Boomerang X is an arena shooter that shouldn’t work on a gamepad. You’re able to toss a mystical bladed boomerang-like its an extension of your body, dragging its wide arc through multiple enemies, recalling it whenever you like, and even magnetizing yourself to its current location. This is a game where you can’t stop moving, where success is found dancing through the air, whipping the camera around to poke at half a dozen goo monsters from across the map in a single leap. Mouse-aim is almost required.
Even with decades of experience with my trusty mouse and keyboard, I found it pretty demanding. So in an effort to bring Boomerang X to as many people as possible, the team at Dang! turned to an emerging, experimental gamepad control scheme as a means of keeping the action as pure as possible, no aim-assist or odd stick acceleration taking the wind out of things. Boomerang X is the first commercial game to use Flick Stick, a gyro-based scheme that makes the dual analog method feel old-fashioned.
Flick Stick pushes gyro controls beyond their more common implementation. Maybe you’ve played Splatoon on the Nintendo Switch, where one control scheme maps vertical aim to the tilt of the controller, while horizontal aim and movement work as usual on the sticks. Rather than use the right stick to push the camera left or right based on directional input, Flick Stick smoothly snaps the camera to an angle relative to their current orientation.
For example, if you’re facing forward and there’s an enemy behind you, if you press directly back on the stick, the camera will do a quick 180, almost like controlling a top-down arcade shooter. The vertical aim is then mapped to the gyro, which allows the player to account for X and Y aim independently and far more intuitively than nudging a direction on the stick, squeezing two variables into one mushy input, banking on camera acceleration guesswork and aim-assist to carry your intention through.
Sam Suite, one of the co-leads on Boomerang X, has a clever way of describing Flick Stick, “Rather than using the right joystick to look around, you’re looking around in the immediate vicinity as if your neck was in your hands.”
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