Destructoid Review: Bomberman Live

Look, it’s no secret that I love this game. Having already had the chance to get intimate with the title at Hudson’s headquarters in San Francisco, I knew well in advance that there was something special brewing — some unholy ritual bringing together the meant-to-be elements of Xbox Live and Bomberman. It’s a wonder that this wasn’t part of the original Arcade lineup.

It was easy to tell that this game was going to be a favorite of mine, and I’ll tell you why: in a room full of three big TVs, twelve journalists and a crew of onlookers, the dialogue between us continually shifted between raucous smack-talkin’ and booming outbursts of surprise and laughter, eruptions of cursing, and angry fists shaken at colleagues. This is an experience inherent to the game, so the big question is: how does it translate to the online experience, when your couch is filled with only one ass and those who would see you destroyed by a well-timed remote bomb are swearing at you from thousands of miles away?

Nick, Chad, a slew of community folk and I took to Live to find out. Hit the jump for our review, and don’t forget to tell us what you thought of Bomberman Live in them comments!

Flint “Aaron Linde” Ironstag

It’s fair to say that Bomberman‘s exploits on the Xbox 360 have been, up to this point, a somewhat mixed bag. Yeah, Act Zero wasn’t what we hoped for, but Hudson knows that; consider Bomberman Live their formal apology. Combining the best elements of previous Bomberman titles into one kick-ass Live-ready experience, I feel comfortable claiming Bomberman Live as the absolute last word on the series — that is, of course, until the updates and add-on packs surface.

I’ll spare you the bare-bones description of the game and the legacy that precedes it — it’s very likely that you’re already intimate with the fundamentals of the series, and if you aren’t, educate thyself and hurry back. Rest assured, however, that the gameplay that made this classic series classic is indeed intact, enhanced, and explored to its fullest. For you new folk, this is a great introduction to the series — for the vets, there’s a whole lot of new to love here. 

In this latest version of the series, the intrepid developers at Hudson and Backbone have packed a metric ton of variety into the game in the form of levels, game modes, power-ups, and costume customization. There are so many ways to play this game that it’ll make your head spin, but it won’t take long to find a configuration that suits you. Bomberman Live includes eight maps, each complete with their own “gimmick” (features particular to the map such as crumbling ice sheets, trap doors, teleport pads, et cetera) and each which can be played in any one of the particular modes, which we’ll get to in a second. Live also includes several power-up selection presets but will also let you tweak them to your liking — hate the land mine as much as I do? Turn it off. Sick of Grim laying waste to you and everyone you’ve ever loved with the Dangerous Bomb? That can go, too. The developers did a fantastic job putting complete control in the hands of the player. 

Having been a fan of Bomberman‘s multiplayer experience since the SNES days, one concern I had was whether or not Live would retain that smack-talkin’, victory-dancin’, arm-punchin’ dynamic built into its predecessors — could the Internet provide me the same satisfaction of destroying my friends and laughing over their burning remains, even if they weren’t next to me? Since its release on Wednesday, the other editors and I along with a handful of Destructoid community folk have been at each other’s throats via Xbox Live just about every night, and it’s been about the most active multiplayer experience I’ve ever had — the banter was high, the agony of defeat crisp. It was clear to me how effective Bomberman was over Xbox Live when my first Destructoid match came to a close on a very close call — thunderous groans and jeers from all eight players in attendance, ringing clear through my Xbox Live headset. My concerns were swept aside; the experience was genuine.

This is a game that thrives on absolute chaos, and it is under this chaos that your moves must remain calculated, your bomb drops precise. You can tear ass around a map just dropping bombs at leisure, but if you’re playing to win — or if you’re Grim, who’s a Goddamn mutant at this game — you’ve got to keep a cool head to succeed. This isn’t a drawback, though — quite the contrary. When a match is full with eight players and everyone’s hooting and hollering, the social aspect becomes every bit as important a play mechanic as the bombs themselves. 

For those of us still yearning for that classic couch-hurling face-to-face sort of battle, Bomberman Live doesn’t disappoint; local play is just as satisfying as it was on the SNES, and empty spots can be supplemented with CPU players. The AI, however, leaves something to be desired (even opponents set to Hard will regularly slay themselves by walking into their own explosions) so you’ll want to find some buddies to fill them spots. With an Xbox Live account, however, you can drag up to four players on a single Xbox 360 online to play the world, which serves well to meld the online and offline experiences.

A few hangups hold the game back, however. There’s no team play — having to differentiate friend from foe would’ve really compounded the absolute calamity I spoke of a few paragraphs ago — and you can’t change game rules on Live without dissolving the match entirely, forcing you to resend invites to your crew every time you want to add or remove power-ups, change game modes, that kind of thing.

