Bomb Chicken

A game by Nitrome for PC, Mac, Switch, and PS4, originally released in 2018.
Bomb Chicken is a bombastic bomb-based puzzle platformer starring a chubby chicken who lays bombs instead of eggs. The world’s biggest fast food chain, BFC, has the world clamoring for its products by way of an alluring blue special sauce that spices up the chicken with mysterious yet addictive properties. The sauce is apparently produced in a Mesoamerican temple deep in the jungle, and it’s so important to the BFC empire that they have made the temple their headquarters.

But there is ancient writing on the walls of the temple that speaks of a terrible curse that could befall any who disturb this powerful sauce… and it seems that day is nigh. After a freak accident, an average everyday normal mother clucker is transformed into a bomb-laying beast of retribution, threatening to bring BFC to its greasy knees. (Thank goodness for video games; otherwise that sentence could never have existed.)

The game begins with one of the lowly BFC workers delivering a few boxes of eggs to a storage room in the temple, which he rather carelessly tosses into a pile in the center of the room. One of the eggs lands in the hands of a statue, which drops a bit of blue goo onto the egg, causing it to grow in size and then crack, revealing the titular hero.

The controls are simple. The player is able to move to the left and right, and he can press a button to lay a bomb directly under the chicken, which causes the chicken to move upward and sit on top of it. However, the player must get off the bomb, as it explodes on its own after a few seconds. There is no limit to the number of bombs the player can drop, with the only real limitation being the height of the ceiling, since the chicken cannot lay another bomb once his head hits the ceiling, and it’s not possible to lay a bomb while falling.

Bombs can be dropped one at a time or stacked up on top of each other, but they always begin to count down immediately and explode after a few seconds, which causes a chain reaction to any bombs nearby. As such, a huge tower of bombs will eventually be destroyed from the bottom to the top, but stacks of bombs can also cause adjacent stacks to explode.

The player never earns any new abilities, but throughout the game’s 29 levels, clever level designs encourage the player to use bombs in different and more complex ways. Since the chicken cannot jump, the most obvious use for bombs is to help the player reach higher platforms, or to create high stacks so the player can walk off the edge and cross gaps. Bombs can, of course, be used to kill enemies, but the player can also bop on the heads of some enemies to kill them… and use the resulting bounce to hop onto higher platforms.

Bombs can be used to destroy wooden doors and stone blocks, but they do not work on steel. When steel doors block the player’s path, he must find switches to open them, or search for card keys in the case of security doors.

Soon, the player learns that he can drop a bomb and then hop off to stand beside it. Pressing toward the bomb causes it to roll along in a straight line, even flying through the air over gaps. This can be used to strike distant enemies or activate switches that are on the other side passages that are too narrow for the plucky clucky to enter. Later, the player learns that stacks of bombs can be kicked in a similar fashion, and bombs kicked into enemies instantly explode. Kicking the top bomb in a stack causes just that one bomb to fly along, but kicking lower in the stack causes all bombs above to fly along in a straight line. This is used in some more complex switch puzzles and in a couple of the game’s boss encounters.

Bombs can be used to hold down switches, temporarily opening doors while the player dashes forward to reach the opening before the bomb explodes and causes the door to slam shut. Bombs can be bounced off of special objects to be sent flying around corners. At first, this is used as a means of hitting distant switches, but later the player must use proper timing to ensure that bombs explode in mid-flight.

You can also make use of conveyor belts to position bombs and solve puzzles, but it’s also harder to create bomb stacks when the bombs below you start moving… and some conveyors have spikes or saw blades at the end, which cause bombs to explode.

Bombs can also be used to impact enemies and projectiles, as many patrolling enemies simply bounce off the bombs and turn the other way, while others cause them to explode, so players must be mindful when building bomb stacks near dangerous foes.

There is a series of challenges where the player must overcome dart-shooting traps in the walls. Darts emerge with a set timing and fly in a straight line, but you can place a stack of bombs between yourself and the darts to keep them from hitting you. Still, a stack of bombs is only temporary, so the challenge increases as the player attempts to dodge darts, create temporary blockades, and kick bomb stacks toward dart traps to buy an extra second or two of safety.

