Ilya waxes at length about what makes this bomb tick. And... explode? The analogy *almost* worked, cut us some slack...
Hudson pushes the classic franchise along a new and very different path from the original iteration. Throwing you into an amusement park themed world, Bomberman Land for the PSP expects you to temporarily lay down the bomb bag and put on your reading glasses. So how does it stack up with other mini-game offerings - and most importantly does it include a classic Bomberman mode?
If you're like me and haven't touched the series for almost a decade, Bomberman Land PSP will hit you like a cold splash of water. Considering the ludicrous nature of the series' central gameplay mechanic - little bombers mercilessly blowing up opponents, positioning a game exclusively in a world behind this madness seems both counterintuitive and just plain bizarre. Yet despite some questionable design behind the main story mode, Bomberman Land thankfully does include a fairly extensive Battle Mode (classic Bomberman) as a great safety net for the game's long-term playability.
Story Mode begins by placing you in the midst of a conversation between White, who you'll be handed control of shortly, and an assortment of his other-color bomber buddies each with a relatively unique persona. For some very forgettable reason, the crew jumps into an airplane and eventually crash lands smack in the middle of Bomberman Land, conveniently lodging the vehicle in a statue. This brings up two obvious questions. First, how do little bomb-toting humanoids get past a security checkpoint in a modern day airport? Second, aren't airplane crashes generally fatal? The game isn't shy about either of these issues - placing the bombers on a private jet and explaining away physical damage with a throw back to classic Bomberman resiliency.
And if this kind of subtle humor were present in greater quantities throughout the single player experience, Hudson may have had a much easier time attracting old school fans to get on board with the series' new direction. Unfortunately, Bomberman Land does not really utilize the franchise's vast history in trying to influence the mini-game filled universe. Rather, the Story Mode is largely self-contained and not well relatable to its predecessors. Similarly, the mini-games are nothing like what you'd imagine Bombermen and women would get a kick out of in everyday life. Compared to a Mario Party or Rayman Raving Rabbids, the storyline connection to the mini-game themes just aren't there.
That's not to say that Bomberman Land is free of all personality whatsoever. In fact, the dialogue itself is occasionally witty and characters can even come across as charming. Case in point is White's mini bomber companion. Even with a predictable Napoleonic complex, the little guy replaces what would otherwise be a story mode tutorial and often stands out from the rest of the cast a couple memorable lines. On the flip side, when you do stumble across decent dialogue, all of the missed opportunities for a more humorous, atmospheric title become that much more highlighted.
The worst part is that these opportunities are literally scattered all throughout Bomberman Land. By blending a very light version of the adventure genre with a mini-game collection, the game occasionally throws around RPG quantities of dialogue at you in a single sitting. And whether it's a result of stretched development resources or something entirely different, much of this content will also grow repetitive and stale with rare stand-out performances generally being saved for major points in the plot.
Moreover, the overworld gameplay itself leaves a lot to be desired and pacing is a glaring issue. Bomberman Land is built around the idea of opening up new mini-game areas by completing required events. On face, this doesn't seem like too terrible of a concept. However, because actual implementation requires continual backtracking and even aimless wandering in order to progress further, it becomes easy to get frustrated while trying to travel from one mini-game to the next. The random puzzle solving elements that try to hinder your advancement don't offer much help in terms of entertainment value either, as their difficulty seems to be targeted towards either very young or illiterate audiences.
Otherwise, mini-games themselves are usually a lot of fun and provide a decent variety of events to mess around with. Their difficulty is tweaked to a point whereas you won't be cake-walking your way through the theme park or turning off the game altogether because of an unfair or poorly designed game mechanic. Another plus is the (maybe accidental) parodies that can be found in a select few events. One of which, encountered early on, is very reminiscent of Micro Machines Racing. My favorite mini-game is a 2D ninja sidescroller which asks the player to platform a cutesy bomberninja across a two-story environment. Awesome! The game also goes out of the way to provide you with a pass card system to tone down the difficulty of passing scores for events that are a tad too grueling for you.
As mentioned previously, Bomberman Land offers a classic Battle Mode, allowing you to relive some of those exciting moments of getting trapped in your own bombs. Given classic Bomberman's history there's no point in going into specifics on gameplay as it hasn't changed in any drastic way from the original TurboGrafx-16 release. It's worth pointing out that the game now offers a multiplayer mode as well, including a game sharing feature with friends in the immediate network area. Again - awesome. With the inclusion of over forty multiplayer maps, it's pretty clear that the battle mode formula passes the test of time with high marks.
Up to this point, I may have come off as too harsh on the title, combing through various flaws and only mentioning some positives just to shoot the game back down later. This may be true to a certain extent but the reason is certainly not because Bomberman Land is a bad game because it isn't. My high level of scrutiny doesn't stem from a hatred for the title; it exists because how much I care for the franchise in general. And even though I admittedly haven't touched the original in years, myself along with many others probably still have fond memories of bombing the crap out of our friends. With a collection of pretty solid mini-games and a smart decision to include a thorough Battle Mode, Bomberman Land works out as a step forward in the series' evolution.
What's Hot: Battle Mode with game sharing; fun, varied mini-games that will sometimes remind you of retro titles; charming characters and a game not afraid not to make fun of itself
What's Not: Annoying overworld with pointless backtracking; forgettable storyline and large chunks of dull dialogue