Ah, Bomberman, one of the classic multiplayer experiences that strained friendships and tested rivalries. If you don’t know the torment of turning around and finding yourself trapped by a large comically oversized bomb while your friends laugh manically at your impending demise, then you haven’t lived, I say! Also, I heard that sometimes happens in this game.
It still surprises how often a major game developer has a beloved franchise but for some reason leaves it to rot in the sweltering sun. Thankfully, the modding community does what Nintendon’t/Segawon’t – creating Power Bomberman, the definitive Bomberman experience which adds modern touches like 12 player(!) multiplayer, while keeping the spirit of exactly what made the old games so great.
Aside from re-creating the classic Bomberman gameplay, which involved everyone’s favourite activities of exploding the landscape with dynamite to get to the goodies hidden within, punching bombs into your friends’ faces, and of course, riding giant kangaroos, what makes Power Bomberman really stand out – for better of worse – is the absolutely staggering amount of custom options to be found.
Notable among the numerous features, you can select from dozens of courses, each with a handful of variations (which go beyond just the layout and can add differing obstacles and powerups too), as well as dozens of playable characters including the expected assortment of coloured bomberpeoples, but also other Hudson Soft characters meaning you finally can explodify Master Higgins from Adventure Island. That little bastard had it coming to him. The Kangaroos (aka louies) make a welcome return, with a ton of different varieties available.
Another interesting feature – which I suspect is from the Saturn version of Bomberman which I never played – is the ability to continue playing after death. Once you’ve spontaneously combusted, you re-emerge on a mini spaceship, flying around the borders of the map, able to throw in a single basic bomb from time to time. Admittedly it’s not so useful, but if you do manage to kill someone you get to take their place, resuming the fray, and they become a vengeful rocket wraith in your place.
Online play meanwhile is functional, but currently only in a very basic form – you have to manually enter the IP address of the game you wish to join. So as far as I understand it, there is no public games or lobby to browse through, you’d pretty much need to coordinate it exclusively with friends.
With all this choice, Power Bomberman really is the definitive Bomberman experience. However, the dark side of the coin is that the sheer amount of options thrown at you can be overwhelming. For each map/battle you have full control over switching on/off the dozens and dozens of different powerups, kangaroo types, and other features per battle, as you see fit. All-in-all, there are 8 screens to progress through just to load a local battle, but even then sub-menus to tweak various settings like CPU difficulty and kangaroo distribution.
Luckily, the default options are usually fine enough that you can mostly just jump in without having to fiddle with all this stuff, as well as a ‘quick battle’ option that jumps straight to the action, no fuss. Which is a godsend, really, because as much as I love the game I really just want to explode stuff.
But hey, don’t take my word for it, take a look yourself – it’s a free download, available right now. I’m sure it will keep any bomberfan busy.
Version played: 0.5.3b