Basement Crawl starts off with one of the most interesting premises I've seen in a downloadable game in quite some time.
Then it goes completely downhill from there, plummets off a cliff, hits some spiky rocks on the way down, and explodes at the bottom.
Basement Crawl (PS4)
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Bloober Team
Released: February 25, 2014
Basement Crawl begins with an incredibly intriguing idea that it abandons as soon as you get to the main menu. In the opening narration, a creepy grandmother tries to convince her granddaughter to stay locked up in her room, forgoing visits to the outside world, telling her, "all you need is me, my dear." Then it zooms out to a bunch of disturbing torture rooms while an unsettling tune plays. It was an excellent bait and switch, because all the game ends up delivering is a bad Bomberman clone.
The macabre art style is the only thing refreshing about Basement Crawl, because everything else is absolutely bare-bones. As soon as you boot the game up you're greeted with two options -- local play, and online play. That's literally it. There's no single-player component, no story (to build on that awesome intro), no extra modes, not even a tutorial (you get two pages on a help screen) -- just those two gametypes. To add insult to injury, local play doesn't feature any bots whatsoever. So if you want to play offline by yourself -- tough -- you just bought an online-only game.
Once you get past that realization, you'll find that there are only two modes to choose from that are ostensibly the same -- deathmatch and team deatmatch. They play the same, they feel the same, and outside of a few different levels, they basically are the same. You also get that same feeling of deja vu when it comes to the cast of characters, and the fact that there are only four of them (a bear, a clown, a crash dummy, and a creepy guy with a mask), but the game supports eight players online.
Think about that for a second. I literally joined a match where everyone was the bear, and it was a complete clusterfuck. Why Bloober Team didn't design six characters and limit the amount of players to six is beyond me. They try to make the characters feel different by giving them varying starting stats (more bombs, more speed, and so on), but they all feel more or less the same.
That's basically the theme of the gameplay, too. You'll set explosives in lanes just like Bomberman, and hope to catch players in the blast. There are standard upgrades in tow, like better explosions, remote mines, and the like, but the action is just so bland that you won't really care about any of it. Basement Crawl even has Bomberman's standard "kick" move -- there's nothing original here.
Online play is also fundamentally broken. I experienced a number of laggy games, which in a Bomberman clone, essentially renders it unplayable. But to make matters even worse, sometimes I would join a game, choose a character, and I wouldn't spawn. I would just sit there in an active game watching what was going on until it was over, at which point I get booted to the main online menu. Terrible.
Basement Crawl is not only a broken, unfinished game -- it's also a poor one. It's sad that given the situation with Hudson Soft and Konami, the chances of a PS4 port of a Bomberman game are slim to none. It sounds weird to be asking for yet another Bomberman game in 2014, but given the circumstances, anything would be better than this.