Review: Super Bomberman R (Switch)
I might be showing my age here, but I grew up with Bomberman. Weekends were spent tackling the crazy modes and levels, staying up late to try and reach the end. I can’t honestly tell you which Bomberman game we were playing as it was on a friend’s console in Chinese, but it was a long, intricate affair with insane levels that sprawled across the screen.
Fast forward to today and we haven’t really heard about Bomberman in a while besides a venture onto the Xbox Live Arcade a decade ago. Bomberman has been something older gamers just had at the back of their minds. Then Super Bomberman R was announced for the Switch, which was exciting. Sadly the excitement wears off far too quickly.
Super Bomberman R could have been something amazing. And for a while it is amazing. Getting a group of friends gathered together, Joy-Cons in hand, lets you play four player madness pretty much anywhere. It is a lot of fun as a local game, enough to fill the room with laughter as the chaos spreads through frenetic action. After a few rounds though, you realise how shallow things are. Where are the other modes? The ability to disable certain power-ups or maps with more strategic, tactical offerings are all missing. It is shallow, even in local where you have a few options of what to change. In online multiplayer you just get tossed into a level, thankfully against people in the same bracket as you (I am stuck in baby league) and the first person to be the last bomberman standing twice wins the match. It works well, but several of my games were plagued with bad lag that brought the game hammering down to a crawl.
There is also a story mode, a singleplayer or co-op assortment of levels with the Bomberfamily taking on five evil bombers. Each world has multiple levels, pitting you against all sorts of critters that need to be eradicated to pass to the next stage, or dealt with efficiently as you trigger switches that unlock the way forward while more enemies spawn into the level. After eight or so levels you encounter a boss fight and well, let’s just say that even if you know your way around Bomberman, you are in for a challenge. The first guy is really fast with magnetic bombs and he happens to stand *just* out range or line of a bomb blast every time. Unless you know the tricks of the trade to box him in, you are in for a long, frustrating fight that will slowly whittle your remaining lives to zero. This is when you discover the next in a line of odd design decisions that the team went for when making the game.
Insert coins to continue
Once you hit 0 lives you need to spend coins to continue. On normal difficulty this costs 300 coins, but a lot less (10) on easy. Winning a multiplayer game nets you 10 coins, so if you are battling in the story mode, you better get into the multiplayer. At least the multiplayer has a chance of teaching you some tactics, because you won’t learn any during the story. Besides the boss, none of the enemies use bombs, meaning you spend several levels avoiding only your bombs and touching enemies, suddenly to be assaulted by a speedy bomber with magic bombs and pinpoint movement accuracy.
So without training new players in how to reach the hidden depth and tactics of the game, how to best opponents by caging them in or kicking off a chain reaction, you will spend a lot of time reaching the boss, dying, then spending your coins to continue. If you quit out its back to the beginning of the world for you.
The currency system is used to unlock new stages as well as cosmetic items to customise your character. While the items are nice to have, the stages cost 2,500 coins, which is a lot of coins, depending on how well you do in the multiplayer. For me, it is a losing battle. What started off fun has become shallow, repetitive and sorely lacking in content. For a game that costs R700 and comes a decade after Bomberman Live (which cost $10 instead of $50, by the way) I expected more. Much more. How can Bomberman Live have more multiplayer content than this new game that was put on a console literally created to have couch co-op sessions almost anywhere?