Pocket Bomberman
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Hudson
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    GB
    • JP 12/12/1997
    • US April 1998
    • UK 1998
    GBC
    • US 11/18/1998
    • UK 1998
Score: 65%

This review was published on 05/20/2015.

Pocket Bomberman is a platform video game published by Nintendo and developed by Hudson Soft for the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color. It was first released for the original Game Boy in Japan on December 12, 1997, North America in April 1998, and Europe in 1998. Shortly thereafter, the game came out for the Game Boy Color in North America on November 18, 1998, and Europe sometime in 1998. Traditionally, Bomberman games are overhead puzzlers, but Pocket Bomberman defies tradition by converting the series into a side-scrolling platform game. As a result of that, this is one of the only games to allow Bomberman the ability to jump freely. Another notable thing about this game is the medieval fantasy theme, which is an odd setting for the series, considering it's normally set in a futuristic world of robots. Pocket Bomberman is basically a failed experiment. It should be commended for attempting to take the series into a new direction, but that direction wasn't a terribly good one.

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Long ago, the sun was covered by an ominous cloud of darkness. It is believed that the reason for this is due to a ferocious monster sealing away the Sword of the Sun. According to sources of questionable authenticity, unsealing the Sword of the Sun would undo the terrible spell and lift the shrouds of darkness away from the sun. In order to accomplish such a daunting task, a hero is required to collect five Power Stones which are guarded by five evil monsters in a mountain creatively named Evil Mountain. The only hero in the land mighty enough to take up this tumultuous challenge is Bomberman, a fellow who chooses to fight his battles with bombs instead of swords. I mean, the guy's packing an unlimited supply of explosives, so I can see why he was chosen for this quest. No matter how majestic dragons are, they don't stand a chance against a bodacious bomb blowout.

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Unlike in most of his conventional games, Bomberman can't walk in four directions. The side-scrolling perspective restricts him to walking in only two directions, but on the flipside, he's now able to jump. One thing that hasn't changed is that Bomberman can still place bombs directly where he's positioned and they still explode in a cross pattern after a few seconds. However, due to the perspective change, this produces different results. For one, since Bomberman will be placing bombs on the ground a lot of the time, the bottom of the explosion often gets cut off, making the fire resemble an upside down T instead of a cross. The other weird thing is that Bomberman can place bombs in midair and they, for whatever reason, will remain stuck there. Once bombs are awkwardly floating in midair, Bomberman can use them as platforms to reach areas he can't normally jump to on his own. That's not a glitch; it's just how the game works. The collision detection with platforms is finicky and the camera scrolls around lazily, forcing you to stay glued to the edge of the screen where unseen dangers may lurk. It feels like Hudson merely took the engine of an older Bomberman game and haphazardly converted it into a side-scrolling adventure, almost like a cheap ROM hack.

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Power-up panels are back and they function like they do in the traditional Bomberman games by temporarily increasing his abilities. They're found inside certain blocks that can be shattered with bomb blasts. Initially, Bomberman is only able to place one bomb at a time, his explosions don't go very far, and his walking speed is slow, but collecting bomb, flame, and speed power-ups will change that. Additionally, there are power-ups like the remote controlled bombs and penetration bombs, which allow him to detonate his bombs by pressing select and pierce through multiple destroyable blocks, respectively. In most Bomberman games, these two power-ups can't be combined, but they can here, and that's nice. Another nice thing is the wings power-up that enable Bomberman to fly. There are no power-ups that give Bomberman the ability to kick and throw bombs in this game, and he isn't able to do this innately. That's disappointing, because not only did he have those abilities in previous games, but those abilities would make perfect sense for a side-scrolling perspective, what with the element of elevation being present. It's a missed opportunity, to be sure.

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The goal of each stage is to squash every last enemy and enter the exit door. This is fairly standard fare for a Bomberman game, but because this one has a side-scrolling perspective instead of an overhead one, the level design is drastically different. The main challenge has shifted to actually getting to each enemy, as they're usually tough to reach. Enemies tend to be locked behind gates opened via switches or on very high platforms that require Bomberman to create staircases of floating bombs to reach. The later stages are fairly long winded, because they have tons of enemies and they're far apart from each other. At that point, eliminating all the targets becomes a serious pain. Many of the stages are also unappealingly maze-like. There are five worlds with five stages each and the fifth stage is a conflagration with a boss monster. The bosses still float around the screen as if they're designed to be seen from an overhead view. I think they have the wrong Bomberman game. All the bosses ever do is shoot projectiles and spawn enemies, resulting in unexciting battles. The bosses and stages are both pretty uninspired.

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Jump Mode is a mini-game of sorts that can be accessed on the title screen. Apparently, even Hudson felt like the single player mode was too insubstantial on its own, so they included an additional mode of play. Sadly, this mode still isn't multiplayer. There are three settings to this mode; easy, normal, and hard. Each setting has its own stage with a boss that's, strangely, taken out of the Virtual Boy version of Panic Bomber, a Bomberman spinoff that's similar to Tetris. The catch to Jump Mode, and why it's named such, is that Bomberman will constantly jump no matter what. You can make him move left and right and have him place bombs, but he'll continue jumping on his own. Due to that limitation, all the stages are designed vertically. The objective of this mode is to complete the selected stage while getting the highest score possible. You're scored based on enemies defeated and time taken, and you get ranked if your score is high enough. It's worthwhile to play each stage once just to see them, but the constant jumping is obnoxious.

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The traditional Bomberman mechanics just don't mesh well with a side-scrolling perspective, which results in very awkward game play. When the main method of getting around is creating staircases of floating bombs, then there's something amiss. There's also no multiplayer, though it's hard to imagine what the multiplayer would be like with these mechanics. It'd probably suck, so maybe it's for the best that there is none. Bomberman should stick to what he's good at and leave the platforming to fat Italian plumbers.

Word Count: 1,203

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