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Things That Bounce And Explode

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: LNDFRR
Developer: LNDFRR
Release Date: March 30, 2021


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PC Review - 'Things That Bounce and Explode'

by Cody Medellin on Sept. 6, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Things That Bounce and Explode is a fast-paced blend of brick-breaker and action RPG. Fight against the Blokolonian menace with an arsenal of mighty B.A.L.L.s, and master thousands of builds in this ever-evolving bouncing adventure!

Breakout can be considered a single-player version of Pong where players control a paddle at the bottom of the screen while bouncing a ball to break the bricks on the other end of the screen. Despite its age, the concept still provides a bunch of fun to this day, and it serves as a solid base for other games that have also made names for themselves, from Taito's classic Arkanoid to some of the early indie hits, like Shatter and Wizorb. Things That Bounce and Explode is another title that takes that core Breakout concept and adds a bunch of distinct elements that result in an engaging experience.

Like most games in recent years, Things That Bounce and Explode employs an XP system where level completion unlocks access to new abilities. Initially, this results in new ball types, such as a bubble ball that can split into smaller balls or a fireball that ignites enemy blocks to deal more damage over time. You eventually enable special attacks, like firing a concentrated laser beam or launching a barrage of missiles, all of which only occur if you fill up a special meter as blocks are destroyed. This then leads to you unlocking charms that grant passive abilities to either make the game easier or harder on yourself. In conjunction with the leveling system, you also earn coins to acquire some of these abilities, giving you an extensive number of power combinations.

One of the major things you'll notice comes down to movement. Whereas most of these games tend to limit movement to one axis, you have complete horizontal and vertical movement in Things. The only barriers to your movement are those of the playfield itself, but don't expect the extra range to change the velocity of the balls. Angles are the only thing that matter, which is fine for everyone except those who want to be rewarded for throwing out some stylish moves. As an aside, while the game does support pure gamepad controls, your best bet is using a keyboard and mouse, as you get extra movement speed and a menu that's much easier to navigate.

The second thing you'll notice is that the balls have health meters. You can only toggle the enemy meters off and on, and the health meters for the balls aren't present, but balls will only bounce around a few times before disappearing. Thus, your best bet in terms of getting rid of blocks is to fire off as many balls as you can and keep them in the playfield for as long as possible to have a good chance at clearing things out.

The last major element to the game is the timer. Unlike most brick-breaking games, Things gives players a limited amount of time to break all of the blocks before they start zooming down to the bottom of the screen and deplete the health meter for the planet you're protecting. This adds a sense of urgency to the affair, as you're trying to ensure that you're keeping all of the balls in play so they don't damage the planet; you also have to ensure that the enemy bricks keep taking damage so you're not wasting time. Additionally, the bricks have different abilities, such as shooting a spread of lasers when hit or being encased in armor or being invulnerable until a linked brick is destroyed first. You have a game where split-second strategy changes are key.

These elements combine into a game that thrives on chaos. Unless you're lucky enough to get a stage with a few weak enemies and have yourself a full power bar for your special attack, there's rarely a situation where you aren't just filling the screen with balls to clear out the stage quickly. Darting around to prevent your attacks from hurting you is also a constant thing, and avoiding enemy gunfire only adds to the zaniness of it all. It's far from a calming experience, but the frantic pace is done well, as you aren't flooded with too many short stages before boss encounters occur.

The only issue players may have with the title is with the bosses. To be fair, the boss fights are enjoyable thanks to the different situations and attack patterns: fighting in a narrow corridor with horizontal pillars periodically decreasing your overall play space, bosses that use obstacles to prevent you from hitting a weak spot, etc.. However, there are only four bosses in the game. You'll still get a variety of regular enemies appearing in every run, but it's a shame to learn that the boss roster is that limited.

The presentation mimics that of a mobile game, even though this is only on the PC for now. The vertical screen nature of the playfield and the use of big buttons in menus gives that impression. The cartoon nature of the graphics and the bright colors make it look like a cute kids' game, especially once you see each block react to being hit. The frame rate holds steady no matter how much is happening on-screen. The constant shaking of the screen while a ball is hit can get very annoying very quickly, but there is an option to shut that off, so it's no big deal. The soundtrack gives off a '70s vibe that keeps things exciting while also not putting the player into a panicked state. Overall, it's quite nice.

Things That Bounce and Explode is one of those games that serves its purpose as a quick distraction or a nice title between bigger experiences. It's simple to understand, but the timed nature of each level and the chaos brought forth by other elements keeps it exciting. The fact that you're always earning XP leads to less frustration, since you're always progressing toward something, and while the lack of a solid narrative or steady stream of levels might throw off some people, it enforces the idea that this is meant to be played in short bursts. With a relatively low $4 price tag, Things That Bounce and Explode is worth adding to the library if you crave something akin to the arcades of yore.

Score: 7.5/10

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