Bomberman has long been a friend of mine. I spent most of the early to mid 90’s playing either the original Bomberman or Bomberman ’93 for the Turbo Graphix 16 System. I played each until their eventual conclusion and then wouldn’t touch them for years. So when there was word that a Bomberman game would come to Xbox Live I was very excited. But at the same time I was very skeptical. So skeptical, it took me about two months to download it and the accompanying first expansion pack. However, what came out of it was quite possibly the best multiplayer Xbox Live Arcade game of all time and one of the best reasons to own an Xbox 360 that doesn’t involve a first person shooter.
The main difference between Bomberman Live and Bomberman games of old (at least like I remember them) is the 2d to 3d jump. My eyes did a flip when taking in all of the new boards and how they looked in three dimensions. They are all very detailed from the Bombermen themselves to the blocks and surroundings. This is further helped by the widescreen presentation. No silly borders filling half the screen here. Bomberman has been completely redone and it shows in the presentation. The only difficulty anybody will experience in admiring these graphics is that there might be seven other Bomberman on the screen at the same time. So it can get crowded especially once you clear the explodable blocks out of the way. That and keep tracking of all the bombs on each path can lead you to some crazy frustrating situations. However, the graphics (up to 1080i) are crystal clear and rival some of the larger retail releases in crispness and vibrancy.
Dolby Digital 5.1 is the flavor here. People who have played Bomberman in the past will feel at home with the similar type of music. It reeks of other platform arcade music and has that cuteness that we admire (or not). Bombs sound good but they don’t exactly go from speaker to speaker either. Voices are nice and clear (even if they sound like they come from a carnival). This is one of those games where the music feels completely natural. The folks at Backbone Entertainment do a great job of recreating the staples of Bomberman music and adding lots of fun sounds along the way.
Bomberman Live has a very simple premise. There are 1-7 other opponents on a given battle field. Blow through the blocks and pick up powerups along the way. These powerups can range from something as simple as Speed Up (a roller skate type icon) to something a little more crazy in the Dangerous Bomb (paired with Full Fire can take up roughly one third of the playing field). These powerups will give you the ability to dispatch the other opponents. But keep in mind that they also have this power too and will use it to their own best ability. So what do you do with these powerups; well you lay bombs of course. You start out with one bomb and a small range of firepower. As previously mentioned, this can encompass many simultaneous blasts and distance to boot.
The playing fields are vast and include many traps as well. They start off innocently such as the classic board which just has a habit of looking pretty. But they can move on to environments where cyclones can run free or fire can reach up from holes in the earth and fry you alive. Once on the playing field you can also collect costume balls which is a new concept to Bomberman. These costume balls appear randomly on the playing field and unlock various parts of many different costumes. These costumes are what you can dress your Bomberman to be totally unique. If you ever wanted your Bomberman to be a cigar chomping devil looking character with bunny ears then you can do that. Naturally there are a few achievements centered around this concept (wearing a western outfit or an all girl one) and help to reinforce the concept.
However, Bomberman Live does come with its faults. The first that comes to mind is that due to the 3d environment and hectic playing style it can be very hard to keep track of the bomb’s blast patterns. This involves yours as well your opponents. Especially at first, you will run into many situations where one wrong move will end you up on the other end of being trapped between a bomb and a hard place (literally). Be very aware of your surroundings. The second issue has to do with the lack of a true single player story mode. Sure you can play against computer opponents or live ones. Sure, you can setup dozens of options to make a crazy amount of ways to blow up your opponent. But this is all you do. Speaking from my past, the turbo versions both had these multi-stage, multi-level complete with bosses story mode. It included big bosses, crafty monsters and you were able to get acclimated with the various arenas. It was fun. This is gone from Bomberman Live. Completely vacant and very simple to recreate.
This is one of those games that you could be playing five years from now and still enjoying it. However, it’s main draw is in the multiplayer aspect. Remember, there is no story mode to go through (which is unfortunate, I don’t care how you spin it). So you live and die by blowing up real or computer opponents. The good thing is that this game has landed into heavy favor with tons of players of Xbox Live. It has been #1 on top of the arcade heap since inception. Furthermore, I don’t see anybody knocking it off anytime soon. This has prompted to the inclusion of one expansion pack with 10 new costumes, a couple of arenas and a game to be released at the tune of 250 ms points. Another pack is to follow soon (September 26th) with similar inclusions. The achievements are difficult but fair (sporting the usual 200/12 variety) as they include achievements against the computer and on Xbox Live. As long as the support is there; the replay rating is strong.
Bomberman Live is a fun game, no bones about it. If you want to blow up half a dozen computer or live opponents; this game will deliver. If you want pretty arenas and more powerups than you can count, it has that too. Great HD type graphics, 5.1 sound; all adequate and looking good. It is Xbox Live Arcade’s dream for the multiplayer arena. However, it lives and dies on that concept. Lack of a single player and seemingly hectic playing style will simply serve to be too hard for some folks will cause issues as it tries to stand the test of time. The game has fell into heavy favor with fans around the world and has gained a lot of popularity. This will hopefully continue and the game will largely succeed because of that. Expansion packs have been released and will continue to do so. So pick up some spread for your bombs, set them, kick it to reach your opponent and then laugh manically as it blows up in his face. At the end of the day, it’s Bomberman like you remember and a fine game to pick up for your Xbox Live Arcade. Recommended.
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