Super Bomberman: Panic Bomber W
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • Super Famicom
  • Developer:
    • Raizing
  • Publisher:
    • Hudson
  • Released:
    • JP 03/01/1995
Score: 70%

This review was published on 05/05/2016.

Super Bomberman: Panic Bomber W is a 2-D puzzle video game developed by Raizing and published by Hudson Soft for the Super Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on March 1, 1995, but as of now, has not made its way to any other side of the planet. This game is part of the Panic Bomber series, which is a spinoff from the Bomberman franchise. The first Panic Bomber game was released on the PC Engine CD in Japan on December 22, 1994, but it also received sequels on a couple of other platforms, like the Neo Geo, Virtual Boy, and the aforementioned Super Famicom. Only the Virtual Boy Panic Bomber got released outside of Japan, having made its way to North America in December 1995. Normally, the classic Bomberman games involve overhead bomb laying action, but Panic Bomber is a falling blocks puzzle game in the same vein as Tetris, just with a Bomberman theme applied to it. However, Panic Bomber W isn't as good as Tetris or any of the other puzzle games it copies.

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Blocks in the form of differently colored Bombermen heads will fall from the top of the screen and you guide them down to the bottom with the d-pad and rotate them by pressing buttons. That'll surely turn heads. Three heads in an L shape will always fall down at a time, and if you line up three or more of the same color horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, they'll be cleared from the play area. Then, you just keep doing that until the cows come home. As is usually the case with these kinds of games, you lose if your screen becomes overloaded with too much junk. The basic rules are rather simple, being nearly identical to most games of this type. Of course, there's more to it than that, and it's the other mechanics that separate this game from the countless ones it imitates. Read the following paragraphs to find out what those other mechanics are.

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Clearing more than three heads at a time or getting combo clears will cause unlit bombs to appear at the bottom of the screen. Occasionally, unlit bombs will also fall from the top of the screen instead of disembodied Bombermen heads, and you control the descent of these unlit bombs with the d-pad, just as you would with the heads. Eventually, a lit bomb will drop, and it'll explode wherever you drop it. If placed near unlit bombs, the lit one will cause the rest to detonate, potentially leading to a massive chain reaction. Like real Bomberman, each individual bomb explodes in a cross shaped pattern, the distance of which is determined by the number next to the fire icon at the top of your side of the screen. This number will sometimes go up as you match heads and it makes setting up explosive chain reactions easier. Also, near your play area is a bar that gradually fills up as you clear heads. When this bar fills to the top, you'll gain access to a gigantic bomb. Dropping this massive bomb will cause a massive explosion, clearing a large portion of your screen. Needless to say, this is quite handy.

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What's the point of all the explosives, though? Well, in Panic Bomber, you're always playing against someone else, be it a computer player or real players. They've got their own side of the screen to worry about and they can do all the same things you can. Your mission in Panic Bomber W, should you choose to accept it, is to make the opposing player lose by filling their screen with junk. Accomplishing this task requires that you get many chains, combos, and explode as many bombs as you can. However, there's a great deal of ambiguity surrounding these mechanics, as the exact machinations aren't clearly communicated to the player. Additionally, there are far too many middlemen. For example, you need to clear many heads to cause more bombs to appear, and then detonate those bombs to send garbage heads to the opponent. In similar puzzle games, like Puyo Puyo and Tetris Attack, simply clearing lots of stuff is enough; you don't have to mess about with bombs or other nonsense.

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The single player story mode has you going up against computerized opponents in one-on-one Panic Bomber bouts. Every major stage in the game is a real world country, like Jamaica, England, USA, and Japan. In each stage, you're tasked with defeating three opponents, and you'll get some dialogue with them right before the match. The first two opponents are usually mere lackeys, typically taking on the appearance of normal enemies from many of the mainline classic Bomberman games. However, the final opponent of each stage tends to be one of the World Bombers, which are Bombermen with designs that are thematically based on the country they're from. They're basically bosses, though they play mostly the same as regular matches, with the exception of status ailments. You and the boss are able to inflict random effects on each other by breaking blue garbage blocks, and the effects range from freezing the opponent's screen to reversing their controls. The random effects make things slightly more fun, but overall, this is a pretty standard single player mode for a puzzle game.

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Using a Super Multitap, up to four people can play a Panic Bomber match together. This is basically the main highlight of the Panic Bomber experience. When playing with two people, the game functions exactly like the matches in story mode, except it's human versus human instead of human versus computer. However, if you go for three or four players, then things will be slightly different, as each player's play area and blocks will be much smaller. You can also choose to play with random status ailments either on or off. Most Tetris-like puzzle games around this time only allowed for up to two players to tango, so this gives Panic Bomber W a slight edge. That edge is very slight, but it's an edge nonetheless.

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The production values are pretty good in Panic Bomber W, but the core game play is a little on the average side. It's a tired formula that doesn't get at all reinvigorated in this game. The unique mechanics that are meant to stand this game out from the crowd are also a bit awkward. There aren't very many modes available when compared to other Tetris clones of the time, either. Still, if you're an aficionado of the falling blocks puzzle genre, you may get some enjoyment out of Panic Bomber W. The four player mode could be worth it alone.

Word Count: 1,120

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