Bomber Crew (Switch) Review – Bombardment of Fun
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Runner Duck
Publisher: Curve Digital
Release: 10th July 2018 (Consoles)
Bomber Crew, a game I was pretty excited for after seeing it at Gamescom last year. However, while the PC launch was quite fast after the initial announcement, the console versions took quite a long time, didn´t they? So I waited and waited for the promised Switch version, simply because indies work so well on this little thing. And now it finally happened, granting me the chance to finally check this gem out.
The base concept of Runner Duck´s title can be summarized in one word: Survive. The whole campaign consists of an array of missions revolving around mainly bombing enemy structures and well, you´re the bomber. Equipped with one plane and a crew of 7, in order to “win” the game, you´ll have to complete the dozen or so main missions. However, if your plane is destroyed or crew killed, there won´t be a restart button, instead, you´ll have to start from ground up by recruiting newbies and a completely new aircraft.
The general structure is indeed similar to roguelikes, though you won´t lose your whole story progress if you fail. A key part for games of this genre revolving around controlling a vast number of people, like a bomber crew, is to establish some sort of connection between the models and player. Bomber Crew is great at exactly that. In the first minutes, you´ll already see what extensive options the game offers to customize basically everything. From giving every member unique jackets, helmets and so on, simply to allow for a more personalized look. Additionally, the plane itself can be sprayed with new colours and even painted with individual pixel art or the Nintendo avatar, on top of offering upgrades like better guns and armour. Naturally, all those things aren´t mostly available right off the bat but have to be unlocked through completing missions and earning money.
As a result, everything from the looks to the functions of your crew and their bomber slowly begins to grow on you and become something you truly created yourself. Since you spent all this time painting and checking which stats are affected by each new possible upgrade. I remember sitting minutes in front of the upgrade screen figuring out how to get the most out of my additional safety measures, turrets and so on without making the plane too heavy to fly longer missions.
Do I even have to tell you how frustrating and sad it can be when you lose all that in the blink of an eye? And you will trust me because Bomber Crew is by far not an easy game. Every quest consists of flying to a new target ready to be bombarded just to quickly find yourself in multiple dogfights with enemy planes. However, during all those things, you´ll never actually control the bomber directly. Instead, you´re depending on your crew members and their ability to perform their tasks. The coordinator gives new waypoints you have to focus with the camera in order to command the pilot to follow them. The gunners can only fire on previously tagged enemies and bombs can only drop if the hatches are open and timed correctly.
In short, every minute in Bomber Crew is basically a whole lot of tagging and micromanagement. What seemed easy at first slowly evolves into a hell of all those things when enemy fighters are targeting you, the bombing target is slowly coming in sight and your bomber is slowly falling apart. Even though there´s an option to slow down time, a lot about this game reminded me about FTL´s premise and controls and how well everything worked together. Despite the fact I can never control something directly, the options to lower my hatchets, gear, tag enemies, reload weapons, extinguish fires, while watching my burning bomber I spent hours upgrading slowly blowing up is a feeling I love and adore in games. Especially when it´s as hectic as here, which is actually a good thing in this case.
What tends to hold back Bomber Crew the most though is exactly this structure. While it tries to offer diverse missions, nearly everything boils down to flying to a new spot, unloading bombs and fighting against a growing number of enemies accompanied by so-called Aces. Those are similar to bosses, appearing in random intervals from time to time. Yet, that´s about it most of the time. Where other rogue-likes bring diversity in form of new interesting rooms or environments, we´ll be flying our bomber over the same green, cloudy lands all the time. Understandable considering how restricted the setting is but a game shouldn´t stick to realism if the experience suffers, at least for me. It simply feels so much more repetitive than other titles since everything always looks the same, in particular when you have to fly half a minute before actually getting into the action. Luckily, the micromanagement keeps one busy long enough to ignore all these most the time.
On the other hand, Bomber Crew is also a pretty great looking game. Some may have problems with the weird blend between pixel art and 3D, I did too. However, it grew on me over time and I´m actually a pretty big fan of the style. A huge advantage, for example, is the accurate representation of damage and dynamic destruction. The whole thing looks super cute as well, even though the crew is always on the brink of their deaths. Naturally, the Switch can handle the game pretty damn great in consequence, never ramping up the fan too much or draining the battery faster than other 3D indies.
After all this wait Bomber Crew´s Switch port definitely wasn´t a disappointment, delivering a pretty great on the go experience. Yet, it´s also a pretty good game on its own, offering extensive customization options merged with challenging micromanagement. If only the missions and world were a bit more diverse, this could´ve become one of the most fun indies I´ve played since months. Nonetheless, it´s totally worth checking it out!
[A Review Code was provided by Curve Digital]