When I first saw Friday Night Bullet Arena, I have to admit, it didn’t look that appealing. Indeed, my colleagues seemed to share my apathy to the point where I was given the task of writing this review. Oh, how I’m laughing now.

Friday Night Bullet Arena is a nostalgic throwback to some of the games that I played as a teen. Take the likes of Bomberman, Gauntlet and a little bit of the Smash TV and you’re more than halfway there. It’s a relatively short install, so it won’t be long until you’re launched into some action.

Red Nexus Games have done well to capture that retro feel to the graphics and keep the game engaging. Too often, the retro feel is the be all and end all of the title. FNBA gives you the nostalgia and delivers on the fun. What more could you ask for?

The first thing that will hit you is that the game is pretty basic. There’s no fancy first-person, mammoth maps to wander around. It’s a top-down, semi 3-D arena with various objects within it. The idea is to shoot your opponent. You have one bullet to do this, but there’s a little twist. You can catch your bullet after you’ve shot it, but only yours obviously.

The configuration of the arena may include gaps in the walls enclosing it. These gaps allow the bullet to wrap around and through to the other side, a bit like Pac-Man used to. This means that a certain amount of thought is needed on your placement as you might get shot from behind if you’re careless. The game plays much like Bomberman. There are times when you are simply too focused on trying to manipulate your opponent into a position to shoot them that you don’t notice that they have done exactly that to you.

There are a couple of features in the heat of battle that you have to bear in mind as well. Nearing the end of the battle, consisting of a number of rounds until one player achieves a specific score, the players who have the lower score will develop a shield. This shield takes one shot to remove, meaning the final rounds last a little longer. The other feature to worry about is that you cannot run through your opponents.

Just like in real life, you bounce off. If you’re unlucky enough to be next to a wrap-point in the arena, however, you won’t wrap, you’ll get belly-bounced out of the play area and lose a life. It can be a frustrating way to not win.

Friday Night Bullet Arena

Getting down to the nitty gritty of Friday Night Bullet Arena, then, the graphics aren’t going to win realism awards. It doesn’t matter though. It helps to keep the actual gameplay smoother than an android’s rear. Your on-screen player is responsive, moving at a pretty good rate, able to hop out of the way at the flick of the stick.

Firing your bullet is as simple as tapping one of the action buttons; A fires down, Y fires up, etc, or if you prefer, you can push the right directional stick to do the same. The only gripe I have with the controls is that at no point does it tell you that you can do this. It’s left to you to find this out. I spent the first couple of games only firing down until it dawned on me.

The one thing you will definitely need to know before deciding to purchase Friday Night Bullet Arena, is that it is local multi-player only. Definitely a couch-party game, and the more players, the more fun, or frustrating in a good way, that it is. There is no single-player option. The addition of this would have gained a higher score I think as a single-player, Arkanoid-type arena crawl against bots would have been a fun thing to get involved with. For this reason, if you rarely have friends over or mainly game on your own, it will have limited appeal. The other thing you need to take into consideration is that this is a US release, so you won’t find it on the UK Store.

Friday Night Bullet Arena

Overall, as a couch party-title, both myself and my son enjoyed Friday Night Bullet Arena. It was simple enough to pick up and evokes memories of some of the better retro titles that offered this type of fun, accessible gaming. There are some great features, such as being able to defend yourself from bullets with your own bullet and the graphics are interesting and quirky enough for the presentation to remain interesting. The game suffers from a severe lack of single-player interest though, with no campaign or 1-player vs bots mode. As a couch-shooter though, it’s worth picking up as it’s not only fun, but frustrating and irritating, all in a good way, at the same time.

Thanks to Red Nexus Games and Xbox for supporting TiX