Super Bomberman R 2 Review - Screenshot 1 of 7
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Those of you who picked up the Switch during its launch period in the distant early days of 2017 may remember that, believe it or not, there were other games available at launch besides Breath of the Wild. One of those games was Super Bomberman R, which at the time was the title that broke the longest dry spell (nearly a decade) between releases in the long-running Bomberman franchise. Super Bomberman R sold relatively well considering the distinct niche it filled in the Switch library at the time, and after a rather ill-fated attempt to make a free-to-play version of that game for all platforms, Konami has now returned once again to the well with Super Bomberman R 2. At its core, this new release is little else than simply more Bomberman, but that’s hardly a bad thing when the gameplay feels this enjoyable.

Super Bomberman R 2 is fundamentally intended to be experienced as a party game, the kind of thing you play on a couch with a few friends while you shout unworthy things at each other as you repeatedly blow everyone up. Matches take place on a 13x11 grid viewed from a top-down perspective and the goal is simply to be the last (Bomber)man standing. You remove your opponents by placing timed bombs that send out plus-shaped blasts after a couple of seconds, though you have to be careful because you can easily blow yourself up if you don’t plan out your placement well.

Super Bomberman R 2 Review - Screenshot 2 of 7
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Like all great arcade games, the gameplay here is thus extremely simple while still having a very high skill ceiling that makes for consistently interesting play. Winning a round of Bomberman is partially the product of having good dexterity, but is generally more dependent upon your ability to strategize and outwit your opponents without being outfoxed yourself. There’s a lot happening on screen at once, which can make it difficult in all the right ways to keep track of everyone’s movements and, more importantly, where bombs are being placed.

Every board is littered with destructible walls that crumble under bomb blasts, so the playing field is changing with literally every action you take, which consistently keeps you on your toes. New pathways to sneak up on foes are always being opened and reliable corners of the board suddenly become a lot more open, creating all sorts of new opportunities to corral opponents into death traps.

To keep things even more dynamic, powerups are liberally tossed about following player deaths or wall destructions, offering boosts to things like your movement speed, bomb blast range, and the number of bombs you can place at once. Some of these upgrades even offer you new abilities, like being able to kick bombs that have already been placed, or to pick them up and throw them over walls. This adds an interesting metagame to each match, as the person who hasn’t been diligent about collecting upgrades will have a tough time ousting their opponent if it comes down to the two of them.

Super Bomberman R 2 Review - Screenshot 3 of 7
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Suffice it to say, it’s a wildly enjoyable time, made all the better by a smattering of interesting modes that change up the rulesets. For example, Battle 64 mode acts like an approximation of Tetris 99 or Super Mario 35 [RIP - Ed.], placing 64 players into dozens of separate boards for mini-matches. After a certain amount of time passes, players in some boards will be given only a few seconds to escape to a nearby one, where they’re tossed in with survivors from other matches to continue. This execution of the old ‘battle royale’ concept feels like a perfect fit for Bomberman’s quickfire gameplay and makes for some incredibly intense battles if you can manage to be one of the last few survivors that makes it to the final battle.

Another enjoyable mode is Crystals, which sees players split into two teams that vie for control of myriad crystals scattered around a board. Any killed players will respawn, but they drop most of their crystals when they’re knocked out, which gives others a chance to snatch them up and shift the balance of the match. What we especially enjoyed about this mode is that even though you’re ostensibly playing on the same team as your teammates, players are individually rewarded for how many crystals they have at the end of a match, which can lead to many mutinous moments where your comrades turn on you to take your crystals for themselves.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The most notable new addition here is Castle, which takes an interesting asynchronous approach to a battle on a much larger board than usual. Here, one player is designated as the king of the ‘castle’, while up to 15 other players work together to collect keys that they then use to unlock a few chests scattered across the board. They lose if they don’t get all the treasure chests, but they have the advantage of numbers for overwhelming their regal foe. The king, however, benefits from having a much larger board packed with traps and obstacles, alongside boons like a shield that allows them to take more hits before being knocked out and powers such as a laser beam that can kill multiple foes in one shot.

What makes this mode much more interesting is the fact that the king initially selects the board that the match will be played on, and while there are a number of premade ones to choose from, you’re encouraged to design your own boards in advance. The board-building mode feels a bit like a clunkier version of Super Mario Maker, and gives you a variety of walls, hazards, and enemy spawners that you can place however you want. To save your creation, you have to playtest the board, so it can’t be too unfair, but we appreciated this chance to get creative and experiment with different defensive options.

