Bomberman Land
  • Genre:
    • Mini-Games
  • Platform:
    • PlayStation
  • Developer:
    • Hudson
  • Publisher:
    • Hudson
  • Released:
    • JP 12/21/2000
Score: 75%

This review was published on 04/24/2016.

Bomberman Land is a 2-D video game developed and published by Hudson Soft for the Sony PlayStation. This is the first game in the Bomberman Land series, but definitely not the first Bomberman game. It was originally released in Japan on December 21, 2000, but it hasn't been released anywhere else as of this writing. While part of the same series, this is a totally different game from the Bomberman Land on the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation Portable, both of which were released in 2008. To further confuse matters, the Wii and PSP versions of Bomberman Land are also completely different from each other. That doesn't matter, though, because this review will exclusively focus on the PS1 release of Bomberman Land. As for the exact contents of the game, it's mostly a collection of mini-games, which is a huge departure from the frantic multiplayer action of a normal Bomberman game, though that's still included in this package. Conceptually, Bomberman Land is interesting, though it suffers from some lazy design towards the end.

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When the game begins, you'll see Bomberman aboard a ship, sailing to a whimsical place of whimsy. What is this place, you ask? Why, it's an island with an amusement park on it! Presumably, this theme park is known as Bomberman Land. This is the place you'll be spending the vast majority of the game in, as it's the central hub that connects to all the other themed attractions. The park is fairly large and colorful, making it a joy to explore. It's kind of like a town in a role-playing game, in that you explore it in an overhead view and can chat with people to get some dialogue. Being that this game was never released outside of Japan, all the text is in Japanese, so if you aren't fluent, then you will have some trouble. For example, it might take you a while to figure out that you need to use information booths to save your game. The problem only gets further compounded later on when you need to rely on hints provided by the text on where to go.

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In order to make progress in the game, you need to play mini-games. There are certain buildings in the park where you can play mini-games by speaking to the person at the counter. Once a mini-game has been completed, a numbered piece will be added to your card. This card is accessible from a menu whenever you're exploring the park. The point to all this becomes clear once you come across your first barrier. To get past barriers and explore more of the park, you must have certain pieces on your card. Basically, you need to beat mini-games to unlock more parts of the park to play more mini-games, and this cycle is repeated until you beat the game. There are some exceptions to the mini-game rule, however; some card pieces are gotten from talking to certain individuals, doing special tasks in the park, or are simply hidden. You can use the hints and maps at the information booths to help you figure out their whereabouts, but it can still be frustrating. Additionally, there are countless annoying fetch quests near the game's conclusion.

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The mini-games are the bread and butter of Bomberman Land. Essentially, this is where all the actual game play happens. So what are the mini-games in question? Well, they're all relatively simple, playing like the classic Game and Watch games from the early 1980s, except with far better graphics. Every mini-game plays differently, typically involving Bomberman doing a task of some sort. These activities include a wide variety of things, such as herding sheep, popping balloons with a gun, guiding bombs along conveyer belts in a factory, carving a giant Bomberman statue out of stone, and much more. Generally, most mini-games get tougher as you go on, and some are broken up into multiple stages. Many of them are also timed challenges. While simple, a lot of the mini-games are good fun. However, some of them get recycled later on, and not all of them are good.

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The objective of almost every mini-game is to beat the high score, which is listed at the top of the screen. You can choose to continue playing to get an even higher score, but that's not necessary to make progress. If you fail, you'll have to start that mini-game all over again, plus you lose whatever points you had. Some mini-games will give you lives, giving you the chance to try multiple times before losing your score. Considering the whole point is to get points, this is an outcome you'll want to desperately avoid until after you've beaten the high score. Occasionally, there will be some mini-games that aren't about point acquisition or attaining high scores. For these, you simply have to finish them to get the deed acknowledged on your card. Anyway, the drawback to the extreme focus on getting high scores is that this task can be tedious, especially later in the game.

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Eventually, you'll encounter mini-games that exist for the express purpose of making money. The casino is where most of these special mini-games reside. These mini-games consist of the typical casino stuff, like slot machines, roulette, various card games, and so on. There are a few that delve outside the realm of casino games, though, like a baseball mini-game and a strongman game. For most of these, you place a bet, and depending on your performance, you'll either win a profit or lose whatever you put in. As for the purpose of money; some of the card pieces must be purchased, plus you can use it for some oddball things, like buying a device that lets you save your game anywhere, or paying to use binoculars to see different parts of the island. Unfortunately, money doesn't have very many uses. As a result of that, the inclusion of a currency system seems superfluous.

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One mini-game stands tall above the rest as being especially special. This is because, unlike everything else, it plays almost exactly like a traditional Bomberman game. In other words, you walk around a grid-like environment while laying bombs that explode in cross shaped patterns, vaporizing enemies and destructible blocks. Unlike a traditional Bomberman game, you start from the top floor and must descend to the bottom using staircases. Your objective is to get the diamond at the bottom floor and then get back to the entrance within the time limit. The main reason to play this game, besides getting the card piece, is to make money. Every enemy you kill drops coins, but the catch is that you need to bring everything back alive, or else you'll lose it all. The risk versus reward makes this game surprisingly enjoyable.

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At some point, you'll unlock a few extra modes separate from the main story that play more like traditional Bomberman games. The first one is a single player mode that plays like the original Bomberman game, where you must kill all the enemies and find the exit to move from one stage to the next. Then there's a special variation of this mode where you have a limited supply of bombs that replenish when you walk around, and you can level up by killing baddies. Your mission in this unusual, but neat mode is to save Bombermen by finding keys and unlocking their prison cells. On top of all those modes, you've got access to the typical Bomberman multiplayer, which uses the PlayStation Multitap to allow up to four players to bomb each other in small arenas. All this is fine and dandy, but it sucks that you don't start out with this stuff already unlocked from the get go.

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Technically a spinoff from the main games, Bomberman Land elects to try something new with the franchise. This is always a risky move, as things can go horribly wrong, but it sort of paid off here. Many of the mini-games are fun to play and wandering around the park is an overall pleasant experience. There's also a classic Bomberman multiplayer mode included, but you don't unlock it until later, and it's a bit basic. Bomberman Land is a neat concept somewhat muddied by padding in the form of recycled mini-games and fetch quests. Besides those transgressions, however, Bomberman Land isn't half bad.

Word Count: 1,403

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