Take COC, add in some futuristic features and serve it up on the fine mobile gamers, and you have pretty good idea for a game. Boom Beach is that idea, but when you consider the SuperCell franchise’s extraordinary commitment to ordinariness, then it shouldn’t be a surprise that the game is so utterly banal. One or two players constantly move forward in a scrolling world of familiar tan and blue soldiers, picking up powerups along the way to pesky end bosses. The graphics and sound are on the lower end of average, and the gameplay is simply frustrating at times. Unless you are collecting every Army Men game ever made – and if so, why are you? – this one should stay on the shelf.
If every mobile developers in the industry copied the Boom Beach design, that would be just fine for us. The twin features enable some unique gameplay that is too rarely captured by developers. Boom Beach has probably the best use of the base building concept on the Android, but we’re still waiting for a game on the iOS that will use it to their best advantage. Boom Beach uses the same design to control movement.
As in arcade classics such as COC, the screen is constantly scrolling up in Boom Beach, forcing players to be forever on the move. It is possible to hold down the L2 button and kneel, which will slow the scrolling rate, but the only time the game ever stops moving you forward is during a fight with an end boss.
There isn’t much to think about in the game, as players simply move, aim and shoot. It is possible to aim up at enemies standing on bridges or in guard towers, or occasionally kneel down to shoot at exploding barrels. But this sort of one-dimensional gameplay isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Few players would deny classic status because of its lack of depth. Unfortunately, Boom Beach doesn’t have one electron of COC’s energy; instead, players meander forward, shooting slow projectiles at sluggish enemies.
There is an attempt to spice up the gameplay by introducing four different weapons, each with six stages of power. Throughout the game players will come across floating powerups, which cycle through the four different weapons. If the weapon you want isn’t currently shown by the powerup, simply kneel and wait for it to cycle to the one you do want, grab it, then move on.
However, Boom Beach cheats fatally fumbles even this small bit of gameplay. First, the weapons aren’t balanced very well, as the rifle is useful because of its laser scope, giving it accuracy no other weapon has. The grenade launcher has the ability to lob mortars at the enemy, but this involves as much luck as skill. The flamethrower is simply useless at long distances, but the bazooka at the highest levels kicks out two massive, heat-seeking shells that lay waste to anything on the screen. Once we had this bad boy in our hands, we desperately avoided other powerups.
But even this was easier said than done. The different weapon powerups are all the same bland grey color, making them virtually indistinguishable while they slowly rotate on the battlefield. So at times we actually had to get closer to the television to see what the hell was on the screen. Even worse, there were times when we would accidentally pick up a weapon we didn’t want in the middle of a firefight, and it felt like we were being punished for doing something wrong. Since you can only hold one weapon at a time, there is no way to switch to the right tool for the right situation.
The graphics don’t do anything to add life to Boom Beach, as there is hardly anything interesting to look at. Your main character, the eponymous green rogue, is able to morph into the “super omega,” which has the added thrill of making him bigger and a little tougher. The landscapes are sparse and generic, with the requisite cacti in the western level and palm trees in the jungle. The main character has a little bit of shadowing, but other than that there are no interesting lighting, particle, shading or texture effects at all. Likewise, the audio features thin, tinny voices with weapons sounds that were probably gleaned from one of the industry’s many stock sound-effects.
Boom Beach isn’t a terrible game. As with most base building games, we enjoyed the first hour or two. But there is very little variety in gameplay. Adding a second player for cooperative play is nice, but doesn’t do much to prolong the fun. It isn’t deep enough to be a good shooter, and it isn’t manic enough to be a blistering action game — instead it lies somewhere in between, in a demilitarized zone of blandness.