It's been over 36 years since the arcade classic Defender released and indie developers are still inspired by its simplistic yet enjoyable gameplay. Boiling Bolt certainly feels like a classic arcade game but is it worth your hard-earned quarters?
Boiling Bolt stars a pilot named June who's on a mission to save her city that's being threatened by an evil organisation who want to drain it of its energy. The gameplay is fairly simple as you fly around with the left stick and aim and shoot with the right. You can also dash out of harm's way (which can also increase your score multiplier) and select four additional weapons that come in handy given certain circumstances. Where the gameplay gets interesting is its stage designs as the playfield is contained within a ribbon that wraps around each stage. This means that you can only move left and right but as you do, you'll see the action at different angles which provides an additional layer of excitement to the shooting. Overall, the mix of twin-stick shooting and Defender-style stage layouts is a winning combination that crafts a challenging and satisfying formula.
As you shoot and traverse the 3D environments, it's hard not to get distracted by the detailed and animated stages. Each one looks fantastic whether you're flying through ice caves, fiery laser-filled facilities, or deserted ruins. The bosses look awesome, too. Most of them are massive creatures such as a giant mechanical serpent, a shady underground monster, and a gigantic stone titan. As you blast away, the soundtrack fits the cinematic action beautifully with a mix of orchestral arrangements and fast-paced electronic beats. In the end, Boiling Bolt is almost as fun to watch someone else play as it is to play it yourself due to its impressive presentation.
Boiling Bolt's main arcade mode is where you'll likely spend most of your time. Unfortunately, it's only five stages long yet the brutal difficulty will ensure that only a select few skilled pilots will ever beat it. Every time you play, you have to start over at the beginning again which can be quite disheartening for casual gamers. On the plus side, you'll acquire crystals as you play that can be used to buy upgrades. However, these upgrades aren't very helpful. Most of them lower your stats almost as much as they enhance them so they help more with rebalancing stats as opposed to improving them. That being said, the spread shot is a must-buy.
Aside from the arcade mode, there are a few additional modes that help to substantially extend Boiling Bolt's replay value. Upon beating a stage in arcade mode, you'll unlock it in free run mode so you can then practice it as much as you wish. There are also online leaderboards so you can see how you stack up against other pilots. However, the coolest extra is the challenges mode which contains a large assortment of bite-sized scenarios that are tough to beat but super-fun. Mastering them will also help you hone your skills for the arcade mode. Finally, you can have a second player join you in cooperative multiplayer. Playing with a friend by your side is great fun and there's even an unlockable item that creates a thunder link between the two players.
Boiling Bolt primarily appeals to hardcore arcade shooter fans who are looking for a challenging experience but even casual gamers will find it hard not to admire its gorgeous presentation and rewarding gameplay.
- + Tight gameplay featuring a mix of twin-stick shooting and Defender-like stages
- + Very cool visuals and music
- + Lots of extras plus multiplayer
- - Intense difficulty and arcade-style progression will frustrate casual gamers
- - Only five stages in the campaign
- - Unsatisfying upgrades