Developer: Thrust Interactive
Publisher: Thrust Interactive
Release Date: Oct. 12
Yeah, “cute ’em up” is a phrase. Actual people use it. It refers to a subgenre of scrolling shooter that was mostly popular in Japan in the 1980s and 1990s. In games like TwinBee or Parodius, the colors are bright and the enemies are soft and cute and there’s little of the claustrophobic space imagery or militaristic designs of shooters like Gradius or R-Type. Neither Twinbee or Parodius came out in America until well after the fact; Fantasy Zone might be the most famous cute ’em up on our shores, although I definitely remember playing Ordyne some back in my TurboGrafx days.
If you haven’t guessed, Boomblastica could totally be called a cute ’em up. This free horizontal shooter might try a little too hard to be adorable, with its cutesy anime-inspired artwork, techno-pop soundtrack, and precious framing device, where our pink-haired heroine has a nightmare after wolfing down a bowl of spicy ramen. Somehow that overactive aesthetic comes just short of cloying, though, supplementing the hectic action without suffocating it in saccharine. That’s especially surprising since the first of two levels is called “The Candy Clouds” and features a backdrop of ice cream cumuli.
The controls might be too simple for serious shooter fans. We’re only responsible for our hero’s movements, weaving her left, right, up, and down by dragging a single finger across the screen. She fires at a steady rate in time with the music. There are a few different weapons in her arsenal, including cartoon bees that are basically bullets and a lightning bolt that can shoot through a cluster of bad guys. With the actual shooting removed from the equation, the game basically comes down to avoiding enemies and their bullets while making sure the flow of bullets is headed towards the most deserving bad guy. Lack of direction control over our weapons slightly complicates the action, but even if we could fire manually Boomblastica wouldn’t be a cake-walk. It might be cute, but there’s enough hell in its barrage of bullets to challenge even hardened shooter fans.
Music is as crucial to Boomblastica as the actual shooting, and although I’m not a huge techno fan, it’s the most successful part of the package. Music saturates every aspect of Boomblastica‘s design, from our weapons’ rhythmic blasts to the HUD that cleverly looks like a boombox. It falls short of the synesthetic flow of Geometry Wars or Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, but music and play are vitally linked in Boomblastica. Even if it wasn’t free it’d be worth playing.