The Legend of Bum-bo review | Slay inspired

Binding of Isaac creator Edmund McMillen’s latest is far from bog-standard. Here’s our review of The Legend of Bum-Bo…


The Legend of Bum-bo is where the past and future meet and tell each other pee-pee poo-poo jokes.

On the one hand, The Legend of Bum-bo will be familiar to anyone who’s ever played The Binding of Isaac (to which this is a prequel starring one of that game’s coin-loving items/characters) or been on the inside of a middle school boys’ locker room. Edmund McMillen’s latest game tasks you with lining up poop, boogers, droplets of pee, and other bodily bits and bobs to make combos in typical puzzle game fashion. The Super Meat Boy developer’s trademark toilet humour either works for you or it doesn’t, and it’s front and centre here. Luckily, if you’re the latter, the future saves the day.

Bum-bo is a brilliant evolution of the deck-building roguelike. One of the past year’s burgeoning sub-genres, these games combine card-based combat with the loot, permadeath, and randomised encounters that roguelikes are known for. Slay the Spire, the most popular example, represents this new kind of game at its purest (and simplest): you move from room to room, fight enemies with cards, collect new cards, repeat.

Bum-bo, though, highlights just how flexible this kind of game can be. The structure is generally the same: you’ll explore four dungeons, each culminating in a boss battle. You’ll gather new abilities and buffs as you go. After defeating a boss, you’ll have the opportunity to spend coins to increase stats, refill health, or reroll an element of your loadout. But Bum-bo changes the basic mechanic, subbing in match-three puzzle-solving in place of the typical card-battler interface.

Unlike Slay the Spire or Griftlands (another early genre entry that uses cards to gamify conversation) your options aren’t presented as a hand of cards for you to draw from. Instead, each new ability becomes a tab along the board. As you make matches – four bones and you can attack an enemy, four boogers and you can slow them down – your skills will charge up. Lining up a quartet of turds will, in the short term, help you throw up a barrier that your enemies will need to attack before they can come for you. In the long term, though, these moves also help you save up for a more powerful attack.

This all works wonderfully together. Giving combos a material reward imbues the match-three gameplay with long-term strategy. The steady drip of new cards and multiple playable characters also ensures that each run never feels exactly like the last.

In 2018, Yoku’s Island Express excited me with its mash-up of Metroidvania structure and pinball flipper action. Unfortunately for the future of pinball shooters, pinball RPGs, and pinball dating sims, that’s not an easy formula to replicate. You can’t just add pinball to any game. The Legend of Bum-bo, though, makes the case for the deck-building roguelike’s potential as a fertile genre, perfectly open for a vast array of combinations. This particular experiment might come with a little too much manure, though.


Bum-bo’s world, and everything in it, is made of cardboard. This gives the game a unique look, which, when paired with its excellent at-times-carnivalesque, at-times-metal soundtrack makes for a fantastic presentation. Even if what’s being presented is poo.


Stomach the gross-out humour, and you’ll find a cleverly crafted next step for the deck builder.


Genre: Deck-building roguelike
Format: PC (tested)
Developer: Edmund McMillen, James Interactive, Ridiculon
Publisher: Edmund McMillen
Price: £11.39
Release: Out now

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