More Or Less Academic, This Review. Atomic Bomberman is a gumby-fresh and altogether fly version of Hudsonsoft's classic multi-player grenade banquet - a brand new, bells and whistles translation of a game so inherently perfect, you could write a black-and-white, stop-motion, low-res Vic 20 version, then force each participant to play with their feet, and it would still be thumb-gnawingly addictive, cheek-clutchingly exciting, and glans-poppingly amusing. In fact, the programming team would have to try really hard to totally cock it up. They'd have to start thinking things like "Hmmm... those bomber dudes... let's put 'em on horseback, yeah? And give 'em swords and stuff. And mullet hairdos. And make it so you can, like, cast spells and fly and shit. And hey - let's take all the bombs out too." Thankfully, they didn't think anything of the sort. Instead they decided to retain all the basics and only fiddle about with the aspects that actually matter the least: namely the graphics and sound effects. Oh yeah, and the number of players. But more on that later.
Regular readers will have clocked last month's preview and playable demo of Atomic Bomberman, so we'll focus on what differentiates this version from the others instead. PC owners have had a crack at the game before in the guise of Dynablaster, but this latest incarnation boasts a few utterly unique features.
Aim away from face
First things first: the visuals. The anime player-characters have been given an 'American' makeover, modelled in 3D Studio (or equivalent), rendered, animated and turned into sprites. They're far less stumpy than the Japanese originals, and consequently far less cute. Veterans of SNES Bomberman might initially wrinkle their noses, but these Bombermen visibly react to the onscreen action. Trap yourself between two bombs, for instance, and your character is likely to start praying, panicking or digging his own grave. There's also a pleasing selection of different 'death animations' cued up, ready to unfold when you inevitably die - sometimes you'll lose an arm in the blast, sometimes your entire head. The more functional graphical aspects, such as the animated 'walking' sequences, are also impeccable. Pile a huge number of players onscreen and the frame rate drops significantly, although never so far as to render the game unplayable. And incidentally, real purists can always turn the new spangly bits off and play in lo-fi 'Classic' mode if they prefer.
Oh yeah, the multi-player option. Up to ten of you can battle it out at one time. Yes, ten. There's barely room to move, of course, but that's all part of the fun. To fully enjoy this gameplay mode, you'll need one of the following: 1) Ten Microsoft Sidewinder joypads, daisychained together and plugged into one huge, throbbing Demon Seed-style PC, or 2) a modem, a phone line and an Internet account for bombing the crap out of Americans and other Web lowlifes, or 3) your own local area network.
Options 1) and 3) offer the smoothest gameplay, but are the least practical. They're all screaming good fun, although playing free-for-alls in groups of six upwards can be rath confusing - not to mention frustrating when you're one of the first to die and can only contemplate your navel while the others finish the game. Using the new team play option is the best bet for big groups.
What else is there to say? Sound effects? Well, the constant stream of 'zany' vocal taunts has grown on us since last issue's preview. The Joe Pesci soundalike makes us laugh out loud (because we've been talking 'Pesci' non-stop ourselves, ever since we watched Casino). The Jim Carrey/Forrest Gump side of things is a little more annoying. Still, you have got the option of recording your own taunts, so the sky's the limit as far as bad language goes. See if you have it in you to visibly turn the air blue.
Light fuse and retire
So it's 90 per cent for Atomic Bomberman. It's undeniably addictive, and almost impossible to screw up. The recently-released Sega Saturn version is much better, although you can't play it over the Internet, and even if you could, you'd be hard-pressed to find a single other Saturn-owning sucker out there. But it does have cuter graphics, spanglier sound and a nice overall feel, so if you do have a Saturn, buy that version instead. Also, don't even consider parting with your cash if you're planning to play solely against the computer because the Al isn't brilliant. Still, those two gripes aside, you can purchase with confidence. Especially since it's cheap.
Boms and Songs
Ever since mankind learnt to combine notes, words and rhythm in order to create 'songs', we've been inundated with explosives-related popular music stuff. Don't believe us? This is just the tip of the iceberg...
MR BOOM BAST IC - SHAGGY
Rasp-throated ragga opus featuring lyrics so nonsensical that a team of eight English professors with degrees in lingual rationalisation toiled for six years in a doomed attempt to fathom its meaning. Three were driven insane, one committed suicide, while the remaining four shaved their heads and formed a naked dance troupe called 'The Bottom Sailors'.
SONIC BOOM BOY - WESTWORLD
Dayglo power-pop from mid-'80s one-hit wonders. Their other stuff was "quite dancey" says Jezza. "A Republica before their time," muses Wag. "They were crap" interjects Spike, hitting the nail on the head.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN - EUROPE
Apocalyptic epic from a band with absurdly large hair. They looked like they had fucking haystacks on their heads, for crying out loud.
BANG BANG - BA ROBERTSON
History of human conflict condensed into staccato bubblegum pop lyrics by bloke with Weird Al Yankovich haircut. A weirdy one-off.
WE HAVE EXPLOSIVE - FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON
Industro-rave from the Cubase maestros. Sounds like an angry Dalek shouting "we have explosive" over and over again, while a Cyberman tumbles down a flight of metal stairs and someone slams a car door in the background, though none of that was in the video, apparently.
ATOM BOMB - FLUKE "Baby's got an atom bomb," they sang, all stupid and breathy and with a faux American accent. Still, could have been worse. Could have been Europe.
BOOM-BANC A BANC - LULU
Neither know nor care about this. About things blowing up, I suppose.
Download Atomic Bomberman
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
It's almost ten years now since Bomberman first wowed 'em across the globe with its devilishly addictive yet simple gameplay.
This 'nineties' version was originally released a couple of years ago, and received rapturous acclaim mainly because apart from a 3D graphical update and a few tweaks, it was essentially the same game as the original. Okay played solo and awesome when played with friends, it remains one of the greatest multiplayer games ever devised, especially as there's now a hatful of new character animations and a vast repertoire of spiteful canned and custom taunts. At under five quid you'd have to be loopy not to own a copy. Buy it now.
Atomic Bomberman is blasting its way onto the PC, and it looks like it's bringing with it all the addictive fun of the console versions, including a multiplayer option where up to 10 players can blow each other away. New rendered 3D graphics provide some eye candy--and humorous death sequences. More than 20 power-ups will include everything from detonators to classic B-man diseases that you loved (or hated) the first time around. Two play modes, Classic and Enhanced, and a plethora of custom game options will also be available. Getting bombed was never so much fun!
Boom, baby, boom! Atomic Bomberman successfully brings the console classic's explosive action to the PC, while adding some welcome tweaks in the process.
All the frantic gameplay of multiplayer Bomberman is here, plus Interplay has added an insane 10-player network variant that pits you against humans or computer-controlled drones. Team variations, including an explosive take on volleyball, extend the healthy replay value. If that's not enough, Bomberman also features a level creator so you can make your own arena maps.
It's Da Bomb
The graphics certainly live up to the gameplay, with bright colors and crisply rendered characters. The backgrounds sport nice detail, but sometimes they are too detailed, causing the screen to look messy. On the sound side, there's a lively but uninteresting music soundtrack full of dance beats and wacky noises, while the game's controls are best handled with a joystick (but the keyboard is also reconfigurable).
Atomic Bomberman really preserves the classic series' essential elements and adds only worthwhile enhancements. It's great action for gamers with a short fuse.
- A cheesy but effective way to win on the Coal Mine level is to lay traps by the warp holes.
- Avoid obstacles like trampolines and mine shafts by squeezing around comers as tightly as possible.
- For surprise attacks, use the boxing glove and blue hand power-ups to throw bombs over obstacles, including the outer walls of the arena.
Atomic Bomberman is based on the classic arcade game, Bomberman, developed in the late 1980s. There is no plot at all to this game, and one's mission is quite simple: try to blow everyone else up with bombs while simultaneously avoiding being blown up. While attempting to blow everything to smithereens, a number of crucial pickups are available, not all of which were part of the original game: some of these are extra bombs, "firefaces" that extend a bomb's range, trigger bombs to facilitate remote detonation, roller skates that increase your speed, boxing gloves to punch bombs over obstacles, boots to kick bombs away, and ebola to transmit to opponents three poisons at once. These pickups serve to provide depth to the game and to introduce strategy into what might otherwise turn into a contest that exclusively rewards those with the speediest reflexes.
