Couch co-op games can benefit immensely from an immediate hook, a gameplay system that can be picked up on fast and can be taught to new players regardless of their familiarity with the controller in their hands.
Boomerang Fu has that, presenting you with its four straightforward, single-button mechanics—move, dash, slash and throw your boomerang—on the opening screen of each match. You can opt-in for a single practice round first if you’re joined by new players, and that’s all they’ll need.
Boomerang Fu’s basic mechanics take, at most, 30 seconds to learn. The more I play it, the clearer it becomes that there’s not a whole heap of depth to it beyond what you can learn in those 30 seconds—but that doesn’t matter. This is a game designed to be accessible, fast, and fun, one that you can get a new player into immediately, best enjoyed in quick bursts rather than over marathon sessions.
Boomerang Fu is a multiplayer party title in which you, playing as an animated piece of food or drink, run around arenas trying to slice up your opponents with your boomerang. You can either throw it or slice at them from up close, and when you kill an opponent, they split in half like a Fruit Ninja watermelon. The characters all sport adorable, charming designs, which makes slicing them in half (and staying alive yourself) all the more viscerally satisfying.
You can dash to avoid enemies and jump over gaps, collect power-ups that grant you new abilities, and parry in-coming attacks with a well-timed slash. You can hold down the throw button to aim your boomerang more accurately, and if it hits a snag after a throw and doesn’t come back right away, holding down the throw button will bring it back—potentially killing any opponents it hits along the way. That’s about as complicated as the game gets.
Up to six players can jump in, and you can populate your matches with bots. For most of my playtime for this review, I played with my partner, initially testing everything one-on-one before ultimately realising that it’s a bit more fun with more players and adding bots in. Having more players is especially fun when we started to form vendettas against specific enemies. “The carrot’s pulling ahead,” one of us might conspiratorially say to the other before a round, “we should focus on them” (only to, of course, betray each other the moment the opportunity arose).
This is, by design, a small game. There are three modes—free-for-all, team fights, and a mode where you’re all fighting to grab and hold onto the “golden boomerang” the longest. None of them require much fundamental rethinking of how the game is played, and “golden boomerang” is generally less fun than the more straightforward deathmatches offered by the other two, which really hone in on what the game does well—fast, aggressive little matches. We set the “sudden death” timer as low as it would go and have found that a round has never lasted long enough to trigger it.
The option menus outside of these modes are thin. You can’t pick which levels you’ll play on, and stats aren’t tracked, so you can’t see, for instance, which character has been killed the most often (which would be fun to know). There’s no single-player campaign, nor are there unlockables. This means that there’s no sense of progression beyond your match-by-match march towards victory or defeat.
This paucity has two effects. On the one hand, it makes Boomerang Fu feel focused and taut—it might only do one thing, but it does it well, and it knows exactly how to play to its strengths. On the other, it doesn’t take long to feel like you’ve seen everything the game is ever going to give you, to know that there’s not going to be any great surprises when you launch into another match.
While Boomerang Fu is going to be a great addition to many game nights, it’s unlikely to be the sort of game you gather specifically to play.
Still, there are individual moments within matches that stand out as special. A perfect dodge between boomerangs against an opponent with a mutli-boomerang ability; a well-timed throw that cuts through an opponent right at the apex of its trajectory; a tense round of parried slashes eventually leading to a kill in the final one-on-one of the round. These are moments that last a few seconds but endure in the mind long after the game has been put down.
It feels great when you land a kill, even when it’s dumb luck. It’s possible to bounce the boomerang off walls, but I’d be lying if I said most of my kills from bounced shots were fully, intentionally planned—that could change over time as I get more experienced, but I suspect it won’t.
The bots put up a good fight on their “Hard” setting and are generally enjoyable to fight against. They’re also, perhaps, a little too easy to trick. Some levels have levers you can pull that will spring traps, with walls sliding across the level and potentially crushing your opponents; I found that luring bots into these traps was a pretty reliable way to rack up kills. But they’re good enough that the game is still enjoyable when played alone, even if it improves with other humans on board.
Getting six players together at once is logistically tricky (make sure that everyone both socially distances and brings some extra controllers), and there’s no online play, so for most the bots will have to do if you want a full roster.
The defining trait of a boomerang is that, when thrown right, it’ll come back to you. It’s appropriate, then, that Boomerang Fu is a game that I will likely keep coming back to whenever I’m playing games with friends or family.
It’s the gaming equivalent of a bag of Original Smiths chips – if you bring it to a party you’re not going to blow anyone’s mind, but everyone’s going to want at least a handful.
Boomerang Fu was played on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher