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Price: 800 MS Points (~$10)
Platform(s): Xbox 360 (XBLA download only)
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Publisher: Hudson Entertainment
Website: Bomberman Live
Classic gaming is all the rage today. Amidst the jaw dropping graphics of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and “new” gameplay mechanics for Fable 2 these old time favorites come back to haunt us. The latest, and one of the greatest, is Bomberman. While Bomberman was originally released in 1983, most fans North American fans remember the NES version that won their hearts in 1987. But I have a confession to make about this whole Bomberman business…I spent countless hours blasting away with my friends as wee Bombertyke. One more confession – where I learned the hard truth on Xbox Live – is that my friends and me must have been drooling idiots. Offline Bomberman Live is one of the more entertaining tutorials I’ve played in a long while. Once you take your sorry ass online you’re in for a world of exploding gameplay.
For the unfortunately uninitiated let me explain the basic Bomberman gameplay: You play on a board from a top-down perspective. The objective is to use your bombs to blast destructible blocks and get powered up. And then you blow up your friends. It’s absurdly simple, and incredible fun. Of course, there’s quite a bit of strategy involved even if this were all that occurred in a typical battle. But there are a plethora of power-ups that make you run faster, increase your bomb blast, allow you to kick or punch bombs, and my favorite a super destructive bomb that can cause a ginormous blast. When you’re running 8 players on a board things can get out of hand within the first minute or two.
It’s difficult to convey the sense of mayhem and fun that is Bomberman Live. Luckily the online play is some of the best of any game on Xbox Live – and yes that includes favorites like Gears of War. The game makes it easy to showcase the genius of simple bombing gameplay by allowing you to take 3 of your friends with you in online games. Yes, if you’ve been wondering if it’s true then there’s your confirmation. You can take up to 3 guests playing on your 360 online with you. Honestly, this should be the standard and not the novel exception. Online options are pretty typical besides that. You can join Ranked or Player matches in either Battle (one stage over and over) or Tournament (multiple stages).
To add a little extra for new and old players alike some additional features are available in Bomberman Live. There are a handful of different battlefields to play on, and while they all look different they each are a variant of the classic board. Except Plunder Isle, which features a crapload of powerups in the middle just waiting for the lucky pyromaniac to grab them and start causing a major ruckus. It’s a ton of fun and is one way to test your bombing mettle. Game modes like Zombie add some variety, but honestly it’s always the core gametype that keeps you coming back. The most interesting twist on the Bomberman gameplay is Revenge mode. Here when you’re blown out of the match you can take control of a cart and lob bombs onto the field to try and bring down your enemy. If you score a hit you’re back to causing explosive mayhem. It adds a little more depth and strategy to the game. Of course, all of these options can be toggled on or off and creates a diverse session of gaming when you sit down for an hour. For the collection fans out there you can grab jewels that appear on occasion to get more costume options. If you see me online I’m the guy with a peg-leg and cloth hat getting trapped by two bombs.
Sadly, it’s not all beautiful explosions for Bomberman Live. I’ve experienced quite a bit of laggy gameplay with characters jumping around onscreen. You can see what kind of problem this will cause in a game like Bomberman. Heck, I even watched one game where a player reentered the match as a Revenge cart. It was funny, but still a bit odd. The overall online experience is damn good, but if these network issues can’t be worked out the audience may dwindle faster than it should. I hope it gets fixed, because I can’t get enough of Bomberman Live.
The Xbox Live Vision Camera is pretty uninteresting. It’ll take your picture and showcase how you look upon losing to your enemies. On paper it sounds cool, but in reality it’s not very good. Aside from the lame pics often captured, they show up small and grainy on your TV. The graphics are smooth and more than passable for an Xbox Live Arcade game, and the music is unobtrusively upbeat. Whether you’re a casual or hardcore gamer there’s no reason to deny you and your friends a night of Bomberman Live. I may still be just as mediocre at playing the game as when I was 9, but I'm now an adult and having even more fun playing a video game than I thought possible. That's why I still play games, and Bomberman Live is just the latest reminder.