IGN Review of Bomberman Land Touch!
If there was one videogame franchise that spent 20 years with an identity crisis, it's Hudson's Bomberman. Here's a game that found its mark as one of the most addictive and brilliant multiplayer games during the 8 and 16-bit gaming days, and yet Hudson spent much of its time aiming to make its bombing hero some sort of versatile gaming superhero. Do a search for "Bomberman" and you'll find that in two decades the company went nuts creating puzzle games, racing games, and sports games for its Bomberman character, never ever hitting the design success it had with its multiplayer arena battling experience.
But it's pretty clear with Bomberman Land Touch! that Hudson's finally realizing what it has. Here's a game that definitely strays in design to produce something different and unique for the single player crowd, but it does so without abandoning the core Bomberman idea. Bomberman Land Touch! is a gathering of mini-games in an adventure presentation, but it's actually paired up with a fully-realized, full-featured multiplayer Bomberman production as a second portion of the product. The best part is that both portions are really good DS experiences: the mini-game adventure, like many mini-game collections, definitely has its occasional dud design, and the multiplayer battle arena isn't drastically different than last year's Bomberman DS. But finally, Hudson finally gets it. This is a Bomberman spin-off that makes way more sense than past spin-offs, and is easily well worth the dime.
Bomberman Land Touch! puts players in a strange world of Bomber characters on a quest across an island filled with all sorts of bomb-related mini-games. By completing challenges and solving puzzles you'll earn credits to gain access to other portions of the map, as well as unfold the very strange and silly story that never takes itself too seriously. The questing portion takes place in an isometric, three-quarter view (not unlike the Saturn version of Bomberman World, released only in Japan) and control is handled by a simplistic mouse-like stylus-on-touch screen motion that's very easy to utilize. In fact, no buttons are ever used during the adventure portion of Bomberman Land Touch, a decision that definitely simplifies the presentation with a very non-complex interface.
Hudson has had a lot of experience in the mini-game collection genre having developed some of the most successful on the market. Mario Party, anyone? In Bomberman Land Touch!'s case, the three dozen different mini-games are obviously a mixed bag, but there are definitely a few gems here. Some of the favorites include a Bomberman Bowling competition where players roll bombs down an alley to explode the "pins" out of play, and a Track & Field hammer throw where players spin and throw a bomb as far as they can. For every gem there are one or two duds, including simple tasks like running really fast simply by sliding the stylus back and forth, or a "Search and Rescue" challenge where players shine spotlights on stranded characters out in the ocean. Once a design has been unlocked in the adventure it can then be accessed outside of this mode for both single and single-cartridge multiplayer challenges.
Now, nothing you do within Bomberman Land Touch!'s adventure will affect the other mode in the package: the multiplayer Battle Pack. Battle Pack is essentially Hudson's official terminology for the multiplayer arena battle design that really, honestly made Bomberman a household name in the videogame world. It seems like it's intentionally segmented from the rest of the product to show fans of Bomberman that Hudson has kept the classic design as untouched as possible.
Battle Pack builds off of the multiplayer, dual-screen Bomberman DS design, so if you've played around with last year's release you're not going to find a whole lot different here. But that's a good thing: this is the true Bomberman experience with all sorts of customization options to make anyone and everyone who's battled in past Bomberman happy. Every Bomberman fan is different: some like sudden death, others love taking revenge on players after they've been taken out of the competition. If you can think of an option that can and should be tinkered with in Bomberman, it's more often than not here in Battle Pack.
The best part about this game is the fact that it enables up to eight players to battle against each other, requiring only a single cartridge to power the gameplay across all eight systems in the network. Each character in the game can be human or computer controlled, which means if you've only got three players but want to fill the arena with mayhem you can stuff the screen real estate with five bot players of different AI difficulties. On top of the local area network function, players can also take Bomberman online via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service, but due to limitations only four human players can compete with the rest handled by computer AI bots. The Wi-Fi Connection support is really solid but does suffer from a bit of lag if you're playing against opponents in, say, Japan...and yes, the US version of the game will actually interface with the Japanese version that's been available in that territory for months.
Battle Pack is enormously fun especially with multiple players. Computer opponents have a bit of an upperhand as they have always had, since they always seem to know the size of a bomb's explosion beforehand and stay exactly that far away before it goes off. And it's also frustrating being knocked out of a hybrid human/computer opponent competition, since computer opponent battles seem to drag on for the entire duration of a match due to the routines knowing exactly what each other can and will do.
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