NINTENDO DS REVIEW: BOMBERMAN

Bomberman makes decent use of the touch control and the dual screen of the Nintendo DS but the actual gameplay is a rehashed version of Bomberman from the N64 days.

There's nothing wrong with classic Bomberman. After all the incarnations and variations it's the old grid system that seems to work the best. Using the features of the DS breathes some new life into the gameplay, especially the multi-player modes which are fantastic. The voice-activated system which has been misleadingly referred to as a voice recognition system is nothing more technically advanced than the Clapper. "Clap on, clap off - the Clapper."

Bomberman is an addicting game. There's nothing quite like it as it occupies a niche somewhere between the puzzle and action genre, with a side order of strategy. The premise is simple. Bomberman navigates through a maze-like grid. The enemy also travels in this grid system. Bomberman must avoid the enemy while also trying to kill him. To do this he must place bombs in the enemy's path and activate them at the appropriate time. Each bomb explodes in all four directions of the 2D-style grid. You have to get far enough away from the blast otherwise you'll take a hit. Once you have destroyed the enemy you must find the exit to gain access to the next level. Each level gets more intense than the last.

There are lots of power-ups to mix up the gameplay. Some will increase your blast distance or increase the blast's destructiveness. Others will afford you shields and bomb punches and kicks. Using the bottom touch screen you can equip Bomberman with a series of these power-ups. In a controversial decision the developers have decided to let Bomberman keep using a particular power-up until his demise. It's a decision that will tick off purists but makes the game much more accessible to beginners. If you don't like this single-player mode don't discount the entire game because the multi-player aspect is simply killer.

Up to eight players can take part in the multi-player modes, with just one copy of the game. The Deathmatch mode is one of the best I've played on a handheld system. The action is simply frightening. Unlike the AI, it's much easier to trap human players that aren't always able to get out of the way of the blast. Sometimes they underestimate the size of the fallout while other times they either don't see it or forget to get out of the way. In any case you can capitalize on your opponents' mistakes. The AI doesn't seem to make many of them.

The lower screen displays half of a battle arena which gives you a lot of play area. It requires a good deal of concentration to keep track of everything that's going on. The simple and colorful graphics make it easy to size up the onscreen action instantly. There isn't a lot of detail or extraneous gauges, meter or displays.

Bombs can be detonated by voice commands. That might sound cool but it's really just an annoying novelty. As long as you yell anything into the mic it will read that as a signal to active the detonation command. You can yell any four-letter word into that you want, and yes, you can even clap your hands to instigate a command. So much for voice recognition.

Bomberman is sure to find a new audience with this game although it's bound to alienate some diehard fans unless they get into the multi-player modes. If you've got a DS, you must rent Bomberman just to see what the fuss is all about. Until next time may you stay out of the blast radius and keep all your teeth in your head.

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System: DS
Dev: Hudson
Pub: Ubi Soft
Released: June 2005
Players: 1 - 8
Review by Ms. Kelly
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
2.5
VALUE
4.5