Ready, set, detonate.
Long before bombs were dirty, driven or flat-out missing, they were the stuff of good video games. Kaboom was an early favorite, although in that game you were supposed to put out bombs rather than blow them up. The latter is much more fun, and as evidence, I present the surprisingly stable Bomberman series.
For roughly two decades, gamers have received a steady diet of Bomberman games, one for nearly every major console. Some are better than others , but by and large the series has succeeded for so long by not messing much with the basic formula of grids, bombs, and frantic multiplayer antics.
And that's exactly what you get in Bomberman DS. While the single-player isn't particularly interesting, the folks at Hudson have delivered one of the better multiplayer games for the system. It might be an oldie, but it's also a goodie.
The single-player experience takes you through 100 stages of straightforward Bomberman gameplay. It's almost exactly like every other Bomberman game " you drop bombs to blow up blocks and enemies, collect powerups and try not to kill yourself. This time around, powerups are stored and can be activated via icons on the touch screen, lending a bit more strategy to the action. You've likely seen the 25 or so powerups before, including classics like the wicked remote bomb and the life-saving bomb kick. Really there aren't many surprises here. Boss fights and bonus stages add some flavor, but by and large the pattern-driven single-player game is a little dull for both vets and newbies.
The game really starts when you hop into Battle mode. Using only one cartridge, up to eight players can engage in a plethora of Bomberman multiplayer matches. If you don't have seven friends with the game, don't fret " any number of bots can be added to flesh it out, complete with three difficulty settings for each CPU opponent. Here's to Ubi and Hudson for making sure even the loneliest gamer can play with others.
Or at least blow others up. The multiplayer game is all about trapping your opponents in corridors of flaming death, and Bomberman DS gives you about a billion ways to enjoy this. You can toggle a great number of options, from match length to the ability to enact "Revenge' after dying (by hurling bombs at living opponents), and choose from a whopping 30 maps, each with its own rule-set and tile style. One might max out speed for all players, while another might feature hordes of diseased skulls to slow you down. A few even utilize the DS microphone by requiring you to yell to drop or detonate bombs. Clever, but a little hard to control. Plus, you'll look like a maniac on the bus screaming "BOMB!" into your lap.
Unlike the touch screen functionality of the single-player mode, Battle Mode Bomberman DS connects both screens using tunnels, making for some large, tricky matches, particularly when you're gunning at seven other players. As everyone powers up and clears the screen of blocks, it becomes a fun, hectic game of strategic survival. Simply put, this is just a smart party game and works well on the DS.
It also looks fine, albeit dated. Other than its misfires on the N64, Bomberman hasn't changed much in its look in twenty years and doesn't start now. It runs smoothly, which is about all you can ask for in terms of graphics.
In terms of sound, though, you can ask for a lot more'or a lot less, actually. The music in the single-player game might be the most grating, awful midi garbage I've heard since I grew ears. It's repetitive and stupid and will make even the artsiest J-pop fanboys hate the world. Luckily it's toned down in the multiplayer, and thank Miyamoto that the DS comes with a volume slider.
But just as you don't buy a stereo for its widescreen, you don't buy Bomberman DS for its music. You buy it because you want a fun multiplayer game to enjoy with your friends without forcing everyone to get a copy. While its single-player is a little shady, this is certainly an explosion worth investigating.