Review: Bomberman Blast (WiiWare)

Everyone's favourite arsonist is back with a blast from the past!

Of all well-known videogame characters, Bomberman has got to be the one who has stayed the closest to his roots. Almost every single Bomberman game features the exact same goal: grab power-ups, avoid the blasts of your opponents' (and your own!) bombs and then blow them up! While some early games expanded on this, for example by including a story mode, only recently has Bomberman strayed away from bomb-laying madness, with largely superfluous mini game collections on the Wii and DS. But with this WiiWare title, he’s most definitely gone back to his roots.

Bomberman Blast was originally going to be a retail game. Featuring a completely new story mode, much like the older games, plus an 8-player online battle mode, it looked as if Hudson was trying to please the older fans. They also planned to release the battle mode separately on WiiWare, for those who were not interested in the story mode (WiiWare game owners would also be able to play against owners of the retail game). Sadly, the retail game fell through for Europe and North America, which means that you can only get the battle mode portion of the game on WiiWare. Lucky Japanese gamers will still get the full blown version, it seems.

If you’ve ever played a Bomberman battle mode, you know what to expect: there’s a big grid-like arena filled with blocks. Your objective is to clear a way through the blocks using bombs, eventually finding your way to opponents and blowing them up to defeat them. The blocks between intersections cannot be destroyed – every other block can, and, aside from clearing a path, will possibly reveal a power-up. Unlike most previous games, in which the maximum number of players was 4, you can play with up to 8 people here: as in 5-player TurboGrafx-16 games on the Virtual Console, this is done by using 4 Wii remotes and connecting 4 GameCube controllers. The fun doesn’t end there, however, as you can play the game with your favourite Mii avatar, rather than a Bomberman, although this feature has to be unlocked (It'll come rather fast however).

Aside from classic power-ups like the red flame icon (blast radius increase), the curse (random temporary negative effect, can be spread to other players) and the boot (lets you kick bombs), there’s a few new ones, activated by shaking the Wii remote. If you grab a shield, you can block blast fire, if you have a rocket you can lift off to avoid a blast, and if you have a bomb change, you can disguise as a bomb!

Aside from more normal power-ups such as the above, there are also a few more elusive ones that actually change your bomb type. None of these are new: you’ve probably seen the Jelly Bomb (bounces around randomly) and Mines (disappear underground) before, among others. It appears the Remote Bomb has been excised from this instalment, as it would be too powerful!

The stages have all had a massive overhaul. The regular old “Classic” stage, with its green floor and gray blocks, is still the same as always. Other stages will heavily affect the gameplay, however. Some of them simply have additional obstacles to watch out for, but others actually influence the players. The “Hyper Feet” stage, for example, starts all players off at maximum speed, meaning it’ll be very hard to keep track of what’s happening! There are a total of 10 stages to pick from this time, of which 2 have to be unlocked. All stages also have a “large” and “small” version, for those who prefer things even more hectic!

Of course, the regular battle mode alone won’t cut it – so there’s a bunch of new game modes as well. In Air Raid, nobody can lay bombs. The objective, instead, is to run around dodging the bombs that rain from the sky! After they land you have a few seconds to find a safe spot (the ground is covered in markers revealing where the fire will spread). Of course the objective here is to be the last man standing!

In ‘King’ mode, the gameplay is reminiscent of ‘King of the Hill’ seen in many other games. Players compete to grab a crown in the centre of the arena, after which they attempt to be the one holding it when the time runs out. Simply touching the person with the crown will not let you steal it: tou have to hit him with a blast to knock it off. Getting hit by a blast at any time here will never kill you.

Some other old features return as well. For example, if the remaining time begins to run low, indestructible blocks will gradually begin to fall down, filling up the whole arena. If the match isn’t ended before the time is up, you’ll get squashed! The popular ‘Revenge Mode’ is also back: any players who are killed will be able to pilot a machine around the edges of the arena, throwing bombs (with the smallest possible blast radius) to harass the remaining players.

Obviously this review can’t end without talking about the online mode, which has all the features of normal multiplayer, including the ability to play against a maximum of 7 opponents. Before each match, every player votes on the mode they would like to play, followed by the arena, the one with the most votes winning. Sadly, at the moment not a single person seems to want to play anything except ‘Classic’ mode on the Classic stage, but hopefully this will change over time. You can also go online with 3 friends playing on the same console: a nifty feature some other recent games have done as well.

The only real downer in this game is that none of the classic Bomberman music is there. Instead Hudson opted to use Bomberman Generation music! Having put so much effort in making everything else as classic as possible, we can’t imagine why Hudson would do this.

Conclusion

If you don’t own an Xbox 360 and are a fan of Bomberman, you must have been slightly jealous for a while now. Bomberman Live, a downloadable title on the system, also features 8-player online Bomberman action. Your misery ends now, however, because Bomberman Blast captures mostly everything Bomberman Live has, and adds some excellent new content into the mix. It’s been a long time since we got some classic Bomberman action on a Nintendo console, but it’s back now, and possibly better than ever.