America - Front
America - Back
By Adam Cartwright 12th Jul 2019 | 1,448 views
Have you ever played Jumping Flash!? It’s an early PS1 title about a crime-fighting robotic rabbit. It mixed first-person 3D platforming gameplay with minor shooting elements and was the first videogame I ever played. It’s seen as a cult classic these days and, while I still love it, I recognise it has some serious flaws. Bouncy Bullets reminds me a lot of Jumping Flash! – it’s a colourful first-person platformer with shooting elements and, just like the first game I ever played, it’s significantly flawed and yet has a whimsical charm that manages to shine through.
Unlike Jumping Flash!, Bouncy Bullets features no story – the game is structured like a mobile title, with a series of short levels you’re encouraged to play, then play again (and clear in a faster time) to achieve a high score and unlock stars. Each level is effectively a series of platforming and shooting challenges; you can expect to find buzzsaws to jump over, lasers to dodge, and enemies to fire your gun at, which when all combined is often no easy task.
The movement mechanics are probably the single most frustrating thing about the title and almost serve to ruin it completely. You run with the analogue stick and jump with X, while shooting is handled with the shoulder buttons (R fires pink bullets, while L fires yellow ones). In general, running and jumping feels floaty and loose, which is the exact opposite of the precise, tight controls I hope for in a platformer. This led to a number of frustrating deaths at times, but eventually I did get more used to how Bouncy Bullets controlled and learned how to better handle my character.
As the game’s title suggests, there's also a bouncy feeling to moving through the levels, and this is further highlighted in the way that they’re designed. They're almost like obstacle courses, with one level that particularly stood out to me challenging the player to weave around a mountain path while jumping over rotating lasers, before then having to bound across a series of platforms at the end to reach the exit portal. Getting into the rhythm of how to move and dodge results in a great sense of satisfaction once you nail a particularly tricky section, meaning Bouncy Bullets can often feel incredibly rewarding.
Finally there are shooting mechanics. You can fire two different coloured bullets, which match the coloured enemies that are scattered throughout each area. As I’m sure you can guess, you have to choose the correct bullet colour to dispatch each foe (and they can change colour on rotation), while also keeping an eye out for grey ‘hostages’ (these can’t be hit or it’s level over) and black enemies (you need to bounce a bullet off a surface in order to take these out). It adds a nice extra layer to the platforming, but it is disappointing that the AI does little more than fire projectiles and occasionally fall over.
Visually Bouncy Bullets is fairly simplistic yet surprisingly effective – everything is built with big, blocky shapes that are coloured with a variety of bright primary shades, so it looks somewhat like a nursery play area at times. There isn’t much in the way of environmental detail (foliage, background elements, and so on), but this rarely matters when you’re speeding through the levels, and what is there looks good enough, especially on the Vita’s OLED screen. There’s also quite a cheery, upbeat, and most of all addictive soundtrack full of whimsical tunes, which definitely fits in with the rest of the title's presentation.
There are three sets of 14 levels on offer, and while they only take around 30 seconds to a minute each to complete, you can expect a playthrough to take much longer than this would lead you to expect because it's highly unlikely that you'll clear them all the first time through. Unfortunately, this is where my biggest criticism of Bouncy Bullets comes back into play - at times I was dying repeatedly due to the unwieldy controls, which made the game feel unfair. There were times I had to step away as I simply wasn't having fun, but on the upside I usually came back a few hours later and nailed the level in one go.
You can also play a selection of special levels, which are remixed versions of the main campaign containing extra enemies and obstacles, meaning for a cheap price it's actually quite good value for money.
Bouncy Bullets is certainly far from perfect, but thanks to its cheerful nature it was a game I had fun with and, ultimately, I can see myself returning to it in the future, which is often a good litmus test for recommending a title.