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Bomberman Land Touch! Review

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Developer: Hudson Soft Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: November 17, 2006 Also On: None

During the GCN generation, two Bomberman games were released. They had two things in common. One, their single player modes were decent, but not very exciting. Two, their multiplayer modes were engaging and worthy of much playing time. Such seems to be the Bomberman way. As such, one might wonder why they bother with a separate single player mode at all since people only care about the multiplayer.

And yet, it would seem that Hudson can be taught. For their first DS Bomberman game, the single-player went back to Bomberman’s roots and did 2D chambers with patterned enemies. I haven’t actually played that game, so I don’t know if that worked well. For this game, they once again dropped the platformer-style single-player mode in exchange for something we’ve seen almost too often on the DS: the mini-game compilation. But this set of Bomberman-themed mini-games is a step above any single-player mode I’ve ever seen in other Bomberman games, and thus, while not up there with the multiplayer, it is actually worth playing. But more on that later.

Graphically, Bomberman Land Touch! is styled closer to the graphical style of Bomberman Generation than Bomberman Jetters, which is a good thing in my opinion since I always preferred Generation. In all honesty, compared to Generation, there is no overly noticeable drop in the graphical quality of this game. Granted, Generation didn’t break the GCN’s graphical capabilities, and neither does Touch break the DS’s, but the fact that they are comparable in quality is commendable nonetheless. Don’t get the impression from what I’ve just said that the graphics are bad. They are not. For a third party game, they are easily above average, and are actually quite good by DS standards. Overall, I have no significant complaints here.

On the sound front, the sound effects are typical Bomberman fare. I would expect no more or less in all honesty. The music in this game is quite good. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it addicting, but it is somewhat memorable. My one complaint here is that they replaced the multiplayer battle music from Generation and Jetters with a new melody, but the new melody is about as good as the old one, so it is a minor gripe. Overall, the sound is done fairly well.

In terms of gameplay, this game splits fairly evenly between the single-player mode and the multiplayer mode. The single player uses the stylus almost exclusively. You use it to move, to indicate that you want to talk to someone or do something. The only things that you don’t use the stylus and touchscreen for are that some of the mini-games use the microphone and you can use the start button to pause the game. That’s it. Still, it means that you’re rarely having to fumble between the stylus and the buttons, which is definitely a good thing.

The story behind the story mode is certainly basic. Bomberman (or Cheerful White, as he’s called in this game) gets kidnapped by pirates and taken to Bomber Island, where he has to explore and win pieces in mini-games to open up more areas and win tokens to trade for items. This means that you basically have to win each mini-game twice: once to get the piece for the game and a second time (which is more difficult) to get a token for it. Some of the games are hard even to win the first time, and some of them aren’t that hard the first time but seem near-impossible the second time through.

The mini-games are fairly creative though, and they match the Bomberman theme well. For example, there’s one where there’s a bunch of bombs on the screen, and the fuse on one will light and a counter will count down. You have to touch the bomb you want to defuse and then blow into the microphone to defuse it. Not all of the mini-games are that complex, and some of them are probably seen in different forms in other mini-game compilations, like the memory mini-game, but they all have a Bomberman feel to them, and most of them are reasonably entertaining to play.

So, basically, the single-player mode entails you running around, exploring the environment across five different zones, and earning pieces and tokens with which to gain access to more areas and receive more pieces of equipment, which also gives you access to more areas. It is, unlike the single player in most Bomberman games, a fairly engaging experience, but once you’ve beaten it, there will be little reason for you to go back and play it again. On the off chance that you want to play any of the mini-games again, you can do that through an attractions mode that allows you to choose any mini-game that you’ve previously played and play them without having to take the time to get to them in the story mode.

And then we have Bomberman Land Touch!’s multiplayer mode. Bomberman is among the cream of the crop when it comes to multiplayer mayhem, beaten only by the Super Smash Brothers franchise and the Mario Kart franchise. It has been that way for a long time and remains that way in this incarnation. Bomberman Land Touch! has the same multiplayer mode seen in every Bomberman game of recent generations that I am aware of (excluding Bomberman 64, in which a 3D multiplayer mode was attempted). However, not every detail is the same.

Let’s start with what’s the same. You have multiple Bomberman colors, each representing a different player, and each with the exact same abilities. This is different from Jetters, where there were multiple characters each with a different special move, but it matches Generation, so I’m assuming Jetters was the one outside the norm in that way. They go around dropping bombs, blowing up some type of blocks to accumulate items to make themselves more powerful, and attempt to blow up their opponents. This is Bomberman multiplayer in a nutshell, for those of you who are not familiar with it.

So, what has changed from the norm, at least as I know the norm? First of all, the poison skulls have been eliminated from this version of Bomberman. That is a good thing. I always found those annoying. However, they have been replaced by a series of opposite items to the enhancements which reduce your capabilities, although your attributes can’t be reduced to zero in anything. Those can be turned off though, at least they can offline. One other minor change is the chance to choose whether you want players’ starting positions to be fixed or made random, something I’ve never seen before, but an interesting change nonetheless. The last minor changes from what I am accustomed to is that your bombs start out with a range of one instead of two, and the pace of the game seems to be more slow at the beginning than I’m used to (and faster when you reach a speed of eight, almost too fast if you’re going for precision bomb-laying).

