Explosive Jake, developed by PigeonDev and ported to the Vita by Sometimes You, is a new take on the classic Bomberman formula. It’s out now for the Playstation Vita – here’s what we thought.
A single player adventure without much of a narrative, Explosive Jake casts the player as a skeleton trapped inside a series of dungeons that are crawling with knights, ghosts and zombies. Your only way to defend yourself is to drop bombs, but you have to be careful not to get caught up in the blast zone as you navigate the 40 levels with a grid layout. Sound familiar?
It should, because Explosive Jake bears a strong resemblance to games like Bomberman and other games that were inspired by it like Bombing Busters – which can also be played on the Vita. The game therefore doesn’t waste any time showing you the ropes through a tutorial, instead just throwing you into the first dungeon. And sure enough, there’s not much to learn – press X to drop a bomb in place, then get out of the way before it detonates.
Get your timing right, and you can get rid of the monsters roaming the level. Usually, this isn’t much of a challenge because the AI is incredibly simple – monsters don’t give chase, and instead just run along predicable lines in a circle or back and forth. A bigger danger is probably Explosive Jake himself, whose bombs can get progressively stronger thanks to pickups that also allow you to become faster and drop more bombs at once.
If you’re not careful, then you might get yourself trapped or still be in the blast radius as you wait for an enemy to pass by – but other than that these levels shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. There’s a trophy for each and every one you complete, and silver and gold trophies start unlocking once you get to the last 10 or so levels. With each level taking anywhere from two to five minutes (depending on the size and how quickly you find the exit and the key that goes with it), you’re looking at about two hours of gameplay – and the game has the budget price point to match.
Visually, Explosive Jake harkens back to the 8/16-bit era of the late eighties, bringing back memories of various games for home computers like the Atari ST and Amiga. There’s also a visual filter that makes the game look like it’s being played on an old CRT television, which is a fun retro feature.
Explosive Jake is a short diversion for those who are fond of the Bomberman genre, but the uninspired AI takes away that sensation of really battling for survival that makes many of these games so much fun to play. The result is a game that’s merely okay, as you progress through 40 levels of ‘by the book’ levels that start to feel repetitive. I was happy to see something like Bomberman on the Vita again, I just wish it was in a better game.