The Bomberman games, in one guise or another, have been around since the early 1980’s, and the fact that the series is still popular is indicative of how compelling the arcade gameplay is. Navigate a maze, drop a bomb, blow up a friend to much hilarity; repeated over dozens of iterations. Considering how well-practiced the gameplay formula is, it’s absolutely jaw-dropping that Super Bomberman R 2 plays a pretty lousy game of Bomberman.
The sequel to 2017 Super Bomberman R, R 2 has all the spit and polish you’d expect of a modern release. There’s a full – if pretty repetitive and easily ignored – single-player campaign, cartoon-like cut-scenes, plentiful game modes, scores of unlockables, and both local and online play. It is, without a doubt, the most complete Bomberman ever released. And yet, in all the ways that count, Super Bomber-Man R 2 is a spectacular fail. You see, the Bomberman bits of this Bomberman game just aren’t very good.
Take the visuals; top-down, sharp, and gloriously shiny, they certainly look the part. The problem is that, unlike the simple 2D sprites of Super-Bomberman’s 90’s heyday, it’s very difficult to tell if your cute little psychopathic mass-murdering 3D avatar will avoid a bomb blast or not. Think you are safe? Wrong! The dodgy collision detection will ruin your day. Then there are the controls, which are all over the place. It’s like the Bombermen are made of ice, sliding further than your futile stick-wiggling intended. They also corner like an old Skoda that’s had its wheels removed.
There are also far too many power-ups, icons, and general madness. At points, you might as well forget trying to tell what is going on, let alone spotting your Bomberman in the visual chaos. I get it, it’s a party game, but without clear visuals and precise controls, the whole experience soon becomes frustrating and deeply un-fun.
Which is a shame, as with more solidity to the gameplay, there would be a lot to enjoy here. Battle 64 is Bomberman as a Battle Royale – a fantastic concept, with lots of mini-games occurring simultaneously and survivors being bunged together willy-nilly. Then there’s Crystals, which is Bomberman’s spin on a traditional capture-the-flag mode. It’s a neat addition, setting teams against each other to retrieve crystals and also offering players the benefit of being able to respawn, preventing newbies or those who haven’t played a Bomberman game since 1993 from getting bored as they wait for a match to end.
There’s also Castles, an intriguing idea that effectively casts one player as a super-powered Bomberman ‘King’ against a team of 15 opponents. A canny King can even utilise the stages many many traps to their advantage. Heck, if they are a glutton for punishment they can make their own level with the unnecessarily fiddly editor.
In short, Super Bomberman R 2 would be great if only it could play a decent game of Bomberman.