Boomerang X Review: A Brilliant Twist on the Arena Shooter

by David Sanchez July 19, 2021 @ 10:45 am

Boomerang X on Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Switch

When it comes to arena shooters, the amount of fun you have doing the same thing over and over — you know, killing a bunch of enemies, creatures, and monsters — is of paramount importance. Franchises like Doom and Serious Sam have succeeded for so long because they’re able to pull you in with their addictive, frenetic gameplay loop and polished mechanics. Boomerang X does exactly that, too, but it does so with an incredibly novel twist: You use a boomerang instead of a gun.

No Ammo Here — Just a Dope Boomerang

Developed by DANG! and published by Devolver Digital, Boomerang X switches things up from traditional arena shooters by not forcing you to worry about things like ammo and weapons. You get one weapon, a handful of unlockable abilities, and dozens upon dozens of enemies to defeat.

Boomerang X gameplay.

Most folks understand the basics of how boomerangs function in real life: You toss it, and it comes back to you. Okay, so actually using a boomerang in the real world probably requires a bit of nuance and finesse. For starters, you need to know how to chuck it in a way that it’ll circle back around to you. You also need to be able to catch it lest getting slapped upside the head with it. Thankfully, in Boomerang X, you don’t need to worry about cracking your own skull with your trusty weapon.

When you begin a challenge room, your HUD will let you know how many special enemies you need to defeat. These enemies feature a yellow icon above their heads, and they’re the ones you need to beat to move on. At first, dealing only with the required enemies is simple enough, but eventually you’ll take on droves of baddies, so you’ll have to defeat any that get in your way, whether or not they’re required to complete that room.

Like in old school shooters, you move backward to create space when enemies rush you. Boomerang X also affords you a lot of aerial movement, though. Early on, you unlock the ability to air-dash to your boomerang, so if you toss that sucker forward, upward, or downward and then trigger your ability, you’ll travel a short distance. Because air-dashing here is unlimited, it allows for some truly creative and challenging level designs where you’ll have to explore rooms from different angles to reach and destroy all of the required enemies.

Boomerang X giant frog.

At first, you’ll mainly take on large spiders and flies. Soon, though, you’ll battle giant frogs, Mothra-like flying monsters, projectile-hurling enemies, and more. Stronger enemies sometimes have shields around them, and the only way to disable those protective force fields is to kill the smaller enemies around them that are holding up the shields. Poison clouds and electric obstacles require you to move carefully as you teleport every which way. A few rooms have deadly floors that’ll hurt you if you land on them. There’s danger at every corner, and things get chaotic fast.

The level of challenge is solid, though sometimes movement can get a bit problematic. There’s nothing wrong with the way the player character moves — it’s just that levels can get so crowded and there’s so much going on that you can sort of lose control of what you’re doing. Thankfully, this isn’t too much of a problem if you’re able to stop and think for at least a second or two while all the madness is happening.

A big reason Boomerang X is so enjoyable is due to the abilities you obtain over time. You’ll gain special perks that let you fire a devastating laser-like blast, create some area-of-effect damage, or dish out a massive shotgun-like burst shot. Before you can use these abilities, you’ll have to meet certain requirements such as killing multiple enemies with one toss of your boomerang or defeating a minimum of three enemies while airborne. This adds a tiny bit of strategy to the action, and it makes it so that you’re encouraged to pull off meaningful attacks and combos.

A Really Cool Arena Boomeranger

Boomerang X air-dashing gameplay.

Though Boomerang X only has 13 stages, don’t let that number fool you. It’ll take you three to four hours to master the game’s challenges and survive each wave of giant insects and monsters. As such, the gameplay loop never gets repetitive and doesn’t overstay its welcome but rather might actually leave you wanting more. Of course, if you do want a little more from the game, beating the story once unlocks New Game Plus mode, which is certain to give plenty of fans a reason to revisit the action.

While moving through the levels, I did find myself enjoying the few moments of respite in between challenge rooms. This is because the small areas where there are no enemies are designed in pretty cool ways. It made me wish that these parts were a little more developed and had more lore. You’ll find a character you can talk to a few times, but it almost feels like the start of something special versus a more complete narrative. In any case, this likely won’t bother most players — it’s just something I wish I could’ve experience on a fuller level.

Boomerang X has a really cool cel-shaded look to it. Level designs are stylish and consist of underground tunnels and ruins, creating a sort of lost city vibe. Though you’ll see a lot of the same enemies frequently, they all look pretty solid for the most part save for some of the more generic bug creatures. Either way, when it all comes together, this is just a straight-up cool-looking game.

Boomerang X large enemies.

The music in Boomerang X is hectic and fast-paced, and it’s designed to get you pumped for the action. Some of the themes work better than others, but overall, it’s a good collection of music.

If you’re a fan of games like Doom Eternal or Serious Sam 4, you’ll likely get a kick out of Boomerang X — especially because it essentially offers up an FPS experience but on a quirkier scale..Even if you’re not a big arena shooter fan, though, the boomerang-centric design of this game is such that it’ll rope you in and keep you hooked from start to finish. Boomerang X is an incredibly entertaining thrill ride, and its unique twist makes for some of the most fun you could possibly hope for from a shooter-type game.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

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