Another week, another Ratalaika Games release. This time it’s a game called Bouncy Bullets. And from the title, you’d think it would be some kind of first-person shooter. You’d be wrong though. The game does have bouncing bullets, but it’s really a 3D platformer with just a little bit of shooting sprinkled in for good measure.
And at first glance, the game seems to have a lot of things going for it. Initial screenshots give the impression that Bouncy Bullets is bold and bright. And it does live up to those expectations. The developers went for a blocky, vibrant theme and managed to pull it off well. The result is a game that looks bold, fun and somewhat unique. The platforms are a rich mix of bright greens, yellows, blues and purples, and you’ll get to see giant ice-creams and pieces of liquorice floating about in a purple ocean – things you don’t see very often. It looks and feels like something out of a children’s book, and the game benefits all the more for it.
The game is set up like something that could be found on the App Store. There are 42 normal stages and 42 more challenging ‘special’ stages to work through. And you’re given a star rating based on how fast you finished. The only thing you have to do is reach the portal at the end of each level. There is no story or collectibles or optional goals. But even without these things, there is a very reasonable amount of content on offer. 84 levels is nothing to turn your nose up at, especially when Bouncy Bullets will cost you less than a fiver.
The gameplay is easy to pick up too. Bouncy Bullets is simple and stays that way throughout. You’re armed with a mini-gun and its bullets bounce. There are yellow and purple bullets which kill yellow and purple enemies respectively. A third enemy type, black in colour, is dispatched by bouncing a bullet off the ground. As I said, really simple. The only thing that adds any kind of complexity are enemies that can change their colour, but they are still just as easy to deal with as any other bad guy.
There are also hazards littered across the levels. At first, there will only be the odd hole to deal with. But soon, there’ll be rotating lasers, sawblades, spikes and hostages to deal with all at the same time. It can get rather challenging as you play through the special levels, but for the most part it sounds more difficult than it actually is. It might take you a few tries, but you won’t be stuck for a significant amount of time on any particular stage.
But Bouncy Bullets is almost too simple. The game never really progresses, in that it’s essentially the same thing for 84 levels. Nothing changes, except the amount of hazards put in your way. And the bad guys you’ll be dealing with on level 84 are the same ones you’ll find on level 1. New enemy types or even new ways to put your bouncy bullets to good use wouldn’t have gone amiss. After all, the game is called Bouncy Bullets and yet you only need to use them to defeat black squares.
Speaking of the enemies, their design is almost pathetic. Every single one you encounter is either a square or rectangle with a crudely drawn face on it. The only thing that changes is the colour. It’s true that their bright colours and basic shape fit in with the vibrant, blocky theme of the game, but surely there could have been a way to drastically improve them. At present, enemies lack any sort of character or variety, and they feel like an afterthought. They don’t pose much of a threat either. They can’t move around and their aim is horrible. Unless one is directly in your path they are unlikely to hit you. In fact, I was able to get through a great deal of levels without firing a single bullet.
But poor enemy design and a lack of depth is nothing compared to the biggest issue with this game: the controls. They really drag the whole experience down and transform Bouncy Bullets from an enjoyable, if simplistic, game into an extremely frustrating experience. Movement is a complete mess. And this is just plainly unacceptable for a game that is meant to be a platformer.
With Bouncy Bullets, every level is a battle. Forget baddies and hazards, the only real enemy here is the controls. You’ll fall victim to tons of cheap deaths. It’s annoying and feels unfair. Even worse, you can never truly master the mechanics. You will certainly improve but you can never fully adapt and you’ll still take deaths that are plainly out of your control.
The main issue is that the controls are floaty and unresponsive. Sometimes, you’ll overcompensate on your jumps and fly over a platform to your death. Other times, you’ll slip off a ledge instead. On other occasions, your jumps won’t even register and you’ll fall to your doom. It does feel as if you’re playing on ice the whole time, as you slip and slide all over the place. And it gets even worse once you reach the later levels where platforms are tiny and the margin for error is small.
It’s worth suffering through this if you’re after some easy Achievements though. As with anything that comes via Ratalaika Games, the Gamerscore rains down thick and fast on Xbox One. Achievements are awarded for the most simple of tasks, like shooting an enemy or dying once. You’ll only need to clear 31 levels for the full 1000. All in all, Bouncy Bullets is a game that will take you less than an hour to finish. Perfect for all those achievement hunters out there!
Unfortunately, for everyone else, Bouncy Bullets is probably not worth your time. Its vibrant art style and relative wealth of content are overshadowed by the shoddy controls. They fall far short of what is expected of a modern platformer and really spoil what could have been a potentially enjoyable experience. As a result, Bouncy Bullets is more likely to aggravate than entertain, and for that reason I cannot recommend it, even at its low price point.