Bomberman Max 2: Blue Advance and Red Advance
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy Advance
  • Developer:
    • Hudson
  • Publishers:
    • JP Hudson
    • US Majesco
    • UK Sierra
  • Released:
    • JP 02/07/2002
    • US 05/30/2002
    • UK 03/14/2003
Score: 65%

This review was published on 06/07/2015.

Bomberman Max 2: Blue Advance and Bomberman Max 2: Red Advance is a pair of video games developed by Hudson Soft for the Game Boy Advance. They were published by Hudson Soft in Japan on February 2, 2002, Majesco Games in North America on May 30, 2002, and Sierra Entertainment in Europe on March 14, 2003. Both of these are merely two slightly different versions of the same game. The first set of Bomberman Max games were on the Game Boy Color and introduced Bomberman to the world of collectible monsters with Charaboms, creatures that are a rip off of Pokemon. Max, a mysterious cyborg hero important enough to have his name in the game's title, was also first introduced in the Bomberman Max series. Like the previous game, Bomberman Max 2 has you controlling Bomberman in Blue Advance and Max in Red Advance, but the differences between them is purely cosmetic. Bomberman Max 2 is more or less the same as the last game, only slightly better. Not better enough to be better than average, though.

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On Planet Bomber, within Bomber Base, there are two intergalactic heroes with the job of keeping the universe safe. Their names are Bomberman and Max. There is a malicious organization that wishes to threaten this peace, known by all as the Hige Hige Bandits, led by an individual named Mujoe. The Hige Hige Bandits and Mujoe were first introduced in Saturn Bomberman for the Sega Saturn and they make a nefarious return in Bomberman Max 2. Mujoe wants to take control of the universe, and only Bomberman and Max stand in his way. Having been foiled by Bomberman in the past, Mujoe conjures up a new sinister scheme to beat his explosive nemesis. Unbeknownst to the two heroes, Mujoe and his gang of Hige Hige Bandits secretly infiltrate the Bomber Base and plant a strange machine at its center. The garish gang then activates the machine, which shrinks Bomberman and Max down to a miniscule size. Honey, I shrunk the bombers! Dr. Ein, a scientific professor friendly to Bomberman, contacts the shrunken heroes and informs them that he's unable to help because he can't get near the miniaturization device while it's active. Instead, the professor offers to send in Charaboms to help Bomberman and Max destroy the darn device. Now the heroes must travel around the base while miniaturized to destroy the machine and regain their lost girth. Sometimes, size does matter.

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As per usual, Bomberman and Max place bombs that explode in four directions while also walking in four directions in an overhead view inside grid-like levels. Like the first Bomberman Max, each level has a different objective, which Dr. Ein will reveal prior to starting. These objectives include stuff like acquiring Charaboms, killing all foes, blasting all soft blocks, and so on. The different worlds all technically take place in or around the Bomber Base, such as the dining room, library, and garden. Enemies also reflect this theme, like how insects are fought in the garden. This is sort of a unique theme for the Bomberman series, though it doesn't change the game play too significantly. The only real game play gimmick born out of this theme is that, occasionally, large objects will attempt to hinder Bomberman and Max. For example, sometimes one of the Hige Hige Bandits will try to stomp on the heroes as they're scurrying about. Also, Max will help Bomberman out during some levels, and vice versa. The graphics have a weird, pre-rendered style to them that looks rather putrid. Donkey Kong Country managed to pull this style off well, but Bomberman Max 2, not so much. The sound effects are also harsh, with the bomb explosions sounding particularly grating. Graphics and sound aside, the single player is as bland as toast without butter.

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The previous Bomberman Max was somewhat nonlinear, and Bomberman Max 2 continues that nonlinearity in much the same way. Completing a level's objectives will cause a number of portals to appear, with the blue ones leading to new areas and the red ones going back to old territory. Red portals are now marked with the number of the level they lead back to, but blue ones still aren't. Portals will remain open in completed levels, even on revisits. The map also shows itself in between levels this time, making navigation easier than before. Sadly, you're still not allowed access to the level select screen until you die or quit the game, both of which makes you lose all your power-ups. There are 100 levels in all, but each version only has access to 80. Getting the remaining levels requires that the two versions be linked. In the previous game, you needed 80% or more of the levels completed to get the good ending, and the same is true for this iteration. That's a tall order for what ultimately amounts to a lackluster reward.

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Charaboms are back, and unlike the first game, they're actually useful for something here. Previously, Charaboms were used strictly for multiplayer purposes, but Bomberman Max 2 incorporates the creatures into both the single player and multiplayer modes. In the single player, Bomberman and Max will occasionally have Charaboms join their team, and they can ride the creatures to attain special abilities. Some have passive effects that are always active as long as the Charabom is being ridden, like allowing you to walk through walls, and some have active abilities that require a button press, like the one that lets you jump over stuff. A few of these beneficial effects can be replicated by picking up power-ups, but those are only temporary, whereas the Charaboms stay with you permanently. Swapping Charaboms can be done at any time during levels, which is a convenient feature. The Charabom abilities are definitely a nice feature, though such a neat feature being tied to a lame Pokemon rip off is a bit disheartening.

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The other use for Charaboms is to pit yours against a friend's or against the computer in a virtual cockfight. Similar to an RPG, each Charabom has basic stats, like attack, defense, and special attack. A Charabom's stats can be raised in the single player by picking up food items, then those stats get put to use in the multiplayer, which are turn-based battles where each player inputs commands via a menu. Players can choose to fight matches with two Charaboms each that can be swapped during the match, but the fights are still one-on-one. The winner gets to keep the loser's Charabom. All Charaboms also have elemental attributes and weaknesses that play a significant role in damage dealt during battle. Copying Pokemon, each version of the game has exclusive Charaboms, meaning the two versions will have to be linked to get every last one of the buggers. Fusing two Charaboms to form a new one is also a possibility, and while this mechanic doesn't require two games to be linked, getting every fusion still requires linking. It also requires thinking. Unfortunately, there's no traditional Bomberman multiplayer available in this game. There is another multiplayer mode that only requires a single cartridge, but it plays like a shoddy version of the old Mappy arcade game by Namco. If you want good portable multiplayer, then you're better off with Bomberman Tournament.

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Bomberman Max 2 is better than the first game, but not by much. The Charabom mechanics have seen considerable improvement, and navigating the nonlinear map is a little easier, but everything else is still lacking. No matter how cool the Charabom abilities are, that doesn't make up for such a bland and uninteresting single player mode. The omission of traditional Bomberman multiplayer is also an insult to fans of the series, especially considering that it was replaced with repetitive, turn-based battles that have no depth whatsoever and a stupid Mappy-like mini-game.

Word Count: 1,309

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