Green screen team fightin' bad dreams
Review written by
August 10th, 2017
Disclaimer: I was given this review code by publishers Bulbware! I enjoy free games and everyone should send me more. Even so, the piece below is my bestest effort at an objective evaluation of Bulb Boy.
In case it wasn't clear from the trailer, Bulb Boy has an unusual style, and a storyline where the family home has been taken over by an evil darkness. Essentially a point-and-click adventure (woop!), you must go through a series of weird nightmarish scenarios, picking up items and finding a way of using them to progress through each room in the house.
Your main boy has a light bulb for a head and this plays a part in some of the puzzling, but is not an overused gimmick by any stretch - from one scene to the next, you could be controlling a dog, a fish or a grandad or who knows. The puzzles are abstract, but make sense in their own kind of way and are sufficiently hinted. There are only a small handful of items in each level, so you never feel overwhelmed or have to resort to random clicking.
Graphically, Bulb Boy only knows two colours - various shades of green and black. Think Limbo, gone rancid. Even though it has an element of horror, Bulb Boy doesn't take itself too seriously and is fun to play. The background art features lots of little nods to well known characters from cartoons. Off the top of my head I spotted He-Man, Bender from Futurama and a dead Mickey Mouse.
One thing the game doesn't do very well is explain, or even tell you about new mechanics as they become available. In one section you have Bulb Boy and his flying puppy in a scene together, and it turns out you can control puppy using the right analog stick. Unaware of this, I spent a futile 20 minutes attempting the puzzle using only the kid.
Sound is used to great effect throughout the experience. A lot of the music is low key stuff, doing just enough to offer a slightly ominous vibe to what's happening on screen. There is a particularly fantastic ambient track used in the later stages. Bulb Boy himself communicates only through his own coarse brand of Sims-speak, which is sort of charming.
If you want to be cynical (and who doesn't?) you could say this is a lazy port that doesn't use any of the Switch's unique features. You control the on-screen cursor using a thumbstick, where motion controls would surely have been a nicer fit. There's no touch-screen interaction in handheld mode either. In truth though, these quibbles don't spoil things much. If you play Switch in both modes, at least the controls will be uniform.
Bulb Boy doesn't outstay its welcome. In fact I'd say it's too short. You're probably looking at 2 hours from start to finish. I wouldn't say there's any replay value either - unless you come back after a long time, when you've forgotten all the puzzles. Taking that into account, you may feel the asking price of $8.99 / £7.19 is steep, but I still have no qualms in recommending this indie gem - it oozes character and quirky fun!
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