Let’s get my bias out of the way upfront: I respect the hell out of Devolver Digital and go into any game they put out expecting to have a really darn good time with it. When I saw that they were putting out Boomerang X, a fast-paced, first-person arena action game, I was absolutely on board. It seemed like a totally dumb premise that would feel gimmicky after about half an hour of play, but since it was Devolver I knew there must be something special there.
Having played through the entirety of Boomerang X‘s short campaign, I’m delighted to say that it runs on an absolutely dumb premise that might be the best execution of a gimmick I’ve ever played. This game, and especially its main gameplay mechanic, is fantastic.
The Story is You Have A Magic Boomerang Who Cares?
The start of Boomerang X shows a small ship sailing towards an island, with a mysterious black creature cutting through the waves behind it. You jump to a first-person perspective of waking up on a beach, surrounded by the wreckage of your ship and a broken spear. Your character reaches out hands wrapped in bandages to inspect and toss aside the spear, and then you set off down a linear path the eventually takes you straight to the final boss of the game.
The first thing you find on your journey is a downtrodden collection of thatch-roofed huts. There’s not a lot to see here until I noticed that one of them was occupied. Peaking through gaps in the wood I could see some sort of huge, vaguely humanoid mantis-like creature sitting completely still inside. Throughout the rest of the game, you encounter several more of these creatures, all apparently dead, as you explore the ruins of their civilization. You get a tiny bit of backstory about them, but unfortunately, Boomerang X seemed a lot less interested in its story than I was. It’s more or less understandable, though, because right after seeing that first creature you find a magic boomerang, so really what else matters at that point?
At first, the boomerang you get doesn’t seem too special. I mean, it does have four points on it so that it ends up looking more like The Glaive from Krull than the type of boomerang you’d expect to see a Tasmanian Tiger wielding and it does come back to you no matter where you run off to after throwing it, but that’s it. You get into combat with weirdly black bug creatures pretty quickly and end up hopping your way around arenas while you fight off wave after wave of the things, and it all feels pretty good.
The wave structure here is kind of interesting because you don’t have to kill everything that shows up. Instead, each wave has some enemies marked with an icon above their head that are the only ones you have to wipe out. The rest of the foes who appear end up being more of a distraction than anything else, as you focus on those key enemies. There’s a good variety of enemy types here, and almost every encounter adds some new creature with a new mechanic into the mix, so the battles stayed interesting throughout the whole campaign.
Of course, your character also grows throughout the campaign. Every few battles you go into a weird sequence that ends with you unlocking a new ability for your boomerang. On the offensive side, you get things like the ability to throw further or shoot out a scattershot to wipe out a group at once. These things are fine, but that’s not what makes this game and this boomerang so, so good.
Boomerang X is a game that is absolutely about mobility. The mechanic that makes this game so outstanding is really very simple: instead of your boomerang returning to you, you can pull yourself towards your boomerang. This ability is unlocked pretty early, and basically makes the concept of jumping completely obsolete. There are few games that have made me feel as cool as I did the first time I took off above an arena and started a chain combo of taking out multiple enemies as I zipped back and forth in the air like a boomeranging Spider-Man.
There’s an adjacent ability you unlock that lets you slow time as you aim, and once you start using that to chuck your ‘rang and then pull yourself to it, everything clicks. The action in this game becomes exclusively about using your abilities to traverse the arenas in super quick bursts of speed to take out the key enemies as quickly as possible while avoiding getting hit.
It’s hard to describe how good this feels, except to say that this is some of the most fun I’ve ever had with video game combat. It’s fantastic.
Playing Boomerang X on the Switch felt great. The art style looked really good on the small screen, and the wave-based encounters made for good pick-up-and-play sessions. There were a few instances where the framerate stuttered for a second or two. Having those hiccups is a real bummer in such a fast-paced game, but since it probably happened to me less than ten times in the whole campaign I didn’t mind much.
On top of the mobility mechanics being so good, Boomerang X also has a really intriguing world and fun enemy and level designs. This is an outstanding experience, and my only major complaint is that I wish there was more of it. Still, there are a few options for tweaking the gameplay that I’m going to try out in New Game Plus, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I ended up playing through the whole game over again.