BOMBERMAN LIVE: BATTLEFEST REVIEW
Developer: Pi Studios / Publisher: Hudson Soft / ESRB: Everyone
Bomberman Live: Battlefest puts the ‘game’ back in videogames. In a year of epic storytelling from the likes of Mass Effect 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Heavy Rain and Red Dead Redemption it’s a little refreshing to return to the familiar Bomberman franchise and find it thoroughly unsullied. It wasn’t broke, and they sure as hell didn’t do much to fix it. Once again you play as a Bomberman – a geometric individual capable of quite literally pulling bombs out of his ass – and wander about a series of environments with breakable and unbreakable structures, and bomb the hell out of them and your opponents for personal gain. Funny how this kind of thing becomes “normal” to us gamers, isn’t it?
Single-player is available for Bomberman Live: Battlefest, and it works just fine thank you very much. Once you get used to the game mechanics – one of those “easy to learn, hard to master” kind of control schemes (get used to that “x” button, folks) – you’ll have to ratchet the enemy A.I. up to the proverbial “11” for a real challenge. But the action gets so frenetic and there are so many game modes that you’ll have no problem amusing yourself all by your lonesome… although really, this is still Bomberman Live. There’s no reason not to call forth a gaggle of opponents from across the interwebs and find out just how good (or more likely bad) you really are.
Multiplayer is what it’s all about in the world of Bomberman, and Bomberman Live: Battlefest sure as hell isn’t an exception. This series has always felt like a chaotic board game to me. It’s faster-paced than most but you’re still stuck on a square or rectangular surface and combining strategic gameplay – like boxing in your enemies or capturing a flag – with randomized elements like power-ups, power-downs, and new level-specific challenges like a rolling playing field that causes your bombs to topple this way and that, or crazy time machine guns that speed up or slow down any player that gets in their way.
There are also new power-ups in the form of laser-triggered explosives that go off if anyone stands to the left, right, top or bottom of them (perfect for defense) and giant cluster bombs that shoot little itty-bitty bombs willy-nilly. It’s still easy to blow yourself up with these kinds of weapons, but that’s always been part of the fun. They call it Bomberman, not Impervious to Bombs, er… man.
The wide variety of gameplay modes should keep Bomberman Live: Battlefest from getting repetitive, although most are recycled versions of old favorites, or relatively minor variations. There’s a “V.I.P. Mode” in which players on each team must protect their most valuable player (who can’t do much on their own, naturally). There’s the mildly interesting “Bankroll Mode,” in which you collect money over the course of one round in order to buy power-ups at the beginning of the next round. That’s a neat idea, but it mostly seems to affect the beginning of a round as opposed to generating a new and distinctive style of gameplay. Capture the Crown mode (returning from Bomberman Blast) scores based on how long you can hang on to an object – in this case a crown, naturally – before getting exploded. We could go on and on. Some modes are bound to be more entertaining than others, but that will just boil down to personal preference.
There’s not much to really critique here: Bomberman Live: Battlefest just plays great. If there’s any real criticism to be made it’s that the changes to the game aren’t strictly “game changers” in a traditional sense. They add spice but the recipe is essentially the same. I’m not entirely sure why Bomberman Live: Battlefest couldn’t have just been an expansion pack to the old Bomberman Live, but for $10 this is still a good deal.
Colorful, crisp and cartoony, Bomberman Live: Battlefest looks just right. The various levels are distinctive, even if they are just variations on the theme of a pegboard, and there are quite a lot of costume options if you decide not to play as your avatar. (Can’t imagine why, unless you’re like me and just can’t seem to make your avatar look a damned thing like you.) The power-ups are mostly distinctive and easy to recognize. The explosions look like cartoon explosions are supposed to look like, and so on.
Once again the actual Bombermen all look alike to me, which yes, makes me feel like a racist. Luckily you can now play as your XBL avatar too, but that somehow makes me feel even worse for the poor widdle Bombermen. Here they are, going about their merry business, blowing the crap out of each other (like you do), and then I show up in my Limbo t-shirt and Halo: Reach helmet, an ordinary human murdering all of these fantastical creatures while they desperately strive to defend themselves. “D.W. Griffith’s Bomberman Live: Battlefest.” I can almost see it…
Seriously though, this is a pretty enough game. It looks exactly like it needs to, not that I’d put it side-by-side with Bioshock or anything.
Likewise, the sound in Bomberman Live: Battlefest is just about perfect for this kind of game. Bombs go boom and the music is never distracting. The only complaint I have is with the announcer V.O., which sounds like it was recorded by a very chipper 8-year-old. Personally, I hate chipper 8-year-olds. (What do they have to be chipper about anyway? Don’t they know that we’re doing everything in our power to destroy their future?) But luckily they don’t talk too much, so I’m willing to let that nit go unpicked.
I’m not entirely confident Bomberman Live: Battlefest offers a new enough experience to warrant “Must Buy” status, but it’s an extremely fun videogame for a very reasonable price. If you’re tired of the old Bombermen and desperately want a some new levels, power-ups and costumes, and especially if you’ve got some XBL points in your stocking this year, Bomberman Live: Battlefest is…
It’s the bomb.