Bomberman Land's mini-game collection is exemplary

Posted by Mark Raby

Game review - Bomberman Land may not be the best Bomberman game ever created, but its presentation and sheer volume of mini-games is one of the best titles for the Wii to date.

Bomberman is often overlooked as one of the longest-lasting video game franchises. The original Bomberman NES game came out in the U.S. in 1989, the same year when Tetris came out for the Game Boy.  However, its legacy has pretty much been a very basic and simple arcade game.  Bomberman Land is one of a few titles that tries to expand on the series, and it is the only one to date that did a good job on that task.

The game is broken up into a single-player story mode, a free-for-all mini-game mode, and "battle mode", which is just another way of saying "classic Bomberman."

The single-player story mode of Bomberman is a double-edged sword.  In it, players control a generic white Bomberman character through various worlds, along the way competing in numerous mini-games.

Now, as you might already be expecting, the story is kind of lame.  This is worsened by the fact that you cannot speed up the text during the cutscenes.  In fact, the first 10 - 15 minutes of the story mode is an introduction to the story, all text-based dialog, which cannot be skipped.  

So if you want to start a new story mode game, you are going to have to sit through the entire introduction again.  Once you actually start playing, though, you can alter the speed of the text so you can whiz right through it.

Once you get past the boring story, though, the execution of the gameplay is great.  It requires gamers to partake in every one of Bomberman Land's mini-games, and many of them are in the same league as Mario Party, and they are just as diverse.  They range from Brain Age-esque quick-thinking games to surprisingly difficult arcade-style romps.

The story mode is broken up into four different areas, each with its own set of mini-games. In order to advance to the next area, you essentially need to master all the mini-games in the current area.  There is also a centralized hub area that allows you to practice the mini-games and customize your character.

One thing that is quite nice to see in the story mode is that it honestly takes practice and skill to win.  Too many similar games are so painstakingly easy that it just feels like a chore.  In Bomberman Land, though, you most likely will not get through without a struggle, which is really how it should be.

I started playing the game and I'll admit it started out very slow and boring, but once I actually started opening up new mini-games, I couldn't stop.  It delivers in spades on the "bet you can't play just one" mini-game mentality, which is absolutely essential in a title like this.

You also get to fully customize your Bomberman character, including a hat, scarf, shirt, pants, shoes, and other accessories to give him a personalized flare while you're going through the story mode.  As a bonus, you also can use this character in the classic Bomberman mode.

I would hope most old-school gamers remember the original Caesar's Palace console game, where you actually got to walk around the casino and step up to a game table or slot machine.  The navigation through the casino and its graphical display were nothing spectacular, but having that overworld has given it a leg up on practically every other Vegas/gambling video game to date.  That's what Bomberman Land is able to achieve.

There is also the option of playing through these mini-games without navigating through the overworld map.  However, you need to unlock them in the story mode before you can play them outside of that mode.

The other game mode is classic Bomberman. Kudos go to Hudson for making sure to include this mode, which has been lacking in other story-driven Bomberman games.  There are six versions of the classic arcade game, five of which are just rules variations.

The sixth version, though, is a specialized Wii version that unfortunately doesn't play through too well.  Imagine Bomberman without the characters running around.  That's what this mode is.  Instead, you just point and click where you want to lay bombs and your score increases for everything you blow up.  

It's not really worth your time.  The other classic modes function perfectly, though.  There are 48 different pre-set Bomberman characters, but once again, you must unlock them in story mode before they're playable in "battle mode."

I must harp on the music, though.  Bomberman's music from yesteryear is almost as legion as Mario or Sonic.  Go back to your Game Boy or Sega Genesis and I guarantee that if you start up a Bomberman battle you will instantly recall the catchy tunes that played in the background.  Thus, I was disappointed that the musical overlay in Bomberman Land is dull at best and annoyingly repetitive at worst.

Bomberman fanatics will no doubt recall some of the other titles in the franchise that have tried to take the oddly shaped characters out of their arcade niche, and all of them have failed rather miserably.  Bomberman Land avoids that by staying relatively true to its heritage, because at its core this is just an extension of its core game mechanic.  The gameplay is purely arcade style.

Sure, it has its flops here and there, as do most games without a real centralized theme.  For a mini-game compilation, though, it pulls off its goal really well.

Though I wanted to dive into this game with a preconceived conception to the contrary, I can definitely tell the development team at Hudson actually put a lot of time and care into creating an enjoyable experience with this game.