Bomberman: Panic Bomber
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • PC Engine CD
  • Developer:
    • Hudson
  • Publisher:
    • Hudson
  • Released:
    • JP 12/22/1994
Score: 70%

This review was published on 05/09/2016.

Bomberman: Panic Bomber is a 2-D puzzle video game developed and published by Hudson Soft for the PC Engine Super CD-ROM. It was originally released in Japan on December 22, 1994, but it hasn't been released anywhere else as of the writing of this review. This is the first game in the Panic Bomber series, which later got sequels and ports on a few other platforms, like the Neo Geo, Virtual Boy, and Super Famicom. As of now, the only Panic Bomber game to make it outside of Japan is the one on Virtual Boy, which came out in December 1995. Additionally, the Panic Bomber series is a spinoff from the gargantuan Bomberman franchise. The regular Bomberman games are normally about overhead bomb laying action, but Panic Bomber takes after Tetris by being a falling blocks puzzle game, except it wears the face of Bomberman. Unlike Tetris, however, this game is quite average.

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While still under the category of Tetris clones, the game functions more similarly to Puyo Puyo. In other words, three differently colored Bombermen heads in an L shape will fall down at a time from the top of the screen and you can control where they land with the d-pad and rotate them with the buttons. Matching three or more of the same color vertically, horizontally, or diagonally will cause them to mysteriously disappear into the ether. Rinse and repeat until you run out of metaphorical shampoo. If your section of the screen gets filled with too much stuff, then you lose and all your friends will dislike you for all eternity. The victory conditions will differ depending on what mode you're currently playing, but you'll always be matching heads regardless, and you'll always want to prevent your screen from overflowing. Some of these basics are covered in the game's tutorial, which can be found on the main menu screen, but things do get more complicated than that.

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The complexities of the game come into play when bombs enter the fray. Every three or more heads you clear will cause bombs to appear. After a while, a red bomb will fall from the top of the screen that you can control with the d-pad, and it'll explode wherever you place it. If the explosion from the red bomb touches the other bombs, it'll cause them to explode, too. And if the explosions from those bombs touch even more bombs, well, you get the idea. Similar to the classic Bomberman games, bombs explode in cross shaped patterns, and the length of the blasts is determined by the number next to the flame at the top of the screen. This number increases as you do stuff. There's also a meter that gradually fills up over time, and when it reaches the top, you get an enormous bomb. Placing this big bomb will create a giant explosion that clears away a huge chunk of the screen. Obviously, this is a good thing.

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Story mode pits a single human player against many computer opponents one-on-one. After selecting your difficulty, you're taken to a cute map screen where you take on challengers one stage at a time. In order to win at a Panic Bomber match, one must cause the opponent to lose by filling their screen to the brim with garbage blocks. That's where the bomb exploding technique comes in; the more bombs you get to explode on your side, the more garbage blocks get sent to your opponent's screen. Naturally, they can do the same to you, and the only way to get rid of garbage blocks is to destroy them with bombastic explosions. This mechanic doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but the whole game is based on it. It's basically a more roundabout way of accomplishing the same thing you would in other similar puzzle games, like Puyo Puyo. Adding more steps doesn't make something more fun, though.

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In addition to the story mode, there's another single player mode available. This is the only mode in the game where you aren't facing off against an opponent, computer or otherwise. What you do here is simple: the game will give you a special set of instructions and you follow them to complete the current stage. Each stage will give you different instructions, like clearing a certain amount of disembodied Bombermen heads or getting a specific combo. In a way, this is like a training mode that'll let you hone your Panic Bomber skills. If you can't last long in this mode, then chances are good that you won't stand a chance in story mode. This mode isn't terribly exciting, but it's something extra to do if you want to practice getting better at the game.

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With a multitap, you'll be able to play the multiplayer mode with up to five people. Playing with two people works just like the story mode, but playing with three or more is a little different, because each player's play area and blocks are way smaller. This sacrifice was obviously done so that everything could fit in one screen. Regardless of how many players there are, you can choose to play with or without random status effects. With status effects on, players will be randomly inflicted with different ailments whenever blue garbage blocks are broken, which may help or hinder them. Having the random effects certainly makes matches more exciting. Being able to play a puzzle game like this with five players is impressive, especially for the time. This is probably the most fun that you'll have with this game.

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As nice as the CD quality music is, this is still just a generic puzzle game that attempts to ride off the success of Tetris. Besides the bomb exploding mechanic, the only other unique thing this game has going for it is the support for five players in the multiplayer mode. That's obviously the main highlight of the experience, so you better have some friends handy if you want to get something worthwhile out of the game. Bomberman: Panic Bomber doesn't do much to stand itself out from the endless sea of Tetris clones, but it isn't bad.

Word Count: 1,038

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