Boomerang X Preview: ‘A one-note action game, but it’s one hell of a note’

Boomerangs and other assorted flying discs don’t get the love they deserve in video games. But that may actually be because there hasn’t quite been a game that truly shows off such a potentially impressive weapon (sorry, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger). Boomerang X, as its name implies, is a game devoted to such a weapon and might seem a little like a one-note action game, but it’s one hell of a note to focus on.

Boomerang X drops players in with little explanation. There’s some implied lore with some big-ass caterpillars and it appears as though the protagonist is a mummy for some reason, but those are props that sit alongside the star of the show: the razored boomerang. That’s all that matters and the game doesn’t force players to absorb anything else.

The razor-rang starts off as a simple ranged tool meant to throw at the game’s dumb, slow enemies. Throwing and recalling the weapon are basic functions and feel decent enough thanks to the sound design. It’s not to the legendary level of throwing the Leviathan Axe in God of War, but it gets the job done.

Zoom and boom

Boomerang X Preview: '

Boomerang X does not truly take off until the player gets the ability to zoom to the boomerang and this simple upgrade dramatically changes the gameplay loop. Dashing around lends mobility that wasn’t previously there and allows for a deeper, more kinetic game. Instead of just running around and lining up targets, players are now able to essentially fly around and set up trick shots in a way begging to be featured in a YouTube highlight reel. Thankfully, there is a small time-slowing mechanic that lets mere mortals actually hit shots instead of bouncing around with a pathetically low accuracy rating.

Like Insomniac’s Spider-Man games, Titanfall 2, or Just Cause 4, just the simple act of moving around is a blissful experience. Using a weapon for traversal and combat in such a manner is unique and fast enough to be rewarding in its own right. Players can also instantly stop while in the air with the push of a button, which adds some much-needed fine-tuning to the movement system.

But the game’s move set isn’t just limited to throwing the weapon in question. New abilities unlock in every level, further adding new tools to the player’s repertoire. While charging throws and slowing down time are the most ubiquitous, the special powers are a bit more strategic. For example, defeating multiple enemies with one throw unlocks a short-range magic blast while getting multiple kills with a special move gives players a quick sniper-like laser shot. Chaining together aerial kills also makes the player explode upon landing. This steady drip of abilities seems to give just enough variation to the combat, but it remains to be seen how many of them it can pile on and stay fresh.

A first-person boomer

Boomerang X Preview: '

Boomerang X’s combat scenarios also grow with the move set and are meant to take advantage of these movements. Each stage has a handful of large arenas that range from tall cylinders of death to wide coliseums. Waves of blobby foes crowd in and the player can progress once all waves have been vanquished. The blobs get more complicated as the levels go on with different weak spots that require alternate techniques to kill.

The AI is pretty slow and dumb at first, but it’s less about the challenge of taking down individual foes and more about handling the hordes and constantly moving to avoid environmental hazards and tougher foes. Standing still spells death after the introductory levels, which is a way of enforcing that players take advantage of its movement abilities. It’s a simple setup and repeats over and over with little variation.

But the lack of variation is where Boomerang X seems to be undercutting its potential. The suite of agility-focused traversal moves beg for platforming segments that put those moves in a different context and break up the pace from the constant battling. Without any other sort of gameplay system, it’s all combat, all the time. The combat is relatively strong because of its breakneck pace, but it remains to be seen how long that can persist given how limited the game’s scope is.

These perceived problems likely aren’t enough to completely stop Boomerang X’s momentum because throwing the titular weapon is such a blast. Zipping around is a simple joy that’s aided by sharp controls and the combat gives players an excuse to exercise said controls, even if it seems to be only combat. It still has to prove itself in some areas, but most of its edges are sharp enough at this stage to be a game worthy of coming right back to when it fully releases.