We all remember Bomberman from the good Ďol days, and thankfully, this series remains mostly unchanged (at least on handhelds), so we can always expect the same kind of hectic yet strategic entertainment. Heís coming back around again early next year with Bomberman Land, which is a collection of classic and new gameplay that is sure to entice any PSP owner. Itís not going to make it in time for the holidays, but thatís okay; we always need something to play in January when the Christmas rush is over, right? So jump on board with the colorful characters of Bomberman - namely, Cool Black, Giant Gold, Cute Pink and others Ė and letís take a look at how this proud franchise remains firmly rooted in what some may call archaic foundations. Well, ďarchaicĒ generally carries a negative connotation, and thereís almost nothing about negative about this little bomb-toting guy.
There is some semblance of story to Bomberman Land, according to IGNís hands-on testing. Yeah, we didnít expect it, either, but the fact remains. It seems Cool Black and Giant Gold get into a bit of a tiff at the start, and even worse, theyíre fighting on a jet (good move, guys). The plane ends up crashing, which splits the Land into pieces and causes the inhabitants to suddenly come down with a case of amnesia. We have no idea why, but then again, it seems abundantly clear Hudson Soft isnít interested in weaving ďCitizen Kane 2,Ē here. No, they would never go overboard and attempt to actually provide drama in a Bomberman title; what we really have is comical and light-hearted, despite the severity of the preceding description. The entire purpose of this game is to entertain in a way not dissimilar to the Katamari gamesÖthereís some nonsense mixed in with a whole lot of kookiness, so hopefully, thatís your kind of thing. If not, at least you can take solace in the fact that there are some interesting mini-games awaiting you in this new adventure. Mini-games, evidently, represent the backbone of this title, and there appear to be lots of them.
But before we get to the mini-game idea, bear in mind the traditional Battle Mode is back and better than ever. Hudson would never rob us of that! It seems everything we loved about the old Battle has returned along with a few extra power-ups, which means this may be the bread and butter for long-time fans of the series. We shouldnít really have to explain this mode Ė if you havenít battled it out in a Bomberman game in the past, youíre simply not a gamer Ė but we will for the sake of thoroughness. Basically, you and up to three other players (either human or computer-controlled) start at different corners of a square board with a bunch of blocks. Itís your goal to clear a path through the obstacles with your bombs, which are always your weapon of choice. These bombs can take out enemies and other players, but they can also hurt you (a nifty little bit of strategy that has always made this game what it is). Furthermore, the power-ups are sweet: a bomb pick-up lets you place more bombs at one time, the boot lets you move at twice the speed, the fireball gives your bombs a longer blast stream, etc. The key to success lies in the placement and timing of your bombs.
The Battle Mode is Bomberman Land is exactly the way youíd remember it, although they do have a few extra bonuses, like the spiky bomb upgrade that lets you pump up the placed explosive before detonating. Of course, the actual gameplay centers on the Land, which means youíll be moving on a point-to-point basis opening up new parts of the storyline. At each segment, you will get to play some of those aforementioned mini-games, and completing them will advance the plot along. We donít have the full details on all these games, but one of them is a top-down racer with what appears to be a remote-controlled car (thatís IGNís take, anyway). The controls were great, apparently, and itís just one example of the many mini-games weíll find throughout the broken-apart Bomberman Land. Weíre wondering how many of these games even resemble the old gameplay style from the Battle Mode, but weíll just have to wait to see. We donít believe Hudson is about to leave the tried-and-true behind, especially because most consumers interested in this title are probably veteran gamers and fans of the old Bomberman. You cut them out, and youíre gonna end up with very little.
But itís always nice to try appealing to a new generation, and even the best franchises need a little shaking up now and again. Besides, itís not like the Battle Mode isnít here; it is here, and itís guaranteed to deliver the same kind of multiplayer fun we all had a blast with (pun intended) 15 years ago. Bomberman Land is scheduled to arrive some time in January, and if youíve got three friends who adored the old-fashioned classic back in the day, then itís time to set up another Bomberman party. Sure, itís on a smaller screen, but you can always hook the newly redesigned PSP up to your TV! When we get a solidified release date for the game, weíll be sure to let you know.
12/7/2007 Ben Dutka