Bomberman
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Developer:
    • Hudson
  • Publisher:
    • Hudson
  • Released:
    MSX
    • JP July 1983
    • UK 1984
    FM7/PC60/PC88/MZ700
    • JP 1983
    ZX
    • UK 1984
    NES
    • JP 12/19/1985
    • US January 1989
    FDS
    • JP 04/02/1990
Score: 65%

This review was published on 04/21/2015.

Bomberman is a video game published and developed by Hudson Soft for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in Japan on December 19, 1985, and North America in January 1989. Before that, however, the game originally had a Japanese release in 1983 for home computers such as the MSX, FM-7, PC-6001, PC-8801, and Sharp MZ-700. The game was also released in Europe on the MSX and ZX Spectrum in 1983. In the United Kingdom, the game was published by Sinclair Research under the name Eric and the Floaters, and it was published by Paraninfo Soft in Spain as Don Pepe Y Los Globos. The older computer versions of the game have several differences from the NES release, like Bomberman's character design. A couple of years later, the game got released for the Famicom Disk System in Japan on April 2, 1990. The inspiration for Bomberman is thought to be an older arcade game developed by Namco known as Warp and Warp. Bomberman eventually went on to become one of the most prolific video game franchises ever, but the first game wasn't too remarkable.

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As his name implies, Bomberman is a robot that specializes in the production of explosives. Along with his fellow robots, Bomberman is being forced against his will to produce bombs in an underground compound stationed at the center of the Earth. Expectedly, he wasn't too happy about these circumstances. Over the course of his dreary existence, he heard of a peculiar rumor: robots that escape from the center of the Earth and reach the surface become human. Wasting no time at all, Bomberman began his great escape. Soon after, enemy forces were put on high alert in pursuit of Bomberman. Using his bombastic powers, Bomberman blasts anything that gets in his way, hoping against all odds that the unfounded rumor turns out to be true. Yes, that's right; Bomberman wants to become a real boy. Who knew the plot to the original Bomberman is a sci-fi retelling of Pinocchio? I hope you learned something here today.

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Game play in Bomberman is presented in an overhead view. Bomberman's actions are limited to walking in four directions and placing bombs. The bombs will always be placed directly under Bomberman's feet, and after a brief period of time, they will explode. Bombs explode in a cross shape, which totally defies logic, but that's how physics function in Bomberman's universe. If the explosion of one bomb touches another, a chain reaction will occur. Under normal circumstances, Bomberman can be killed by the explosions of his own bombs, so caution must be exercised when placing explosives. The little guy also dies in only one hit, meaning no life bars or anything. While the controls are pretty reasonable, there are a few oddities that may hinder performance. If you press two directions at once on the d-pad, Bomberman will awkwardly slide around, causing the sounds of his footsteps to glitch out. Additionally, holding down the button to place more bombs when Bomberman has none left will freeze him in place, potentially putting him at risk. None of these control issues ruin the game, but they do come off as sloppy programming. Poor programming practices were rife in the 8-bit era, though that's no excuse.

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All stages in Bomberman consist of a grid of blocks, some of which are destructible, and some that aren't. The destructible blocks can be destroyed with bombs and their locations vary from stage to stage, but the indestructible ones are always in the same locations in all stages. The primary goal of every stage in Bomberman is to eradicate all enemies and then locate the exit. You're given a time limit to accomplish this task, and if time runs out, a ton of incredibly deadly enemies appear. Exits are hidden within breakable blocks and can only be entered once all foes have been obliterated, though they can be found before then. If you accidentally blast the exit, a bunch of enemies will also appear. Bomberman will be taken to a bonus stage after every five stages, where he will be granted temporary invincibility and must decimate as many enemies as possible within a time limit. If Bomberman loses all his lives, a password will be given out to resume progress later. The only real differences between one stage and the next are the enemies and power-ups; everything else is randomized. Stages don't even look different visually, with all of them sporting the same colors and designs. As a result of that, things quickly become repetitive. Finding the exits each and every time is also very annoying. Only a madman would complete all fifty stages.

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Every so often, blocks will break away to reveal power-ups. All power-ups are represented by square icons that show off what kind of enhancement they provide. The icons are aesthetically pleasing, and with the exception of a few, they convey their meanings fairly well. The two primary power-ups are bombs and flames; bombs will allow Bomberman to plant extra bombs, and flames will extend the range of Bomberman's explosions. Collecting multiples of these power-ups will continue to enhance the effect up until a certain point. Other interesting power-ups include skates that increase Bomberman's speed, a power-up that makes Bomberman impervious to his own explosions, power-ups that let him walk through bombs and walls, and a detonator. By far the most useful power-up is the detonator, as it lets you choose when to detonate your bombs, making the game a cinch. There's only one power-up in each stage and extra notes get added to the music to let the player know that no hidden power-ups remain, which is a nice touch. Accidentally blowing up a power-up will vaporize it and cause a handful of enemies to appear, though, and that sucks. Also, Bomberman will lose some of his power-ups upon death.

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Due to Bomberman's means of attack, most of the game revolves around waiting for enemies to slowly walk into the explosions of your bombs. This can take forever and is often frustrating, especially with how erratic the movement pattern of some enemies tend to be. You can be more aggressive by attempting to corner enemies with your bombs, but this is risky and isn't always possible, as this strategy requires many surrounding blocks, or the use of many bombs. Unless you have the detonator, defeating foes is a slow and tedious process. On top of that, there isn't much of a difference between enemy types besides movement speed, walking pattern, and appearance. Some enemies have the slightly unique attribute to pass through walls, but that's about it. There aren't enough types of enemies to keep things interesting. And don't even think about bosses, because there aren't any.

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Bomberman was an unimpressive start for the white bomber, not to be confused with the blue bomber. The game play is very slow paced until you grab a detonator power-up, and even then, it's not much more exciting. This isn't a horrible game, but it does get overwhelmingly repetitive after only a few minutes, and unlike future games in the series, this one doesn't have multiplayer. That's the real problem with this game, as Bomberman is a series defined by its multiplayer, and that's completely absent here. With a shoddy single player and no multiplayer, you're better off playing almost any of the future Bomberman games.

Word Count: 1,244

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