Enemies in early areas are dimwitted and slow, and therefore don’t pose much of a challenge. This leaves the player to contend with environmental navigation and puzzle solving. Later, the player encounters some tough foes that can only be destroyed with a bomb to their undersides, and some enemies can only be temporarily stunned. Enemies also respawn when leaving a screen and returning, which makes environmental exploration a bit more dangerous.

The primary goal in each level is to reach the transporter at the end, but each level also contains a number of blue gems to be collected – often across several branching paths – and each level also contains a treasure chest with an additional five blue gems. Collecting these gems is entirely optional, but the reward for doing so is substantial.

At the start of the game, you only have one heart (which is filled with that lovely blue goo), and this allows you to make a single mistake. Getting killed respawns you at the most recent screen transition (which are frequent), with the blue goo drained from your heart. There’s no way to restore a lost heart, and getting killed again sends you back to the start of the level.

However, by collecting blue gems, you may then spend them at between-level shrines. This is done by sacrificing the blue gems to a huge chicken statue, with each sacrifice granting you one additional heart. Each new heart requires a larger sacrifice, but if you’re diligent about exploring each level, you can eventually afford up to eight hearts, giving you some much needed extra chances in the game’s tougher levels.

That said, replaying a level from the beginning isn’t as punishing as it sounds, since all collected gems remain in your stock, all open chests remain open, and all unlocked doors remain open. As such, the you are free to skip over some previously-visited parts of the environment and push forward to the gems that you have not yet reached.

The player is free to revisit levels at any time if he wishes to hunt for missing gems, and an icon in the level select menu indicates whether the player has found them all. In the early going, treasure chests are often hidden behind destructible blocks, which may be destroyed with bombs. Later, these chests appear behind false walls, making them more difficult to spot (although bomb explosion effects show through them, making the hunt a bit easier).

Since gems are optional, the challenge for most levels is fairly organic, with a run to the end being somewhat easy – at least in the first half of the game – and gems are often placed in areas that are harder to reach, or which require the player to deal with enemies. Some gems are embedded in destructible blocks, and these are collected automatically as long as the blocks are destroyed. But in some areas, these destructible blocks sit over pits of spikes or lava, or they surround turrets, so the player must be careful.

The game slowly introduces new platform types, with several genre staples included, such as 1-way platforms that allow the chicken to move up onto them, but not back down. There are also trapdoors that send you falling down, conveyor belts, green pipes that warp you to an adjacent room, destructible floors, and eventually platforms that wobble for a moment and then drop out from under you… which leads to some really tough high-speed sequences late in the game as you run across platforms over pits of lava and try to build bomb stacks before the floor drops.

There are even a few light-based puzzles where you can only see a small lit area around you, and around a few light sources in the environment.

The game features three boss encounters, with the first taking the form of a chase sequence where you try to outrun a huge sawblade machine as it chases you through the level. The second and third bosses are more traditional affairs where you avoid their attacks, stun them, and then plant bombs to damage their weak points. Boss battles are fairly challenging, but each boss essentially exists as its own level, so the player doesn’t have to replay an entire regular level when he is killed.

The visuals are cute, colorful, and highly stylized, and the animations are charming as hell. There’s a ton of stretch and squish animations when laying bombs – both on the bombs themselves and the chicken – and there’s some great anticipation frames when bombs are about to explode.

Bombs pulse a bit before bursting into layered circular explosions, sending particles flying and rattling nearby chains and light fixtures, along with the requisite screenshake, further emphasizing their power. The chicken is cutely obese and wobbles as it walks, and it has some fun idle frames where it darts its head back and forth in typical chicken fashion. This is accompanied by some humorous sound effects that add to the comic nature of the experience.

Bomb Chicken was developed by Nitrome Games Limited, a studio based in London and founded in 2004 by Matthew Annal and Heather Stancliffe. The studio is mostly known for its mobile and browser-based games and it has published more than 100 titles, including Flightless, Ditto, Nitrome Must Die, and the Bad Ice Cream series. Following Bomb Chicken, the studio teamed up with Yacht Club Games (Shovel Knight) to develop Shovel Knight Dig.