Super Bomberman R 2 Review - Screenshot 5 of 7
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The only drawback here is that the controls for the level editor feel a little too fiddly; not enough to completely ruin fooling around with new builds, but certainly to make it less enjoyable than simply playing more matches with the premade boards. The flipside to this, however, is that you can also download levels designed by other players online, with various filters for types and popularity ensuring you can find exactly the kinds of boards you want. So, even if you're not creative or don't want to deal with the level editor, there's no shortage of interesting stages you can play Castle on.

While local multiplayer feels like Super Bomberman R 2's bread and butter, there’s also an extensive online suite that you’re encouraged to participate in. Crossplay is featured here, so there’s no shortage of players to match with, and we didn’t experience any hiccups in the connection during the review period. The main draw of online is that it features ranked matches for each of the game modes, with victories and various activities offering you EXP for moving up the ranks. Though the rankings weren’t open during the review period, we can easily see how this will add tons of replayability to the overall experience, and we’re eager to see how the meta unfolds once Season 1 kicks off.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Whether you play online or offline, participation in matches earns you some currency for your account, and this can then be invested in the in-game shop for tons of cosmetic collectibles and, most importantly, different playable characters. Every character has different starting stats that dictate things like movement speed and bomb blast radius, which makes them more than simply different skins you can choose between. Plus, there are a bunch of guest characters here from beyond the Bomberman universe that bring their own fun gimmicks—our favorite was Simon Belmont, whose iconic Vampire Killer whip can be used to drag bombs and opponents closer.

If multiplayer isn’t your thing, there is a single-player campaign on offer, though it in many ways feels like more of a tutorial for the multiplayer than a fully fleshed-out, standalone component. Here, the Bomberman Bros. are pitted against the Black Moon—a mysterious Death Star-like planet run by a shadowy villain and his army of Lugion creatures. There are three planets to explore on your quest to find a way to destroy the Black Moon, and each is comprised of a series of interconnected levels that you freely explore.

Every area has a few Ellons—helpful, Pikmin-esque spirits—for you to discover, and collecting more Ellons allows you to unlock later areas, activate warp points, and eventually gain access to enemy bases. Along the way, you navigate mazes, blow up enemies roaming them, and occasionally stumble upon brief puzzle rooms that offer you more Ellons if you can manage to find them. Just about every time you blow up an enemy or another breakable wall, experience points will drop that periodically raise your level and your various stats.

Super Bomberman R 2 Review - Screenshot 7 of 7
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Single-player acts as a fine distraction if you dip into it to clear a few more areas and ferret out some more Ellons, but it gets awfully repetitive for more than a half hour at a time. Bomberman is at its best when you’re competing with a few other players in lightning rounds that only last a few minutes each, but this single-player campaign has you trudging through dozens of monotonous mazes that are virtually no different than the previous ones while offering little challenge. Still, it’s cool to see how Bomberman plays as a more open-world-style experience, and it feels like this could be the foundation for a much more compelling game mode if it was fleshed out. In its current state, the campaign is simply an inoffensive companion to an enjoyable party game—it doesn’t really demand your attention, but it’s there if you want it.

For its visuals, Super Bomberman R 2 feels just a little disappointing, but the art style here is fine. Boards are easily readable and are decorated with various themes, but there’s a lingering sense that more could’ve gone into making Super Bomberman R 2 a flashier and more visually appealing experience. The simplistic models and basic animations come across a little flat—they lack that extra oomph needed to make these graphics more memorable. That said, you’ll hardly have time to scrutinize texture quality or count the angles of models during the rambunctious madness of any given match. Though the visuals may be disappointing, they don't distract from the simple joy of the gameplay.

Conclusion

Super Bomberman R 2 is a triumphant and feature-rich return for the explosive icon. The new Castle mode brings some interesting twists to the classic formula (though the level editor feels like it could use a little more work) while all the chaotic arcade gameplay that’s carried this series for 40 years proves to be just as compelling as it’s always been. Pair that addictive gameplay with an extensive multiplayer suite and lots of unlockables, and you’ve got something that’s easy to recommend to anyone looking for the next great multiplayer release to break out on game night. It’s a little less easy to recommend if you intend on playing entirely solo—the single-player offering is a bit thin here—but the endless replayability of the online component makes it a great pick otherwise.