Monday, December 5, 2016

Other Media Review: Burrito Bison Launcha Libre

Many years ago, I was a regular player of browser-based Flash games through websites like Addicting Games, Newgrounds, and Kongregate.  One of the games I especially enjoyed was a distance-launcher game called Burrito Bison.  The premise was a bit goofy: the titular character was a Luchador whose normal day of shopping is interrupted when he’s kidnapped to a land of living gummy bears and thrown into a wrestling ring against candy-themed wrestlers.  The gameplay was launching B.B. from the ring (ideally hitting the opponent for a speed bonus) to bounce off gummy bears to try and reach the portal home.
Some time later, the game creators, Juicy Beast, released a sequel where Burrito Bison returns to the candy world to retrieve his stolen wallet.  I played both games to completion, found them to be highly enjoyable, and moved on with my life.
A few days ago, I was browsing the Google Play store on my phone and stumbled across a new entry in the Burrito Bison series, subtitled Launcha Libre.  It’s an all-new game with the core mechanics adjusted for a touch screen and with additions like new characters and typical free-to-play elements.

The story of Burrito Bison Launcha Libre is a slight twist on the first two games.  Instead of our hero going to the land of candy, the gummy bears and their wrestlers spill out into the real world, start wrecking everything, and steal Bison’s favorite book of recipes.  Bison finds a convenient wrestling ring out in the street, and thus begins the high-speed, gummy-squashing quest to catch up with the recipe thief.
The gameplay is simple, and not much changed from the browser games aside from how you begin.  In the browser games, you’d stop a roulette wheel to determine your initial launch speed and trajectory, with the best outcome including striking the candy wrestler in the ring with you.  In Launcha Libre, you have to pull Bison back and aim him Angry Birds-style and try to hit your opponent at the right time in their taunting animation to score a critical hit and get a speed bonus, plus a money bonus whenever you drain their health bar completely.  Once the Luchador is in the air, all you can really do at first is tap to “Rocket Slam” down to strike a special bomb- or money-toting gummy bear, avoid hitting the speed-stealing police bears, or at least negate the speed penalty of hitting the ground instead of a bear.  Hitting gummy bears nets you some coins, and when you inevitably come to crashing halt, you can spend your coins on upgrades to the Luchador’s launching speed, bounciness, top speed, etcetera, unlock new wrestling opponents with better launch bonuses and KO payouts, or to unlock special gummy bears that will give you opportunities to earn big speed boosts or lots of money with proper tap timing.
As you pass certain distance milestones, you’ll unlock two additional Luchador characters who will rotate with Burrito Bison every launch.  The first new character is Pineapple Spank, a female Luchador who has a grappling hook that can pull her into special gummies when she does a Rocket Slam.  The other newcomer is El Pollo, a flamboyant, acrobatic wrestler who can gain a little bit of height before Rocket Slamming if you hold your finger on the screen.  I think El Pollo is also innately more bouncy than the other two characters, as I’ve had the easiest time getting him up to maximum height during launches.  Overall, however, I much prefer Pineapple’s hook for its ability to avoid striking the ground and the potential to chain special gummies with ease.

Launcha Libre is free to download, which means it has in-app purchases and ads.  Fortunately, neither are intrusive on the gameplay.  Ads will only play if you collect a pinata during a launch and then choose to view the ad so you can break the pinata open for its highly useful goodies.  The in-app purchases are a fairly typical spread: permanent money multiplier, power-ups, pinata packs, and a “remove ads” option that is surprisingly expensive.  Even with occasional discount “flash sales,” there’s not a lot of push or need to make in-app purchases, as it is not too hard to build up money just by playing the game and smashing the free pinatas that show up every three or four rounds.
The power-ups you can buy or win from pinatas are four-fold: Chili Bombs that explode and kick you back into the air after you crash (good for a little extra distance or busting through an area door), Rocket Fuel that grants extra Rocket Slam charges for one launch, Tacorazzi that stuns your wrestling opponent in their critical hit moment and grants a launch and damage boost when you hit, and the Peso Pals that double your earned money for a couple of launches.  All of the power-ups can be upgraded for increased effects.

Overall, Burrito Bison Launcha Libre is a simple yet fun and addicting game.  It’s quick and easy to play, and has masterful execution of the “just one more round…” mentality by becoming more rewarding and engaging as you unlock and upgrade new special gummy bears.  The art is great.  Each Luchador has a distinct personality displayed through their poses and reactions to various events.  The backgrounds are nice to look at and tell stories of the areas you’re flying through, although to see anything but a blur you’ll have to be going dangerously slow.  The music is energetic and thematically appropriate for a game about masked wrestlers flying through the air.
Whether you happen to have played the original Burrito Bison and want some updated nostalgia or are just looking for a quick, fun mobile game, I highly recommend Launcha Libre.

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