My experience with lag and such has been positive with one or two exceptions, but many Dtoiders have reported some pretty vicious glitches in network play, including haunting tales of the Invisible Ghost-Chad, where players dropped like sacks of oranges as a player they could not see did away with them. Savant also mentioned an instance in which revenge carts would appear in the middle of the field once players have been revived, and in his experience, some 20% of games played were marred by one network error or another. Your mileage may vary, of course — until they were brought to my attention, I wasn’t aware of most of these glitches — but if they’re as widespread as the rumblings on ranked Live matches seem to indicate, they warrant a second look. For a game that lives and dies online, consistency is crucial.

Meanwhile, If you’re looking for your next Xbox Live Arcade purchase, this may be your best bet. An absolute blast (sorry) with anonymous opponents, old friends or coworkers (even if it means getting your ass splattered by Grim), Bomberman Live is the best version of the classic game yet, taking full advantage of the platform, hardware, and its lengthy legacy. You’ll be playing this one for quite awhile.

Verdict: Buy it!
Score: 8.5/10

Rip “Chad Concelmo” Steakface

I am very torn about my final verdict on Bomberman Live! On the one hand, I loved playing every second of it. Like Aaron said, it is pretty much the definitive version of the series, offering a plethora of game modes, customization options, and seriously intense multi-player action. On the other hand, this is a game designed primarily for Xbox Live play (heck, a one-player mission mode is, sadly, not even offered), and in the hours of playtime I have already accumulated, I think I played more games with glitches than without. And for a game priding itself on its fantastic on-line offerings, this is a serious problem that can’t be overlooked.

Some of the glitches, mind you, were very mild and did not really affect the overall experience (such as some players being temporarily stuck in certain menus from time to time). The majority of the glitches I encountered, though, were of the game crippling variety, even affecting the overall score of the matches. If you are like me, and live and die by your leaderboard standings, prepare to be ridiculously frustrated.

For example, take the one glitch I experienced more than any other: in the middle of random matches, one player would become invincible for no reason at all. Granted, this person’s bombs couldn’t do any damage as well, but because of this, when there were two players left in the game, the non-invincible player was forced to kill him/herself in order for the matches to even proceed, thereby forcing a loss and adding a win to the player that, literally, didn’t do anything. If this had happened once of twice it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but there was one tournament I played in where it happened each and every game! For such an entertaining, high-profile title, I was surprised that the on-line was this, well, broken at times.

What is strange, though, is, despite all of these grumblings, I still had a really great time playing. After each and every cursing fit I would have that was caused by the game freaking out on me, I would play a string of games with no problems at all and have one of the best times I can remember playing a multi-player game (seriously, eight-player antics have never been this much fun). Maybe if I had a warning before I played none of this would have bothered me as much and I just would have shrugged it off as being “that crazy Bomberman and its wacky glitches!” So, here is my gift to you: Bomberman Live! is a remarkably fun game that definitely comes recommended, but be warned: technical snafus abound.

Verdict: Buy It!
Score: 7.5/10

Thick “Nick Chester” McRunfast

If there’s any one thing that could kill Bomberman Live, it’s certainly not the glitches Chad and Aaron spoke about. In fact, it seems I’m the only one who wasn’t thrust into an online game marred game breaking glitches. The few times I did experience “glitches” were clearly network issues, usually as a result of a poor connection with the host. While I’m not saying they don’t exist, they certainly weren’t invasive enough that I can use them as the scapegoat for why I’m so bad at Bomberman Live.

But winning or losing has never been what makes Bomberman great — it’s the hot eight-player Bomberman on Bomberman action that has always fueled the die hard followers of the series. Bomberman Live, without a doubt, is a love letter to fans. The game essentially contains all of the best bits and pieces of the Bomberman series, which has seen 24 years worth of games. That’s right — the formula for this game may be older than you are, but the grid-based action is still as fun as it was when it first appeared in 1983. Without a doubt, Bomberman has always shined when played with others.

So it might seem a bit odd that I’d complain about Bomberman Live‘s complete lack of an honest single-player mode, but it’s hard to ignore when it seems like offering one would have been so simple. While the game does allow you to play with bots, it’s only in one-off games you set up on a case by case basis. There is no real story mode or tournament mode to progress through, leaving the mode essentially only worthwhile for those who want to hone their Bomber-chops (and unlock the game’s near endless supply of “costume” pieces to customize your character). However, the game’s near idiotic AI turns what could be a learning tool into a frustratingly vapid experience; I’ve seen computer opponents spend more time humping walls than actually, you know, trying to win a match.

But taken in the context of what it truly is — a chaotic multiplayer experience — Bomberman Live is a smashing success. Let’s face it: Bomberman has never been about deep, engrossing gameplay. It’s always been about yelling at your buddies or screaming for your life as you find yourself trapped in an inescapable situation. At its core, it’s about fun, and it delivers on that promise of a good time without breaking a sweat.

Verdict: Buy it!
Score: 8.5/10


Destructoid Final Verdict

Final Score: 8.2

Aaron Linde