Panic Bomber
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • Virtual Boy
  • Developer:
    • Raizing
  • Publisher:
    • Hudson
  • Released:
    • JP 07/21/1995
    • US December 1995
Score: 70%

This review was published on 05/12/2016.

Panic Bomber is a falling blocks puzzle video game developed by Raizing and published by Hudson Soft for the Virtual Boy. It was originally released in Japan on July 21, 1995, and North America in December 1995. Despite the title, this isn't the first Panic Bomber game, though it is the first and currently only one to make it out of Japan. The actual first game in the Panic Bomber series came out on the PC Engine Super CD-ROM2 in Japan on December 22, 1994. Ports and sequels later came out on various other platforms, such as the Neo Geo, Super Famicom, and eventually the Virtual Boy. The Panic Bomber series is a spinoff from the truly massive Bomberman franchise, which is normally about laying bombs in a grid-like environment that is viewed from an overhead perspective. Also, this particular Panic Bomber was intended to have a multiplayer mode, but the link cable for the Virtual Boy was never released. Panic Bomber mimics the core mechanics of games like Tetris and Puyo Puyo, except it's not as good as either of those.

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According to the North American instruction manual, the story of Panic Bomber takes place on the island of Ever-Mist. This dark island is permanently enshrouded in a deep and dreary fog, making it the perfect destination for depressive types. I tried to catch some fog, but I mist. Countless adventurers have journeyed there in search of the legendary Golden Statue of Bomberman, but none of them have returned. What fate has befallen them? Nobody knows. It's probably something bad, though. The legend of the legendary statue states, "He or she who gathers together the three celestial medals of power, which lie on the island of Ever-Mist, shall open the gates and gain access to the statue." After having learned this valuable information, Bomberman sets off on a grand adventure to obtain the golden statue that was suspiciously made in his own image. If you ask me, that's a little egotistical. The story isn't anything to write home about, but the game does take on a horror theme, as many of the bosses are designed after classic movie monsters. That's strange, but neat.

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Following the formula pioneered by Tetris, three blocks in an L shape will slowly fall from the top of the screen and you guide their fall with the left d-pad and rotate them around with the buttons or the right d-pad. For the uninitiated, the Virtual Boy controller has two d-pads on it, because it was designed by a madman. Line up three or more of the same block horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, and they'll be vaporized. You lose if too many blocks fill the screen. In the other Panic Bomber games, the blocks were differently colored Bombermen heads, but they were altered for this release due to the Virtual Boy's inability to produce any color other than red. You're given the freedom to select which set of blocks you want to play with, from different shapes like triangles and squares to the faces of classic Bomberman enemies, though this is all purely cosmetic. Everything else functions like the other Panic Bomber games, just with a heaping dose of redness.

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Each and every time you clear three or more blocks, unlit bombs will appear at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes, a lit bomb will fall from the top of the screen in place of blocks, and it'll immediately explode wherever you put it. Put the lit bomb near unlit bombs, and they'll also ignite, causing a delightful chain of explosions. Like traditional Bomberman games, bombs explode in cross shaped patterns, and the distance of the explosion is determined by the number near the fire symbol at the top of the screen. This fiery number will sometimes go up as you clear blocks. On top of that, there's a meter that gradually fills up as you do stuff, and once it maxes out, you'll get a huge bomb. This huge bomb will cause a huge explosion wherever you put it, eliminating a bunch of blocks from your screen. There's an option on the main menu that'll lead to a tutorial that explains this and all the other basic rules, which is handy if you don't have a manual handy.

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Upon selecting your preferred difficulty, you'll be taken to the game proper, where you'll do battle against a variety of opponents using the sacred art of Panic Bomber. Basically, you and the computer will be busting blocks on separate screens, and the objective is to make the opposing player lose. To do that, players send garbage blocks to the opponent's screen by causing bombs to explode. Garbage blocks can only be destroyed by bomb blasts, so they're more difficult to get rid of. When facing a boss, any destroyed garbage blocks will cause a skull item to appear, which will give a random player a random effect, like reversing controls or freezing the screen for a few seconds. While the single player is fine for a game of this type, it does get dull after a while, and there's no multiplayer to fall back on when that happens. The only other thing worth mentioning is how the backgrounds scroll on by during game play, providing a surprisingly good parallax 3-D effect. The sprite animations are also pretty good. None of this impacts game play, but it does look nice.

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This is quite possibly the worst version of Panic Bomber there is, because it's on the freaking Virtual Boy. There's also no multiplayer, which just about all the other versions of Panic Bomber have. Considering that's the overall highlight of the series, this is a grave omission. With all that said, this is far from the worst game on the Virtual Boy. The 3-D effect is also not half bad, though that has no bearing on the game's quality. By the Virtual Boy's astronomically low standards, this is a decent game, but by any other standards, it's merely average. If you like the Panic Bomber series of games, then you're better off playing the ones on the other platforms.

Word Count: 1,032

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