatures, a villain origin story if I may. While it helps the player make a little bit more sense of Boomerang X‘s world, it’s not a key part of the experience. Every conversation with Tepan is optional, clearly placing the story in the background. It can be entertaining to uncover all the story bits and piecing it all together, but it’s a shame to not have it take centre stage every once in a while.
Gameplay – Hurling a frenzy of adrenaline spins
Boomerang X shares the same family tree as STRAFE, Ghostrunner, DOOM Eternal or DUSK by virtue of packing arena-based, fast-paced combat with tight movements and boomerang mechanics in a frantic and addictive gameplay loop. This game stands out from that crowded genre by not coercing the player to kill every last enemy; instead, it scatters foes all around the arena, among which are a few identified by a golden circle floating above their body. Only these marked ones have to be dealt with in order to progress any arena’s waves, posing a unique challenge compared to the aforementioned similar games: search and destroy rather than obliterate everything.
The state of flow which Boomerang X strives for is achieved marvellously. Not once did I stop and stare blankly at the screen because I was constantly bombarded with new abilities, enemy types and arenas that force you to rethink your battle plan. You can recall the boomerang with a press of a button, slingshot at its position in the same way; you can slow-mo while charging a shot, release a burst of boomerangs similar to a shotgun or shoot a laser needle to kill some monsters in an instant. The plethora of tools at your disposal come together in your hands in a holistic, yet destructive way.
I can’t stress enough how fun it is to experiment with all these different abilities, finding new uses for each of them when tougher beasts are introduced. Some enemies have 3 vulnerable points which need assistance to fully get rid of them but guess what: you don’t have to shoot, recall, and shoot again 3 times in a row, just use that scattershot and you’re done.
Similarly, some eyes shoot laser beams that need 2 hits to be taken down; one to blind them, and one to break their vulnerable back-gem. They also can be dealt with in a flash with the help of that needle beam. And there are so many situations that profit greatly by using these abilities, not only do they look insanely cool when used while you’re almost teleporting airborne, but they make arenas so much easier.
That’s the reason so many critics called DOOM Eternal a puzzle FPS; each weapon and combo corresponded directly to a certain enemy type, and I love that Boomerang X took some value-filled notes of that design philosophy.
Boomerang X is also geared towards the speedrunning community, boasting a built-in timer, but it doesn’t forget the not-so-skilled players by adding an Invincibility Mode. In that vein, there’s also a bunch of Accessibility options for disabled or deficient players (or just for those who feel like the game can be a little harsh at times). It’s a commendable feat that DANG! catered both to the needs of highly skilled players — even adding a high-octane New Game Plus — and to those that find accessibility options necessary to enjoy a full-fledged ninja superhero adventure.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO – Oriental ambience
The cell-shaded graphics and vigorous colours serve for both beautiful open arenas and clear ways to navigate the environment. It’s not the most distinctive-looking game out there, having a homogenous style as a lot of Devolver indies (like Ape Out and Absolver), nor is it impressive on a technical level, but I honestly couldn’t care less about it.
At best, Boomerang X offers splendid contrasted vistas of underground caves, and at worst it’s just dull. Focusing mostly on gameplay, you won’t have much time to stop and take in the scenery because you’ll dread losing touch with the adrenaline pumping through your veins. Visual-wise, the main purpose is to quickly identify enemies, vantage points, shield regen spots and other elements that serve the gameplay. The corridors between the arenas indeed are kind of barren. It would’ve been a welcome addition to breathe some life into them with some luscious nature-filled snapshots (which happens, but rarely).
Moving on to the soundtrack, it slaps! It serves the purpose of creating haste and a sense of urgency, all while emanating mysterious and spiritual vibes. Even if I had to replay a lot of chapters, I rarely found the music repeating itself annoying, over-the-top or stealing the show. Again, it doesn’t particularly stand out, reminiscing of other Asian-mystique arrangements, but it fits the overall experience Boomerang X strives for.
Boomerang X was reviewed on PC.