Originally started as a Duke Nukem game, Bombshell is a twin-stick shooter that leaves behind the womanizing objectification and misogyny for an appropriately dressed female lead with a robotic gun arm. Unfortunately, a well-done character alone doesn’t make for a great game.
Shelly, aka Bombshell, is working on her car when her radio cuts out; somehow she gathers from this that she should race to the White House to try to save the president of the United States (also female) from aliens. Upon arrival, it is discovered that Heskel, a mad scientist from Bombshell’s past, has joined forces with the aliens to kidnap the president and has taken her to their planet through a portal. From there on the story is a pretty standard damsel in distress story, with little to no development other than one twist that is not meaningful at all; it comes across as the developers grasping at straws in an attempt at story development.
Combat is a fairly straightforward affair; one stick controls character movement, the other aims. Where Bombshell differs from most twin-stick shooters is the jump button, which allows for some minor platforming throughout the game, but nothing too difficult or engaging. All the guns on offer are what one would expect, such as a pistol, a machine gun, a flamethrower, and a missile launcher, amongst others. Some of the guns have female-centric names such as PMS (personal missile system) and the Maxigun for the machine gun, and I’m not sure why they thought that was a good idea. I can’t imagine too many women will find guns named after monthly dealings all that comical, and guys sure as hell don’t want to think about periods. It comes across as the developers not knowing how to develop a female character or female characteristics other than “They have breasts and periods.”
Also, on offer are four abilities: slide, shield, sword, and punch. The punch and slide are fairly similar and unlocked near the start of the game and cause Shelly to dash quickly in the direction she is aiming; the only big difference is that the punch does damage. The shield surrounds Shelly and protects her from damage while also damaging foes who come too close, and the sword lets Shelly dash around slicing up enemies for a short period. An energy meter powers these abilities and quickly recharges after a short cool down. None of the abilities on offer ever felt that useful, other than sliding, as it allows quicker movement around the large levels on offer, as well as dodging enemies.
There are three distinct areas in the game: the alien planet, an icy world, and a Death Star-like weapon. None of the worlds are exactly original or impressive, and they are so large that it just feels like they will never end. On top of that, most levels require some backtracking, either to complete secondary objectives that grant money and XP that can be used to upgrade weapons and abilities, or to complete the primary objectives. At over 12 hours, Bombshell really outstays its welcome—a decision that was surely an attempt to justify it costing a ludicrous $35, but length doesn’t equate to value.
If you only played the first level of Bombshell, you’d think the graphics are impressive, with rain pouring down and trees and grass getting whipped around by the wind, but that kind of impressive foliage is soon lost to the rest of the boring and bland levels that make up the game. Somehow that first level ran smooth as butter, though, unlike the ice levels that would randomly experience massive framerate issues, even when no enemies were on screen. There are a plethora of graphic options available, but no matter which options I selected, the game still continued to excessively drop frames in certain areas as well as having some screen tearing issues. It might be more forgivable if the graphics were anything but mediocre.
Bombshell somehow manages to have such awful voice acting for NPCs that they would have been better off just having text on the screen. Characters read off their lines like they were recorded in one take by someone about to fall asleep, or who really didn’t want to be there. Even Bombshell herself doesn’t have much character when delivering lines, which wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t say the same few annoying one-liners repeated to the point that I was sick of them by the second level. No one likes a chatty Cathy. The only voice actor that pulls any weight is Jon St. Jon—best known as the voice of Duke Nukem—as the bad guy, but his lines are few and far between.
The final nail in the coffin for this awful game is the rest of the glitches I experienced during my playthrough, of which there are many. The graphics randomly set themselves to options I’d never used, there were numerous freezes, and, in the final levels, an enemy constantly could be heard saying “shield deployed” over, and over, and over till the point that I just muted the game to save myself some sanity.
The developers included a list of known issues along with our review code saying they are preparing a day one patch to address them, this along with all the glitches I experienced shows they rushed this out. Why? I have no idea, and it is all the more perplexing when you consider the game had already been delayed once. If Bombshell had some more time in the proverbial game development oven, had the best third of it carved out, and cost $10 it could have been a decent game. Whatever you do, don’t shell out your money for this bomb.