App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Bombs are dangerous. Unlike the way they're often portrayed in popular media, they're often imprecise in addition to being highly volatile. Bomb Chicken is a game that attempts to underscore just how dangerous bombs are as you control a mutated chicken in a retro-styled action platformer. In doing so though, Bomb Chicken feels like less of a satisfying experience and more like one that will test your patience and resolve, and not necessarily in ways you want.
Hatchling to hero
Bomb Chicken is a gorgeously animated 2D platformer. In it, you take control of a chicken that--due to some mysterious substance dripping onto its egg prior to hatching--has the power to lay bombs at will. This mutation has also made the chicken quite rotund, so the only way the chicken can really move vertically is by laying stacks of bombs to stand on.
Obviously, standing on bombs is not the safest thing to do, especially when they explode after a few seconds. This is where the source of Bomb Chicken's platforming challenge comes from. Although many levels seem like they'd be a breeze for Mario or other platforming heroes who can jump, your less capable bird has to put itself in danger every time it wants to step up over the smallest ledge, and its up to you to make sure that in doing so, you don't blow things up.
From the very first level in Bomb Chicken, the game makes it very clear that its cartoonish and silly vibe is not reflective of its challenge. This game expects you to lay your bombs precisely and quickly to defeat enemies, reach secret areas, and solve puzzles, all while being very much in the blast zone. It's also not very forgiving if you mess up.
In each level, your chicken has a limited amount of hearts. If you die, you lose a heart and have to restart back at the beginning of the room you were in (with the exception of the tutorial level which--oddly--starts you back at the beginning of the game if you die). Across each level, there are also blue gems you can gather and deposit between levels to earn more hearts for subsequent levels. You'll definitely need these as the challenge ramps up, because it's no fun to lose all of your hearts and restart a level from the beginning.
Egg on your face
I say it's no fun to restart levels in Bomb Chicken because the game tries your patience not just with its challenge, but also with its inconsistent game rules. While I played through Bomb Chicken, I found it extremely difficult to get a good sense of how exactly the bombs worked. There were times when I would accidentally push a bomb into a wall next to me and not die, and others where I felt a comfortable distance away from a blast only to be just caught in its radius and die.
I also found the precise nature of the game overly demanding for touch controls. Luckily, this is alleviated by using a controller, but that introduces yet another problem: For some reason, Bomb Chicken's controls map a "reset level" button to one of the triggers, which I found so easy to accidentally press that when playing I initially thought there was a strange bug that would randomly reset levels. After diagnosing the issue, I was disappointed to find no way to re-map this button. This led to a completely frustrating experience where I felt like I was constantly dying or otherwise resetting my progress more because of random circumstance than the actual challenge of the game.
The bottom line
I'm not opposed to a game being challenging, but when your progress is halted or reset because of things that feel inconsistent, unfair, or just plain nonsensical, it's hard to find much satisfaction. This isn't always the case with Bomb Chicken, but it was often enough during my time with the game for my excitement for it to fizzle out quickly. It's not hard to see how enjoyable Bomb Chicken's demanding nature can be, but the tools given to players to meet those demands simply aren't up to snuff.