There is an odd stigma around games with a core mechanic of matching shapes together. Anecdotally, I always associate Candy Crush with my mother and older family members who jumped aboard the crazy hype train that it started. So, when I heard that Edmund McMillen’s next title, The Legend of Bum-Bo, was going to have a big portion of the game based around a similar mechanic, I wasn’t initially enthusiastic. But after playing for about 15 hours so far, I can honestly say that this game is beating my expectations.
The Legend of Bum-Bo is considered a prequel to The Binding of Isaac, but the gameplay could not be more different. You’re still playing a rogue-like where you will have different characters, abilities, and randomly generated rooms but this would be classified more as a strategy game. Your main objective is to play a game similar to Candy Crush, where you match tiles together with your limited number of moves each turn. To fans of McMillen’s work, you won’t be surprised that instead of matching candies, you will be pairing up grotesque items like poop, pee and boogers.
Then comes the second part. Each fight is in a grid based room where enemies will approach you and attack. Based on what tiles you have matched previously, you will use the base form of those tiles and other abilities you have collected throughout the run. For example, if I match 4 poops together, I will be granted a poop to place in front of a column that will protect me from attacks down that column. However, I also gain 4 poop mana that can be used for additional abilities I have found such as a powerful attack or moving the tiles around to create additional combinations.
Personally I had a love/hate relationship with the pacing of the game at the beginning. The game is split into separate floors that you are going into which will consist of various fights, skill upgrade points and a boss at the end. You have to unlock each floor by beating the previous one and when you do, the game will end for that run. This was done intentionally so they could also unlock a new character for you to try out, each having different starting abilities and stats that change up the gameplay a good amount. I liked it because it pushes you to try each character but I can’t say I wasn’t upset that each of my initial runs were ended prematurely. Some of those runs I had some great builds going that I would have loved to see how they would have gone in later levels.
Another similarity to The Binding of Issac that I enjoyed is how they go about game progression. With a rouge-like, a big challenge is that you have to create a game loop that is ultimately the same but can still feel very different. Each time you play and beat the game with a character or reach a certain progression point, the game will unlock new abilities and trinkets that you can find in your next run. Each run will then randomly provide you with abilities to choose from which can alter up your strategy each time. I loved getting a new unlock and seeing it in the game but as I continue to play I am noticing similar items appearing quite often.
Repetition was also a concern when it came to bosses. I think with regular enemies throughout the game there was a good variety but the bosses seemed to be the same for most runs. I think a strong aspect to this game is that they can easily add new bosses and enemy rooms later in patches or DLC content. That being said, as of now the game has been great but I can definitely see myself wanting more as I continue to sink more hours into it.
Last but not least, this game has a ton of charm. It packs the same whimsical punch that is familiar with many of Mcmillen’s games. If you are a fan of his humor from previous work, then you will enjoy this one as well. Although it can come off as a bit childish, it still would catch me off guard at times and give me a good chuckle.
Even if you took away the charm and the rather gross elements, the underlying mechanic is quite unique and honestly pretty damn addicting. I recommend this for both fans of The Binding of Isaac universe, and also for anyone is a fan of strategy/puzzle games. Besides, if nothing else, at least you can entertain your loved ones during the holidays time by shouting things like “I need more poop.” I’m sure they will be just as confused as my wife was.