Review: Reach out and blow up someone.
The Bomberman series has the distinction of having appeared on almost every major home console (that's major
, sorry Jaguar) since the original game debuted on the NES in 1985. The law of diminishing returns would suggest that the quality of these titles should decrease over time (right Mega Man?). However, Hudson has magically still managed to keep the series fresh and attractive after twenty years (like Jennifer Beals, mrrraow). Case in point---the recent release of the adorable pyromaniac's second DS outing, Bomberman Land Touch!
Unlike the almost universally maligned Bomberman: Act Zero for the Xbox 360 (which unconfirmed rumors suggest is made from the blood of slaughtered puppies), Bomberman Land Touch! retains the cartoon-like robotic Bomberman characters of old. The game is divided up into three modes: story, attractions, and battle. In the story mode players take control of Bomberman (here called ?Cheerful White?). A pirate who states his intent to ?plunder and pillage? awakes an alarmed Cheerful White early one morning. What seems like the start of a snuff film soon turns into an innocent trip to the pirate-themed amusement park Bomber Island for White and his friends. It seems that Giant Gold, a fellow Bomberman, has received a full day at the theme park courtesy of his rich father and decided to bring everyone along for the ride. Once there, Cheerful White and company must compete against one another in the attractions in order to win the ultimate prize--- the title of King Pirate. Needless to say we are not talking about cinematic storytelling here, but if you were looking for Metal Gear or Final Fantasy then you're playing the wrong game.
The aforementioned attractions are Mario Party-esque mini-games strewn throughout the island. The player accesses these through an overworld that is divided into a number of zones. In the overworld, the game functions similarly to a point-in-click adventure. Here White talks to other characters, collects items, and navigates to other areas. The player accesses each new zone by collecting various cards. The player obtains these primarily through winning mini-games. For example, to access a part of Club Zone, you must have four club cards and four diamond cards. Each card is available from the mini-games in its corresponding zone. These can also be obtained through a series of interesting side-quests. For example, in one you must play hide and seek with a vampire. In another, you must compete in a costume contest.
The mini-games are for the most part well-designed and unique. In one, the player must balance a bomb at the end of a stick. In another, you must blow into the DS microphone in order to blow out bombs' fuses (see a common theme here?) The object usually is to reach a specified score or complete the given task under a certain time limit. The difficulty ranges from simple to moderately challenging. However, none of the games are overwhelmingly difficult. Even if you don't make it in the first try, a few more attempts will usually yield success.
The game encourages replaying mini-games, for in doing so gives the player the chance to win tokens that can be used to buy items at the info booth. Additionally, other characters in the game will often E-mail White and challenge him to compete against them in a certain mini-game. Often times the prizes one wins in these games are items the player can equip to White for use in accessing areas and finding more items. The miner's helmet for instance is needed to see in the cave areas. In another, there is an electrified floor. To pass, the player must first find a rubber suit by winning a nearby mini-game.
The player controls Cheerful White exclusively with the stylus. When it comes to movement in the overworld this works very well. All you have to do is hold the stylus down on the screen and White will run there. Navigation is at times a problem, but fortunately the game gives the player an ample number of maps. However this doesn't solve the at times annoying obstacles that the player must overcome to get from one point to the next. For example, to first reach Club Zone, the player must pilot a ship through shark-infested waters. If the sharks hit you once, you have to start all over again. Smaller obstacles like having to balance on pipes to reach mini-games are only slight annoyances, but nevertheless beg the question as to why the designers put them there in there in the first place. They almost seem like lame attempts to integrate some sort of platforming element. It would have been more advisable to stick solely to the adventure conventions.
For the most part the control functions well in mini-games. There are certain instances however where the area you must interact on the DS screen is too small and hampers movement. One prominent example is the mini-game where you must spin a ball that White is riding on in a circle to make it roll forward. Often times the ball is just too small to allow for adequate circular motion with the stylus.
Once you are done with the story mode, there is an attractions mode to satiate you. The attractions mode features all the mini-games you have completed thus far in the main game. These can be played competitively with other players wirelessly, either with or without cartridges. However, while the mini-games are necessary for completion in the story mode to advance, none of them are really that compelling to warrant playing again and again on their own.
Any series' fan will tell you that the main draw of a Bomberman game is the multiplayer Battle Mode. Thankfully, Bomberman Land Touch! provides the multiplayer crack that Bomber-addicts crave. For those unfamiliar with the series, the object of battle mode is to lay waste to the other players by blowing them up with?you guessed it?bombs! Here the game abandons the stylus control in favor of the standard D-pad setup. The battle takes place in a rectangular arena. Hudson wisely chose to expand the battle area in Bomberman Land Touch! by making use of both DS screens. The result is one very large battlefield.
During battle, players can obtain other items by blowing apart destructible rubble. These range from items that increase the number of bombs you can plant and the range of your explosion. Additionally, a kick item allows you to push the bombs across the screen at the competition. Surprisingly the punch and throw abilities are absent from this game. This is somewhat of a letdown considering the fun one could have in past entries of lobbing explosives at the competition and trapping them against a wall. Nevertheless, it is a decent trade-off since it disallows ?cheap kills.?
There are several stages available for play, ranging from the pedestrian ?normal ?battle arena to ones filled with spikes, trap doors and other obstacles. Likewise there are a number of different play options in addition to the free-for-all, deathmatch style. In one, a player's explosion changes the ground tiles it hits to his or her respective colors. The player with the most of the battle arena colored in his or her shade when the time is up wins. In another players start on the bottom DS screen and must blow up obstacles to make their way to the top of the upper screen to snag a crown there and win.
Up to eight players can play multiplayer through local wireless. What's even better is that this requires only one cartridge! The game supports WiFi, but unfortunately only four players can play in this manner. The lag during the WiFi games can at times be frustrating, but only a few times did I find it game-ending. It can also take some time to find other players out there, so get used to playing with quite a few computer controlled characters.
Bomberman Land Touch! is presented in the familiar overhead 2-D perspective. The graphics are colorful and game's tone, but do not look significantly better than the average Game Boy Advance title. Nevertheless they do not affect the gameplay, so it is almost hardly worth mentioning.
Likewise the sound follows suit. The sound effects are simple but get the job done. They are mostly clicks and clacks with the occasional explosion. The music, while not memorable, again fits the game appropriately and is exciting when it needs to be, but again is not memorable by any means.