Bombing our children with fun.
I come with a warning for the conscientious parent: You have been duped. While you were weeding out the “Manhunts” and “Grand Theft Autos” from your child’s game collection, a dangerous antagonist has been trying to infiltrate the DS under the guise of a rainbow-colored carnival. Bomberman Land Touch! 2 has no fountains of arterial liquid, no saucy succubi, nor even so much as a naughty word. It’s candy-coated in wholesome charm, but is that not the perfect cover for an instrument of volatile propaganda?
[image1]The controversial journey unfolds as Cheerful White and his friends travel to the island setting of the Bom-Bom Kingdom theme park. Before they reach the gates, the group is magically teleported to the inner sanctum of the park’s proprietor, Star Bomber. Without requesting so much as a ticket, Star Bomber sends Cheerful White off to explore Bom-Bom Kingdom, uncover its secrets, and revel in an endless collection of mini-games. But can we really trust a man who so generously welcomes the youth to share his childish opulence free of charge?
After speaking with a nearby jester and playing a joyous round of jump rope, Cheerful White lines his pocket with a mysterious Star Piece. The friendly-faced jester invites Cheerful White to a rematch and rewards the second effort with a token to purchase prizes. Moving forward, the Star Piece unlocks a door that leads to more of the kingdom, with more jesters offering more free games of pleasure, more tokens, and more pieces to unlock the furthest reaches of the island.
Falling deeper and deeper into the excess of ecstasy, the jesters simply smile as their prizes are plundered. They don’t even flinch when Cheerful White buys a broom with a token, and uses that broom to sweep the dirt from a treasure chest hidden at their feet. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been to a theme park that rewards its customers without ($12.89 plus tax for a burger) compensation.
Surely you must see the perilous message lying beneath the parade of saccharine sensations, urging our suggestive youth toward a lifestyle of rampant capitalism and carefree decadence. Should Cheerful White fail a game, he is given a second, a third, even a hundredth chance to try again. Should he get lost, the fortune tellers will guide him from their booths. Cheerful White lives in a blissful world without ramifications. Is this the lesson you want your child to learn?
[image2]But if false idealism doesn’t frighten you, the cutesy portrayal of destructive weaponry will. Nearly all of the 40+ games cleverly incorporate cartoonishly oversized bombs as implementations of enjoyment. In Soccer Striker, Cheerful White has to kick an explosive soccer ball into a goal. Thank goodness, the defenders are only cardboard cutouts. The same, though, cannot be said about Bomber House, in which Cheerful White and his friends happily fling weapons of mass destruction in a game of hot potato. Even the beat-matching of Boom Tunes, which could have been delightfully intense, has some explosive results. Marketing weapons of mass destruction to children? That's just plain wrong.
Unlike many DS titles based around mini-games, Bomberman demands increasingly quick reflexes, precision, and constant practice. But what is it all for? Consider the striking similarities of Cheerful White to a modern assassin of recent fame, Altaïr. Both hide scowls beneath hoods of white; both have at least one deformed appendage; and both endure hours of meaningless tasks while traipsing through unfamiliar kingdoms. Early puzzles, like demolishing a rock with a newfound bomb, quickly give way to continual fetch quests. When Cheerful White reaches the forests of the Moon Zone, a ninja challenges him to a game of hide and seek that covers every area previously explored. In fact, any time Cheerful White reaches a new area, a new objective inevitably sends him back to whence he came.
Bomberman Land Touch! 2 is more than an exercise in patience. It’s a devious device, designed to slowly grate your child’s independent spirit away, and rebuild him or her into a loyal pet willing to obey the most arbitrary commands. When your child has been re-educated and properly desensitized, it’s clear what all this training is for... Battle Mode.
Battle Mode is exactly the type of “simulator” that our stalwart defenders of morality warned us about, and viciously makes the previous Story Mode look as scandalous as an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. The cardboard cutouts, tokens, and friendly challenges are gone, leaving behind the purified horrors of senseless destruction. With room for eight human opponents to vie for supremacy over the bomb-(Bin-)laden battlefield, Battle Mode rekindles the ‘classic’ era of Bomberman, when such unbridled violence escaped our ignorance.
[image3]As if tossing bombs at friends weren’t enough to shake the foundations of decency, Battle Mode willingly disperses the tools to modify the simulation for any scenario imaginable. Players can set the size of the arena, methods for scoring the grisly deaths, and the availability of power-ups for unspeakable heights of atrocity. Once their anarchist training is complete, children can even compare their ratings of mayhem against others who have been lured by temptation and enlist them as ‘friends’ for future skirmishes.
Bomberman Land Touch! 2 proves that deception truly is a sly creature. As a mature gamer of virtuous standing, even I nearly succumbed to the free-spirited fun of Star Bomber’s kingdom of carnival games. I pushed my skills to capture every last token, and had the monotonous backtracking not dragged late into the evening, I might have been lost forever. Unfortunately, it may be too late for others. The ‘old-schoolers’, the slovenly miscreants of gaming, will surely fall prey to the primal frenzy of Battle Mode. Is that the future you want for your child?