Hudson Soft probably isn't a name most people remember, but Bomberman is. This small, Japanese game house created the space-suited explosives junkie in 1983. Now in 2007, Hudson Soft seeks to revisit their success by developing another version of Bomberman exclusively for Sony's PSP. This iteration builds on the original formula of explosive puzzle-solving to create an evolved version of a classic game.
Bomberman PSP is built on the foundation of Bomberman 1983. You're in a maze. You blow up bricks to reveal the exit. You blow up enemies you find along the way. Simple enough, but Bomberman PSP adds another element: power-ups. Bomberman can destroy “soft blocks” to enhance his power. Depending on the world you're in, these soft blocks are represented by different objects ranging from actual bricks to tumbleweeds to tomatoes. All power ups Bomberman collects go in a stockpile on the left of the game screen that you navigate with the PSP's two shoulder buttons. In normal battle, pressing square activates a power-up and the durations of each effect depend on the power-up. Some will stay active until the next time you die, some have a time limit, and others only work for one round. Power-ups are not available during boss battles however. Instead, players must choose carefully from their power-up inventory to make sure they have the weapons necessary to defeat the boss.
It will take practice to master the inventory selection process so you can activate the right power-up at the right time. I've been in many situations where I couldn't activate a power up because it took too long to scroll down the list. Hudson Soft really should have developed some form of queuing system so a selected power-up can be activated instantly without having to search for it, maybe a “favorite power-ups” list or something. Trying to predict the power-up you'll need next doesn't always work.
Common power-ups you'll use often are for speed, explosive power and bomb-count. The status of each of these is displayed on the top right corner of the screen next to your score and life-count. The foot icon represents Bomberman's speed while the fire icon denotes explosive power. Increasing this number means more squares are consumed in fire when a bomb detonates. Bomberman can only place one bomb at a time by default. If you increase the count on the bomb icon, Bomberman is capable of placing multiple bombs on screen up to the number indicated. Each of these power-ups lasts for one life. If you get caught in an explosion, are touched by an enemy or otherwise die, all power-ups are lost. Here is where I wish Hudson Soft gave a little more leniency when it comes to dying. A power bar would be nice. Because you loose all power-ups when you die, it's not wise to super charge your Bomberman unless you need do. Maybe Hudson did this to prevent players from having a super-charged Bomberman plowing through a maze. I don't know, but I do think they could have tweaked the balance a bit more.
Not so common power-ups range from letting you walk through walls to changing the type of bomb you have. The bomb-to-mine power-up makes the first bomb you lay a trip mine, which is really good at catching elusive flying baddies that patrol in a specific pattern. It's these specific power ups that make the game interesting. Another fun power-up lets you toss the maximum allowable bombs you have all at once. Just hold down circle, the bomb deployment button, and they appear in the direction your facing. This is a great for boss battles when openings are small and time is short.
With all this power-up talk, I shouldn't neglect to mention the game structure of Bomberman PSP. It's a world system like Super Mario Brothers. There's Desert World and Electro World and Lava World, each with different stages numbered one to ten. Each world also has unique enemies and terrain. For example, in Desert World you will find quicksand pits that teleport you randomly to different map areas. There are also special burrowing enemies that hide under the sand, only appearing when you walk over them. Those nasty dudes are difficult to spot and have killed me many times because I wasn't paying attention. You navigate between the different worlds with a rocket ship. Worlds that have not been “liberated” are encircled in some evil brown fog. It's at this world selection screen that some of Bomberman's rough edges show. The images and animations here don't match the refined graphics found everywhere else in the game. Images are pixelated, but don't worry as the world selection screen does not impact the great gameplay in any way at all.
Overall, Bomberman for the PSP is a very satisfying game. It might take some getting used to, but it's classic, old-school gameplay is solid. You might even find it brings back nostalgic memories. And don't worry about finding other people to play with because Bomberman comes with game sharing, so friends don't need to have a copy of their own to play. This is a must for skeptical friends who might not otherwise purchase the game. Who knows, you might even make converts of them.
Posted: 2007-07-02 12:19:48 PST