Ricky J. Hamilton
Bulbware has brought us a creepy point and click adventure title that delights as often as it scares.
You play as the titualr Bulb Boy, a scrawny youngin’ with a bulbous light bulb for a head. Thankfully (horrifyingly?), your light bulb head is removable. This will come in to play later. So, how does a horror puzzle game play out? Is it an illuminating experience, or will it leave us in the dark?
We start the game off with Bulb Boy listening to a story from his dear old grandfather. whom nods off while mid-sentence. At least, we’ll assume that it was mid-sentence because the characters speak in gibberish and word balloons that hint at what they are discussing. Sometimes, they word balloons will pop up as hints to completing a puzzle, so pay attention if you become stuck. Anyways, once Papa Bulb nods off, Bulb Boy indicates that he also wants to sleep by saying (imagining?) a bed… with a conveniently placed arrow pointing to the right. So, we head to the door to the right, but it won’t open. OK, so like any other point and click adventure game, we need to interact with things in the room to figure out our puzzle. The first room throws you off a little by giving you some things that you can do that aren’t directly related to the puzzle itself, but are also fun ways of interacting with the environment (hint: pick up the glove on the floor while the television is on).
This first puzzle also shines a little light on what will be a lot of the charm behind this game- and that is Bulb Boy’s maniacal glee that belies his youthful innocence. Beyond this weird quirkiness that we find in not only our protagonist, but also his pet and grandfather during later flashbacks…we also exist in an obviously green world with an interesting, nostalgic cartoon art style. It calls to mind early cartoons, but what they would look like under direction from David Fincher and smoothed over by an HD filter. The game not only has gorgeous visuals, but entrancing music, and creepy sound effects sure to keep you on edge. The game is full of little pop culture references that will bring a smile to your face.
After you go to your room for bed, you will be treated to a little cutscene that sets up the story of the game. Some dark matter floats into your light bulb home, and kidnaps your grandfather. You now must explore your home to discover what the dark matter is, and how to rid your house of it.
Controls are simple, and intuitive. The left stick moves Bulb Boy back and forth, and controls the cursor when investigating drawers, cupboards, and under furniture. At the appropriate moments. you can unscrew your head and toss it on to chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, which can be used to avoid obstacles that would otherwise block your movement. There will also be other opportunities for you to place your head in other advantageous positions, but I’ll let you explore and discover those for yourself. A is your default action button, and you use the left and right shoulder buttons to navigate your collected inventory. The puzzles themselves are just as intuitive as the controls. You click on anything around that room that lights up, and if you can’t leave the room yet, it usually just takes a little bit of poking around and experimentation to get yourself unstuck. The puzzles are satisfying once solved, and there are even a few occasional boss fights that are reaction based to keep things a little more interesting as you traverse your house and solve the mystery.
There are some genuine jump scares to be had, and there are lots of weird moments that will leave you laughing, creeped out, or just feeling uneasy. It is a great experience, although somewhat short. There isn’t a lot of replay value, but it’s an excellent amount of content for the price.
You can find reviews for more video games at my personal blog.