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Deathbulge: Battle of the Bands Review

Deathbulge: Battle of the Bands Review

In this era where we’re all chronically online, you can’t escape the barrage of things to agree to, from Terms and Conditions to email promotions. It’s so easy to just skip the reading and hit “accept”. Even contracts are lucky to get a skim. But you know what they say: always read the fine print. If you don’t, you might end up like Deathbulge, a trio of talented, headbanging musicians who unknowingly signed up for a Battle of the Bands tournament that’s more er… deadly than they anticipated.

Deathbulge: Battle of the Bands is a cartoony turn-based RPG set in a colourful world teeming with sick beats, legendary signing fish, muscular forests, and puns upon puns. If you’ve been a longtime fan of Dan Martin’s Deathbulge webcomics or discovered the game during its Kickstarter campaign, you’re already familiar with Martin’s Adventure Time–esque art style and unhinged humour. However, if you’re like me and this is your intro to this hilarious universe, don’t worry! The game is great as a standalone piece, and you’ll never feel lost narratively or like you’re not “in” on the joke. Plus, you can always explore the comic archives to see where it all started! I definitely plan to.

Deathbulge Battle Of The Bands K kwak

You play as the three band members of Deathbulge: Faye, Ian, and Briff. They’re a silly bunch who jam out together in the musical town of Bopstead, which is home to a rich scene of musicians — hence the name (and the loud house parties)! There’s no better place to host sign-ups for the 100th Battle of the Bands tournament, and Faye signs them up immediately. Winning could skyrocket the trio’s popularity, especially since they’d get the chance to tour alongside Pokalyps — the greatest demon metal band of all time. The gambit? Each band that participates is inflicted with a curse that allows them to literally fight and heal with music. Who knew nailing a sick drum solo could be a matter of life or death?

The turn-based combat in Deathbulge is fun, varied, and fast-paced. The flow of battle is determined by the player’s and enemy’s action bars, each of which is divided into four Measures. Each turn, your active band member will have a marker that travels across each Measure, and throughout the battles, there are various buffs and debuffs that take up one or more of the four sections. At some point, you might find yourself stacked with four Haste statuses across your action bar, zooming through multiple turns before your foe even has time to react!

Deathbulge Battle Of The Bands Babby

Your toolkit is made up of Beats (attacks), Patches (passives), and Mods, which are abilities linked to musically-themed classes. You can mix and match each of these elements to create versatile builds across all three bandmates, and your chosen class will also alter the bandmates’ appearances. By the end of my playthrough, Ian was a blood-red Distorter, Briff was a yellow basketball-wielding Avant-Garde, and Faye was sporting her pink hair with her signature Show-off abilities. Changing your class is as easy as switching out what Mod is equipped in your character’s Class Mod slot. For example, a Tuner Mod in the slot will turn the character into a Tuner. This isn’t done just for appearances, though, as any other equipped Mods from that same Class costs half as much Hype, a resource you spend when using those abilities.

Aside from your Class, you’re given two other Mod slots, which can be from other classes if you like. At one point, I equipped Briff with a trio of Avante-Garde, Busker, and Goth Mods, which included a party buff, enemy debuff, and RNG-based healing ability. While there’s definitely a lot of variety just with these three slots, it never felt like enough, especially since there are so many abilities you discover across your playthrough. Many of them are also high risk, high reward. For example, I equipped Faye with a Mod that offered heavy damage with the caveat that two random status effects would be applied to your action bar. Most of the time, these effects were negative, such as a slow or burning damage over time. Oftentimes, the damage done to the enemy wasn’t enough to justify using this Mod, which happened to be the case with other abilities as well. With only three slots available, you have to be picky, so many of the RNG-heavy ones got pushed aside for more dependable choices. Gaining an extra slot or two around the mid-way point of the game would’ve paved the way for more risky builds while also offering a natural progression for the characters as they fight their way through ghosts, demons, and other bands.

Deathbulge Battle Of The Bands Combat

Of course, something would be amiss if Deathbulge didn’t offer us a bright spotlight for an epic heavy metal performance. Thankfully, it does! Performances are massive band-wide attacks, essentially your ultimate ability. Not only is the music and cheering crowd super fun, but these jam sessions can save you when you’re backed into a corner during combat, as they apply four effects to your Measures and an overall effect to your action bar. I mean it when I say they’re so cool and fun to use! With that said, I wish I could have used them more. To unleash one of these ultimates, you must generate 100 Glam in a single battle, which you can do by fighting with specific Mods. Unfortunately, the battles were usually over before I could even reach half of that number, so while it’s an awesome, exciting feature, it went underused, which was a shame. In fact, I wanted the final band battles and end boss encounter to go on forever because I was finally gaining enough Glam to jam out! More headbanging and hair-shredding opportunities can only be a good thing, so I hope to see more of that if we get another Deathbulge in the future.

Speaking of heavy metal, the soundtrack in Deathbulge is excellent! Leslie Wai and Patrick Henaghan are kick-ass composers who make the best funky, boppin’ tracks. It’s simply spectacular, and I still have a few of the themes stuck in my head. The music isn’t the only thing dripping with style, though. This game lets you be just as chaotic and hyped as its music, allowing you to literally kick down every single door you come across in the game. I mean, who cares about knocking when you can kick?! I have to say it caught me off guard the first time I walked up to an NPC’s house and sent his door flying straight into his television, which left me giggling for a good majority of my first 30 minutes in Bopstead.

Deathbulge Battle Of The Bands Dialogue

This game has no business being as funny, charming, and whimsical as it is, and it does all that while also balancing some more sombre themes along the way. It took me back to my first time playing titles like Undertale and OMORI, both of which are in my ever-growing list of favourite games. Deathbulge is similarly well-written, with an enthralling, zany cast of characters. It’s just downright goofy, and I love it. If anything, I wanted more of this world. More characters, more locations, more dialogue, more secrets. I know our backlogs are a bit overfilled with long RPGs these days, but I wouldn’t have minded if this was one of them.

With that said, the length is great for an indie RPG, especially one priced at £14.99. My playthrough clocked in at a little over 20 hours doing most but not all of the sidequests, and I saw that other players managed to get around 30 to 38 hours of content as well. The side gigs are so much fun to complete alongside the main storyline, and a number of them introduce you to great characters. Plus, you’ll collect plenty of helpful Beats, Mods, and Patches as rewards!

Deathbulge Battle Of The Bands Screenshot Hoho

Deathbulge: Battle of the Bands is one of the funniest games I’ve encountered this year, and I can’t get enough of these three goofy musicians. I loved the hyped turn-based battles and how the variety of classes offers a ton of variety in the ability department. If you enjoy charming characters, strange enemies, absurd humour, and epic music, this is the one for you! The devs can kick down my door with a sequel any day — just try not to fling it into the PC, please.

9.00/10 9

Deathbulge: Battle of the Bands (Reviewed on Windows)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

Deathbulge: Battle of the Bands is a superb turn-based RPG with an excellent music-themed battle system, a charming cast of characters, and non-stop jokes. Pick this one up if you need a silly escape into a boppin’ world.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Alyssa Rochelle Payne

Alyssa Rochelle Payne

Staff Writer

Alyssa is great at saving NPCs from dragons. Then she writes about it.

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