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For: PSP

Almost 'da bomb'

Product: Bomberman | Publisher: Konami | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, Multiplayer, Strategy | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), sharing one cartridge | Version: Europe
by Ed Fear
Bomberman PSP, thumbnail 1
Part of the magic of cartoons is that they can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Take anvils: in reality nothing more than boring inert lumps of metal, yet cartoons have taught us that there's little funnier than dropping one on someone's head. Bombs are another one. While actually flesh-tearing devices designed to destroy, maim and terrify, cartoons have bombs causing little more harm than scorched walls and singed feathers.

Thankfully for those of us who want to be able to enjoy bombing's benefits without undergoing a police interrogation, Bomberman grounds itself firmly in the cartoon realm.

For anyone unfamiliar with Bomberman, a brief summary. For 24 years it's been a game set in an block-littered arena in which players use bombs to tunnel a path to their competitors and, ultimately, blow them up.

Now it's the PSP's turn. And thanks to some creativity on Hudson's part, it's not quite as old-skool as we might have been expecting.

In previous versions, the single-player component of a Bomberman game has been the same as the multiplayer, albeit against computer-controlled opponents. Bomberman for PSP, however, adds a whole new 100-level adventure mode into the mix.

What's more, this installment also adds the ability to stock up and strategically use power-ups that appear during the course of play, which enhances the game hugely.

The three most important power-ups in Bomberman are those that increase your blast radius, increase your speed and increase the number of bombs that can be deployed at any one time.

Conventionally, you'd start a match in a weak state – only able to drop one short-range bomb – and so had to spend time 'powering up' before play really started. But here you're able to stock up on power-ups and keep them from one level to the next. By stocking a few in reserve you're able to start a level stronger, making the game far more immediate.

Unfortunately, while this addition may add several tons more dynamite to the Adventure mode, it still can't stop the fuse from fizzing out prematurely.

The thing is, Bomberman has never been enjoyable just because you're blowing things up. The fun emerges from the interaction between the players. While you're trying to destroy an opponent, they're also trying to destroy you, rapidly making you switch from the offensive to the defensive and back again and rarely giving you a moment's rest. One mistake means the death penalty, leaving you feeling as disappointed with yourself as you are with your opponent.

Given this well-established dynamic, it's therefore hard to understand why most of the time spent in this Bomberman's Adventure mode sees you fighting against enemies that, largely, don't plant bombs. They all have their various attack or movement patterns, but the element that unites them all is that touching them proves lethal.

So, not only do you have to worry about carefully planting your bombs to hit the ever-moving targets and ensuring that you don't get caught in your own blasts, you also now have to worry about not bumping into enemies. Invariably, that means the disappointment with failure here is often directed not at yourself but at the game for putting you in unfair situations.

Aside from the Adventure mode, Bomberman features a classic Vs-CPU mode where you battle against computer-controlled players. It's very similar to every other Bomberman title that's come before it – fast, frantic, though somewhat lacking without human opponents to taunt – but there's a nice array of arenas and lots of rules to vary, at least.

Of most interest to PSP gamers though is probably the Game Sharing mode. A feature promised but rarely seen since the PSP's launch, this enables you to play wirelessly against other PSP owners without them having to own the game. As such, the possibility of being able to play locally with others – truly the most important part of Bomberman – becomes a far more likely one, and very enjoyable it is too.

But is it enough? The Adventure mode will certainly provide some entertainment, although you'll probably get as much frustration from it, and despite the occasional inventive boss battle, the majority of the levels are rarely different enough to hide the fact that you're just bombing through the motions.

Despite the fairly solid single-player offering, there's just not enough to make this an essential full-price purchase if you're not going to be playing it with others. On the other hand, if you've got some PSP-owning friends, Bomberman will undoubtedly provide some explosive moments of fun.
Reviewer photo
Ed Fear | 6 February 2007
Arguably indispensable for those wanting and able to play with others, but despite some interesting touches the new single-player mode fizzles more than it explodes
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