Review – Bunker Buster

There’s a theory that goes “if you want to keep a blog up to date, for God’s sake don’t start playing Fallout 3 because it will take over your entire life and leave you unable to function in any useful way outside the Capital Wastelands.”

It’s true. Sorry.

Bunker Buster is the latest game from PLATFORMANCE: Castle Pain developer, Magiko Gaming. Nestled sweetly between that game and it’s sequel, Bunker Buster is somewhat far removed from either.

The controls couldn’t be simpler. One trigger drops bombs, and the other deals with your plane’s height. Press it to go up, and let go to go down. The plane travels left and right automatically. There’s a definite joy in the simplicity of the controls, because they mask a game that has a lot of depth to it.

This depth comes in the physics, because while the controls are easy to master, the physics are less so. There are a number of planes and each handles differently. Some are quite zippy (technical term) and so pressing the trigger could cause them to raise quite rapidly. Others feel much heavier and pressing the trigger could take a while to get some lift because the momentum was pulling it down and it simply needs more effort to fight against gravity. Bombing too, can be different, with some planes carpet bombing and others having a limited supply of bombs and requiring precise release.

Your goal in each level is to destroy each hostile target on the screen while being careful not to hit friendly targets. Sometimes this is simple, sometimes you’ll have to bomb through some rock, and sometimes you’ll have to manoeuvre your plane through perilous cave systems. Your fuel and bombs can be limited, and you’ll get more points depending on how frugal you are.

My favourite thing about (kind of) the scoring is the system of lives the game has. For every level you complete, you go up one rank. For every level you lose you’re demoted by a rank. Keep getting demoted and it’ll be game over. It’s a system I’ve never seen before and not only does it make completing a level faultlessly feel great, it also offers a huge pull to complete the entire game in one perfect run, to achieve that top rank – something that’s easier said than done but which won’t stop you trying.

It’s a tired old cliché that should have been taken out and shot years ago, but Bunker Buster is easy to learn, and very difficult to master. It takes a simple mechanic that is consistent throughout the game and manages to create loads of levels that feel entirely different, both in the handling of the plane and the task you’re faced with to achieve your goals. This rambling conclusion ends with “oh, it’s funny too. Buy it.”

Bunker Buster is available now for 80 Microsoft Points.

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