REVIEW: Boomerang X is a three-hour adrenaline ride
Updated: Feb 8
Since the pandemic started, video games have often been an escape for scarce moments of calm. Sessions of Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing helped to lower my blood pressure amidst the fear of infection and general political chaos.
As we approach Year 2 of the pandemic and the desire for repose is coupled with an unending rage... I've started to look elsewhere for my gaming release. I need adrenaline. I need controlled chaos.
Turns out, I needed Boomerang X.
Just the Facts
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform(s): PC*, Nintendo Switch *platform reviewed on
Release Date: July 8, 2021
Key provided by Tinsley PR.
The chaotic bladed-boomerang slingin' action of Boomerang X released on July 8th for PC and Nintendo Switch, developed by DANG! and backed by powerhouse publisher Devolver Digital. As DANG!'s debut title, Boomerang X exhibits a level of confidence rarely matched by developers with far more releases under their belt.
Things start out simply enough: a boat crashes on an abandoned island, a bandage-armed person wakes on shore and trudges into the unknown ruins of a collapsed civilization to find some answers (and a way out).
After finding one functional weapon amid the rubble of a trashed village littered with large praying mantis-like skeletons — the game's eponymous bladed boomerang — our nameless and voiceless hero embarks on a journey.
It's one that has them entering arena after arena to face off against creepy shadow demons with glowing red gem weakpoints. One that introduces them to Tepak, an adventuring millipede with gear strapped to its long long body (one of the best side characters in gaming this year). And most importantly, one that pushes players to their limits, getting the blood pumping during the game's three-hour rollercoaster ride.
There's not a ton of story here, but it's engaging nonetheless. Each arena is littered with fun bits of environmental storytelling that paint the picture of a once-thriving civilization. Mantids (the mantis-like race previously mentioned) found themselves overrun by the shadow monsters who have taken up residence in the forests and crypts you travel through. Tepak offers small bits of lore as well, but the focus in Boomerang X is fully and completely in its action-packed gameplay.
That focus pays off in spades, delivering an incredibly unique action shooter experience that I fell in love with.
Boomerang X is all about momentum. Perpetual motion, a driving desire to move forward, and riding the waves of chaos on the way to reach your goal. It's a speedrunner's dream of a game, but built for the common folk as well. From the game's satisfying jump that shoots you forward with a surprising amount of speed to the unique ways the boomerang affects your movement as you progress, I was bouncing off the walls with joy as I played. Boomerang X sends you to deal with somewhere between 5 and 8 waves of shadow beasts per arena, then it's off to another one to repeat the process. Each wave has certain marked beasts that need to be eliminated to progress to the next wave.
The waves get more crowded and dangerous, introducing difficult enemies with multiple weakpoints that you need to destroy and a few that can drop giant environmental dangers. Here, it's all about prioritizing the big baddies while keeping yourself alive and out of harm's way.
To do that, you need to efficiently wield your boomerang and vanquish your foes. If you thought using a bladed boomerang in a hectic first person shooter sounded fun in the first place... it's even more fun than that.
You can just whack it out there and call it back in an enjoyable Kratos + axe sort of way that always works, no matter what game you put it in. You can let it circle around you after a toss, destroying enemies in its orbit on the journey back to your hand.
You eventually unlock the ability to teleport to your boomerang, which pairs beautifully with the ability to slow down time while you're charging up a toss, allowing you to fly around arenas with reckless abandon. It all handles beautifully.
Boomerang X is a thrilling achievement. It's light, breezy, action-packed, and it doesn't hold back from beginning to end. Fans of classic shooters will settle in nicely here, but there's a certain quality to its controlled chaos that I think will appeal to gamers of all sorts.
That last ability combo was key to my enjoyment throughout, as it allowed me to take a breather from time to time and turned the game from a pure chaos shooter — akin to old school sessions with Doom and Quake — to something almost like a puzzle game.
Making precise shots at marked enemies, only to teleport right into the chaos of another cluster of enemies. Slowing down time and finding the perfect path out of the situation as I eliminate even more enemies on the way. Just pure fun and intense mouse button mashing.
Especially when the game introduces powers like "scatter shot" and "laser" abilities that require you to eliminate enemies in unique ways to use them (i.e. kill more than one enemy with a throw to get a scatter shot, kill a cluster of enemies with said scatter shot to get a laser shot). That's when the layers of strategy peek through the clouds of chaos.
All said, there can be too much of a good thing. Some moments toward the end (and in the game's difficult remixed New Game+ mode) feel a little TOO chaotic. I'm certain that some amazing god gamer can get through the game without using the slow-mo ability even once... but that gamer is not me. Slo-mo felt like a necessity for some of the final arenas.
To have the experience DANG! was clearly shooting for here, the only path forward is to... get good. While it never bothered me that badly, it's worth mentioning that if you aren't ready to whip your view around at a moment's notice to blast enemies away, this might not be for you.
What might be for you though is Boomerang X's surprisingly pleasant vibes. With a sketchy/grungy aesthetic and strong color theming, each arena was almost begging to be explored both before and after the chaos of enemy waves. The game's incredible soundtrack does some heavy lifting to get your heart beating with each wave, and I was amazed at how much I enjoyed being in these spaces for reasons other than... outright obliteration.
Boomerang X is a thrilling achievement. It's light, breezy, action-packed, and it doesn't hold back from beginning to end. Fans of classic shooters will settle in nicely here, but there's a certain quality to its controlled chaos that I think will appeal to gamers of all sorts. For a debut release, DANG! blew past all expectations, and I can't wait to see how they get our blood pumping again with future releases.
video games are good and Boomerang X is . . . GREAT. (9/10)
+ driving momentum all throughout, beautiful blend of chaos and strategy, just the right length
- kinda wish i had more reasons to keep playing, gets a LITTLE too chaotic at times
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