Shoot ’em up games are aplenty. Bomboras Forever (out now, $0.99) is pretty fun, and while it’s basically a side-scroller, I like how you can move in all directions. Unfortunately, the game is lacking in explanations, leaving me with an overall lost feeling even though I played it to the end.

The opening screen infuriates to no end. It says, “Wake up…” And later, “Give us some signs of life.” Tapping and shaking the device doesn’t work to clear the screen. The only thing that seems to stop the screen dialogue from cycling continuously is vigorous swiping. Vigorous non-stop swiping! Not simply a fast swipe. I had to draw fast circles or zigzags to get to the actual game screen. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the same opening screen repeats every time the game is started. Surely a single tap will suffice to let the game know we’re alive!

There doesn’t seem to be a proper tutorial either, or if there is one, I could never find it. The dialogue popups within the game don’t provide enough directions or explanations.

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Bomboras Forever offers many randomized levels (laid out in a grid you can explore), but it is actually a close-to-endless arcade game. If your ship is blasted to smithereens, you’ll have to start all over again from the beginning. The levels seem to be randomized, although as you progress along, the enemy ships get more powerful, and there are also bosses. You are seldom given any specific objectives, however, and it is never clear why a level gets completed when it does. I assume when I cleared a level it was because I killed all the enemy ships and traps, but since they spawn suddenly out of nowhere, one never knows how many enemy vessels there are. It doesn’t help that you can shoot and be shot off-screen.

Whenever you kill an enemy, you’ll be rewarded in “diamonds,” which you’ll have to fly over to collect. With these, you can buy store upgrades between levels, which include different types of lasers, a magnet to collect diamonds more easily, shields, more health, etc. These upgrades made the game a lot more fun. Too bad the items didn’t come with any descriptions and you are never warned that some items can cancel out a previous purchase. I only found out which power-ups were stackable and which weren’t by trial and error. Even now, I don’t know what bomboras are — and I did purchase the “20% chance to call a bombora when hit” upgrade option.

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In Bomboras Forever, you can unlock up to five additional ships through earning game experience. Each ship comes with different abilities and will even affect item availability and prices in the upgrades store, which offers up to three random items each time. The last ship may only be unlocked when you complete the very last level, the SA star, which looks like a black hole on the “starmap.” It was a letdown, however, because with that ship, you don’t get to purchase any upgrades, which was a large part of the fun for me.

The last level was weird, and along with the whole game, plain confusing. I didn’t know why or how I completed it. It just suddenly concluded, and there were long periods of white screen time in the middle of the level, which made me think my ship had been destroyed (while it still had high health).

Anyhow, despite the above-mentioned issues with the game, some may enjoy this a fair bit, and the graphics are really nice. It’s more fun to play it on a bigger device, such as the iPad mini rather than an iPhone.

Verdict

Bomboras Forever is a decent side-scrolling shoot ’em up that is let down by a lack of proper explanations/in-game descriptions, which makes for a confusing experience. Still, there is fun to be had. The best part of the game probably is the upgrades store.

Great graphics
Many levels (although you've got to live through them all consecutively to experience them)
Six different ships to play with (more would be better though)
Lots of upgrades available.
Opening screen difficult and frustrating to get rid of
No clear explanation of game elements
Enemies can shoot and be shot off-screen
No iCloud syncing between devices
3.5
Very Good