Online Bomberman and minigames. What more could fans ask for?
While the Bomberman Land series has been around since PlayStation days, this is the first time the series is seeing release outside of Japan. Touch! Bomberman Land retains the anime-styled Bomberman, thankfully avoiding the dark Act Zero style recently seen on Xbox 360. The three modes of gameplay are the Land Mode, which is a small RPG of sorts, Attraction Mode, which contains 36 mini-games, and Bomberman Battle Pack, featuring the classic Bomberman game. All in all, Touch! Bomerman Land is a nice little package.
It is the Gold Bomber’s birthday and his father has given him and his friends the chance to visit the Bomber Island attractions. In Land Mode, players control the White Bomber, guiding him around Bomber Island by using the stylus. Bomber Island is a pirate-themed park divided into five sections, four based on playing card suits, and a final castle.
Often, characters will have tasks for the White Bomber to perform, or they will challenge him to compete in one of the mini-games. These tasks must be completed to make progress in the game. Additionally, there are various other challenges throughout the game, such as collecting stamps from each area and from bosses and rivals.
Successful completion of mini-games yields cards of the same suit as the section where the game is found. Often, gates prevent access to areas until players have gained enough cards of a particular suit to gain entry. Players can play the games again with increased difficulty levels, and medals are awarded for beating the mini-game a second time. Across the park, treasure may be found or bought with medals at info kiosks. These treasures include items and costumes that White Bomber must use in order to pass certain areas; for example, a light source is needed in cave areas. Kiosks also serve other uses, such as warping between the different zones.
I was surprised by the large amount of text in the game and glad to hear that Atlus is taking up localization for North America. White Bomber receives many e-mail messages from other characters in the game, reminding or directing him to a goal to be met. The primary detraction of Land Mode is the large amount of backtracking and replaying of the same mini-games in order to make progress; this annoyance is amplified if you cannot read what your next goal is.
The mini-games are widely varied, but all feature one theme: bombs. There are sports-based games, some of which reminded me of the mini-games in Mario Tennis Power Tour, but with touch control. There are mini-games that require quick reaction to match, sort, or otherwise recognize objects. A few of the games even require the microphone to be used, for example, to blow out fuses. The mini-games make fun diversions, but they get repetitive faster than the ones found in Super Mario 64 DS.
Once a mini-game is reached on Land Mode, it is unlocked for play in Attraction Mode. Attraction Mode records best scores, and it can also be played on local wireless with up to four players. Different characters can also be unlocked in Land Mode for use in Attraction Mode.
Unlike the previous game in the series, Bomberman DS, Bomberman Battle Pack uses standard controls only. Players are even prompted to put down or pick up their stylus when switching between modes. The basic layout of the game is similar to Bomberman DS, with a grid on each screen connected by a set of tunnels. There can be up to eight human players in multiplayer mode, and the CPU controls any remaining characters up to a maximum total of eight. The game includes single and multi-card play, as well as online competition through Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. There are twenty different variations of board, from the standard grid-and-boxes, to races for a crown, and a version where the object is to color as much of the ground using bomb blasts. Similar to other recent Bomberman games, defeated players may lob bombs into the playing field. A successful attack will allow that player to rejoin the game, adding to the frenzy.
Online multiplayer is limited to a maximum of four human players, and CPUs control the remaining players. Unfortunately, there seems to be some problems with the network code as games can be extremely laggy. The more players there are, the more chance there is of this lag occurring. Even when the game runs at full speed, an occasional lag can cause players to mistime their actions, with potentially fatal results. This makes online multiplayer often unplayable, but when it does work, it’s quite fun. Players dropping before a set of matches is over also negates any stats that would have otherwise been recorded.
The combination of online classic Bomberman play and unique mini-games make Touch! Bomberman Land a highly recommended purchase. However, due to the text-heavy nature of the game and current problems with online play, I advise holding off on buying the game until it is released stateside. The November release of the slightly renamed Bomberman Land Touch! isn’t that far off. Still, the savvy importer can find it at Lik-Sang.