Bringing back a classic franchise to a new generation, Konami recently released Super Bomberman R on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC after an earlier Switch version. For this review, we played the Playstation 4 version.
Oh Bomberman – such fond memories. I grew up playing the game, but didn’t know it was called Bomberman for many years. This was because the home computer version I was playing had been renamed Dynablaster, and that was my frame of reference. Funnily enough, as frames of reference go, I mostly played the game in its single player mode, even though it’s completely obvious to me now that Bomberman is best enjoyed in multiplayer.
The same can definitely be said for Super Bomberman R, the latest game in a franchise that started way back in 1983. It’s been out for the Nintendo Switch for over a year, but as a Playstation gamer I hadn’t had the chance to play it yet. Booting up the game felt like a warm and familiar bath straight away as I jumped into the single player story campaign, which can also be played cooperatively in local multiplayer.
The core Bomberman gameplay hasn’t changed much in the past twenty-five years, and basically revolved around laying down bombs to try and take down your enemies as well as the obstacles in your way. You can power up the range your bombs have, or the number of bombs you can lay down at the same time – just to name the two most common power-ups. One bomb’s detonation can set off another bomb prematurely as well, so things can get frantic very quickly. Add to this that you can kick a bomb out of bounds and have it re-enter the level on the other side, and chaos ensues.
The campaign does a great job at mixing up the gameplay within the narrow margins that Bomberman allows. Slippery surfaces can make it difficult to engage enemies, boss fights are always interesting, and moving platforms add an extra bit of challenge. The story that plays out in between levels is presented in a very bare-bones kind of way though, making the campaign feel a bit underdeveloped even though it’s fun to play. It’s especially fun when playing with someone else, as you can engage in a bit of strategy in the levels that lend themselves well to this.
After the campaign, which you’ll probably finish in under four hours, there’s lasting appeal in the game’s Battle and Gran Prix modes, which focus on multiplayer action and also support online multiplayer (with up to eight players playing at once). Although I’ll always feel that Bomberman is best played locally, it’s great to go up against so many other players at once and see the clash of tactics that ensues. I’d often be successful in early round by steering clear of confrontations and going for power-ups instead, but as I emerged on top I could see that I had a target on my back and I needed to adapt in later rounds. During another play session, I would intentionally drop a few points early on – just to avoid that same target.
It’s this dynamic nature of the game that keeps things interesting, and even though skill and practice both help it’s still a very accessible game for newcomers due to simple controls and an easy to understand gameplay cycle. The downside, of course, is that Super Bomberman R isn’t the most innovative title out there and plays it relatively safe by sticking to what it knows it does best.
Luckily, the “don’t mess with a winning formula” strategy works for Super Bomberman R. It’s as fun and addicting as ever, even though that means you’re not getting too big of a step up from Bomberman Ultra on the PS3. It’s a little shinier with crisp 3D graphics, but Bomberman R retains the overhead perspective of its predecessors – as well it should. It’s Bomberman for this generation of consoles, nothing more and nothing less.