There are two other significant changes to the DS version. First of all, there are two screens of playing field with tunnels in between them, except on one particular “mini” stage where only one screen is employed. Also, to make matters more interesting since there’s two screens, the maximum amount of players that can be used has been increased from four to eight. I think each of these changes was actually implemented in this game’s direct prequel though. Actually, for all I know, the item switching could also be from this game’s direct prequel, as I’ve never played it. They would still be changes from the console versions though.

In terms of multiplayer modes, you have the typical mode where the objective is to be the last one standing, but there are other modes in this game, such as one where the objective is to grab a crown that is hidden somewhere in the stage. On top of that, this game boasts both single-card and multi-card play for up to eight players offline. I can’t imagine eight DSs in one room playing this game, but I’ve probably seen less than eight DSs in the wild in my travels at all, let alone in the same place. Yet, for those of you who actually have friends who have DSs, this is nice, especially since you can play with a single card so not everybody has to buy the game. The only disadvantage to single-card play is that it is the one who has the card who gets to set the rules. I haven’t been able to try either offline multiplayer mode, so I have no idea how the rules are chosen in multi-card play. Still, I am confident that these modes would be a good way for you and your gamer friends to spend an evening.

For those of you who don’t have access in the real world to other people with DSs to play this game with, don’t fret. You still have options. In this game’s direct prequel, you would only be able to play against computer players, and that option is available in this game as well, and may be good for some practice before you brave the waters of this game’s other option for the lone DS gamer, online play. Bomberman multiplayer plus online play is a match made in heaven, as this game’s multiplayer has been crying for such a thing pretty much since day one. It’s probably already been done on the PS2 or the Xbox, or maybe even on the PSP, but it is still a good thing to have on the DS as well.

In terms of playing the multiplayer mode against computer players, there is one thing I should say. This game has more of Jetters-level AI than Generation. This means that even the easy level computer players can and will put up a fight. When I played a few rounds offline to try to get warmed up since I haven’t played a Bomberman game in a while, the seven easy-level computer players trounced me. As I played more, I did better, but don’t expect the pushover-level easy computers that you had in Bomberman Generation. This wouldn’t be so bad except that it means that newcomers won’t have a truly easy setting to practice on, but will need to develop some skill even to beat the easy AI.

Still, compared to offline single-player, the advantages of online play are obvious. You get to play against real human opponents when you don’t have any readily available. It works well for the most part. You have the same online options you had in Mario Kart DS. Namely, you can play against friends if you have their friend codes, you can play against rivals (people with similar win/loss records to yours), you can play against anybody in the same country as you, or you can play against anybody in the world.

My one experience with the world setting was against a non-English speaking person and the result was that the game moved at a snail’s pace, but I do not know if that is the norm in this game for inter-country play. The game would also slow occasionally when I was playing against English-speakers (as evidenced by their screennames), but not nearly as bad or as consistently. I am not familiar enough with online play to know how much of this is the game’s fault and how much of it is a result of the internet connections of the participants, so don’t automatically assume that my experiences are the norm. I also noticed that the slowdown seemed to occur more often when there were more participants, but, if it’s connection problems, there’s more likely to be a person with one when there are more people.

I will say this though. Expect waiting times when you play online. It will sometimes take the game a while to find other people. That may be the fact that this game hasn’t sold a bazillion copies yet, or the fact that I was playing online during a slow period, but even during the fast periods, expect to wait. This isn’t a big problem though, and the same thing probably happens in all online games, so it isn’t really an issue. It just goes with the territory. For those of you with no online gaming experience, it is something to keep in mind though.

The online multiplayer ranks players according to their win/loss record and gives them a rank. Your rank will be shown alongside your screenname when the game shows you your starting position for each round in the form of a small picture by your name. Unless you plan to play against rivals a lot, the win/loss record means little, but it is something to work for and gives you more reason to play the online mode.

But for all of these advantages, there are some disadvantages to the online mode. I already mentioned that there is slowdown occasionally, but there are two other disadvantages. First of all, a maximum of four human players can participate in an online match, but every online match must have eight participants. The other four to six slots will be filled by the aforementioned easy computer players. I lost as many (probably more) matches because one of the computer players won as I did because one of the other human players beat me.

The other disadvantage is almost as bad. Despite all of the different modes that can be played in the offline multiplayer, the only choice you can make in online play is what stage to play on. The other rules are already set. You play in the classic battle mode, with three minute rounds, revenge mode on super, etc. There are a lot of options to choose from for offline multiplayer, and that makes the offline multiplayer very attractive. But for the online multiplayer, it relies on the addictiveness of classic Bomberman multiplayer, and addictive it certainly is. And there’s certainly a lot of stages to choose from, so you don’t just have to play the normal stage over and over. Still, it’d be nice to have the option of doing a crown battle online if you wanted to. This isn’t a major complaint, but it is a complaint nonetheless.

So Bomberman Land Touch! basically has three ways to play. You have an engaging, but limited, single-player mode and a set of attractions that you unlock as you play through it that can be played later whenever you want. You have an offline multiplayer mode that can be utilized through single or multi-card play that has more options than you can shake a stick at. And you have an online mode, that, although limited in what you can do with it, is still an engaging experience and an excellent addition to Bomberman titles. Any of these three play types would be a more than competent game in itself, so the combination of the three is a no-brainer purchase. If you are a Bomberman fan, or even just someone looking for a fun multiplayer game with WiFi capability, it is very unlikely that you would regret purchasing this game.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 8.5
Written by Martin Review Guide