Video games have held to a few staple traditions for years. You play as the plucky young hero who needs to rescue the damsel in distress. To do this you leap from platform to platform, overcome a number of obstacles, and then at the end of the level, you square off against the boss. But what if things were different? What if you were the monster. What if you played as the hulking behemoth and just rampaged your way through the level like Godzilla suffering from ‘roid-rage? That’s exactly what you do in Boss!
In Boss! you get to design a monster that you will then use to tear across the lands of the Trogon Kingdom. Along the way you get to fight knights, ninjas, elves, wizards, zombies, and then gobble down a beautiful princess for dessert. It’s crazy, wild, (repetitive as hell) and really fun. As you destroy your enemies, you collect coins that can then be used to purchase new weapons and outfits which allow you to cause even greater destruction.
The game is a side scrolling beat ’em up in which you face numerous waves of enemies. Once you’ve dispatched with one wave, you move on to the next one until you face off against a monster equal to your size. Once you take care of him, you can move on to the next area on the map.
I’ll be honest and say that the fighting in this game probably isn’t the greatest, and each stage really is more of the same. What makes it fun is the charm of the atmosphere and just how off the rails things can get. There are different themed stages throughout the game, and so you’ll fight in areas as diverse as Santa’s workshop to a Halloween themed horror-fest. And the outfits and weapons you get to choose from are just as whacky as the world.
This allowed me to create a monster with the face of a snowman wearing a Santa suit and using a giant Christmas tree to freeze ninjas in cubes of ice. To change things up, I’d grab a stranded alien’s UFO and bowl down a wave of attackers. Then, as I was pounding down the doors of the castle, I got hit with a reindeer-shaped battering ram that looked like Rudolph. What’s not to love?
Well, actually, there is quite a bit not to love. As I said, if the charm of the world and craziness of the outfits don’t do it for you, then you will find a lot of disappointment in Boss! Each level is basically the same with just a few cosmetic changes, and if you play it for longer than 30 minutes, it gets a little tedious. But since the game isn’t overly long, you shouldn’t have to worry about that. It’s not a game that you’re going to get lost in for hours at a time, but in quick bursts of 10-15 minutes, it’s good fun.
The monotony of the battles is broken up by three mini-games that you can unlock along the way that add a bit of variety. There’s one where you try to swat down parachuting enemies before they hit the ground. One is a battle arena where you see how long you can survive. And the last (and my personal favorite) is a simple endless runner that puts you in the role of a Zelda inspired hero as you flee from the monster you created.
The controls in the game are functional, but they’re not great. Just as the Titanic couldn’t turn on a dime, neither can your monster punch as quickly as you’d expect. Everything feels a little loose, and I’d say “floaty” which is a term normally reserved for describing jumps, but it feels appropriate here. Oh, and there is no jumping so you don’t need to worry about that. Just a lot of punching and grabbing and fire spitting. The control scheme is extremely simple though and easy to understand.
Visually the game is very simple as well. Characters have a nice cartoon look to them as they make their way across the screen in a staccato stutter. Often times though the most interesting thing on the screen is what was going on in the background. That’s where zombies were getting squished into jack-o-lanterns and there were hidden references, like the Eye of Sauron, hiding off in the distance.
Sound wise, things are a bit of a throwback. It reminded me of old Saturday morning cartoons but filtered through a 16 bit gaming console. It was very nostalgic for me and brought a smile to my face.
The variation that Boss! lacks in gameplay is made up by the vast number of customization options. It’s not the deepest of games, and there is a lot of button mashing involved, but with the difficulty level cranked up it is a challenging game. It’s very light hearted, very charming, and very repetitive. Personally, the humor won out for me and I was able to overlook a lot of the gameplay faults. It’s a solid game if you’re looking for a quick burst of fun, but if you want something deeper then you’ll have to look elsewhere.