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Super Bomberman R Review: A Controlled Explosion

The Bomberman games have been entertaining gamers with their explosion-based antics since 1983. That’s a whopping 35 years.

What’s surprising is that in all that time they haven’t changed a great deal. They tend to offer a single player experience in which you have to make your way through mazes, obliterating enemies and avoiding hazards as you go. And usually accompanying the single player offering is a multiplayer mode, letting players blow up their friends, and sometimes strangers, indiscriminately.

The revival of a classic

Super Bomberman R is the latest release in the series. It was a launch title for the Nintendo Switch back in March 2017, and to be honest, it wasn’t all that great initially. Konami persisted with the title though, releasing a string of updates that genuinely improved it. And now, just over a year after its Switch release, it has been ported to PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Obviously, these new versions include all the extras added into the Switch version post-release. There’s the Grand Prix mode that lets you battle against the CPU and human opponents under a trio of alternative rule sets. And there’s also a wide range of guest Bombers, each with their own unique skill. If you’ve ever wanted to play Bomberman with a cute version of Dracula, or even Master Chief (only on Xbox One), Super Bomberman R is the game for you.

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Simply the guest

Aside from an exclusive guest character unique to each new format, however, little else is new. The visuals are sharper and performance more consistent, but that’s about it. This is the same game that was on Switch, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. And you know what? That’s okay. Although it’s a shame that some gameplay tweaks haven’t been made.

If you’ve not got anyone to play Battle Mode with, for example, you’ll have to play against bots. And even on weak difficulty, their AI is highly likely to kick your ass. Suffice to say, it doesn’t make for a fun experience. The chunky character designs may also hinder your ability to nestle yourself safely between blocks to gain protection from explosions. Though it admittedly becomes like second nature after some serious play.

Multiplayer mayhem

Super Bomberman R‘s multiplayer modes are, unsurprisingly, at their best when played with real people. Up to eight players can play on a single Xbox One if you have enough pads. Battle Mode provides a traditional Bomberman experience, and also allows you to play in teams if you wish. In Grand Prix, however, teamwork is essential as you fight for possession of crystals, rush to collect checkpoints or aim to deplete the other team’s lives.

The frustration found when playing against the CPU is nowhere to be found when playing against real people. Instead, the air will be full of riotous laughter rather than swear words. There’s a lot of longevity to it all as well, thanks to the inclusion of a wide variety of stages in which to do battle, with even more to unlock. Though unlocking them all is a bit of a grind. And there are also new Bombers and customisation items to unlock too, enabling each player to stand out from one another.

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Is there anyone out there?

Unless you have friends to play with, however, you’ll have a hard time playing Super Bomberman R online. Less than two weeks after launch, it’s a struggle to find an online game on Xbox One. And when you do, you’re not guaranteed to be matched with someone with a decent connection, meaning your experience can be really laggy. It’s a shame, as when you do get a game with a decent connection it’s a lot of fun. Hopefully the game’s online community will grow as the game gets discounted in the coming months.

Aside from Battle and Grand Prix modes, Super Bomberman R also features a story mode which can be played in local co-op. It has you travelling across numerous worlds, battling against the nefarious Buggler and his bungling minions, and while it’s entertaining enough, it’s nothing spectacular. The crazy story scenes and over-dramatic voice acting will keep you bemused, but the sometimes troublesome camera angles will frustrate a little during gameplay.

Whether or not Super Bomberman R succeeds in reviving one of gaming’s previously much-loved franchises remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure, if you’ve ever been fond of strategically dropping bombs to flummox your opponents, it’s a winner. Visually it has charm, and its soundtrack teeters on the line between repetitive and infectiously catchy. It’s the gameplay that’s the real hook though, and there’s plenty of it as long as you have friends to play with. If you don’t, well, you’ll find Super Bomberman R rather limited.

Super Bomberman R is available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC. We reviewed the Xbox One version.

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