As might be expected, this game moves at a fast and frenzied pace, with quick reactions and sharp hand-eye coordination absolute necessities. This game is a snap to learn how to play, but it is a challenge to play it well. Both keyboard and joystick/gamepad controls work well in the game.
The options menu for determining settings in the game has to be one of the most poorly-designed I have ever seen. There is no rhyme or reason to the order of items listed in the menu, and many are not immediately clear. Similarly, the level editor included to facilitate custom design of the game is quite difficult to interpret and execute.
Atomic Bomberman is clearly first and foremost a multiplayer game, as although computer-controlled opponents possess decent (decidedly not outstanding) artificial intelligence, there is nothing quite as much fun in this game as playing against other human beings. Up to ten players may play the game at once (though not on ten separate computers), and as the number of players rises, the game becomes even more frenzied. Unfortunately, multiplayer games often suffer from the same jerkiness (discussed below in the System Requirements and Comments section) that interferes with single-player games lacking a full installation on the hard disk. The pace of the bombing is so fast that even the tiniest delays can interfere with the gameplay.
The graphics in this game, while passable, are definitely not outstanding. The colors on the screens seem extremely poorly chosen, with little sense of compatible shades and a general sense of muddy garishness. Rather than wowing you with artistic beauty, many of these screens are actually hard to look at for very long. The best part of the visuals are the animations and the introductory video, both of which are nicely executed.
The music in Atomic Bomberman is nondescript, easily forgettable, and contributes little to the game. The sound effects are pretty standard and quite effective. But it is in the vocal effects that this game shines, with a huge variety of comments interspersed in the gameplay. This variety is so large that you rarely have to worry about encountering the same response over and over again, and although occasionally obnoxious, these voice clips really liven up the game. The incredible attention to vocal effects comes at a steep price, however, as the discussion of system requirements below indicates.
The documentation is minimal, consisting of a brief black-and-white jewel case manual, which seems to assume most buyers are already familiar with the game. What is irritating here is that almost half the manual is devoted to a description of the Interplay web site, a public relations statement from the chief executive officer of Interplay, a statement of customer service, and a limited warranty. If game vendors are going to give us little hard-copy documentation, the least they could do is to devote most of it to information about the game rather than this kind of generic filler.
Required: Pentium 90 CPU, 16 MB RAM, 40 MB hard disk space, a double-speed CD-ROM drive, a SVGA video card, a Sound Blaster or compatible sound card, Windows 95 operating system.
As such, these requirements are unremarkable for a game of this type. However, the reality of playing the game proved to be quite a different story. On my test computer, on which I have successfully installed and played almost 100 recently-released games, I could not get the music and sound to work unless I did a full install, committing well over 500 MB of hard disk space (!!) to this game. When I talked to Interplay's technical support about this, they were nice but could provide no help. When installed on other machines, it appears that on those that did allow the music and sound to play without a full installation on the hard disk, there was a noticeable performance penalty: because sound effects have to be read off the CD-ROM drive with a minimum or medium installation, there are slight pauses in the game when these are accessed, and these often proved to be just enough to prevent you from responding quickly enough to your opponents. With so many sound effects used in the game, they take up (along with the music) over 400 MB, and that is the culprit for this game's space-hoggish nature. Thus, for guaranteed smooth operation of the game on the full range of machines, one has to commit over half a gigabyte of hard disk space, an amount truly outrageous for this kind of arcade game.
Interplay is an excellent company with generally well-designed products, and has in the recent past at least on occasion done a super job introducing spruced-up versions of arcade classics (see, for example, my earlier review of Tempest 2000). But in the case of Atomic Bomberman I cannot help but conclude that Interplay missed the mark. There are just too many areas where dramatic improvements are needed. Thus, while I am thrilled that a game company is realizing that some of the very best computer game ideas involve looking back at the great pioneering video game efforts, I think fans of the original Bomberman and newcomers alike will be disappointed by this particular remake.