Super Bomberman R
You have to admit, it’s a tempting pitch. A longforgotten hero making an opportune return; an all-time multiplayer classic revived and reimagined for an irresistibly social new console at launch. With the remaining Switch lineup looking a shade on the slender side – Link’s magnificent new adventure aside – Super Bomberman R would at first glance appear to be the ideal second game. Don’t be fooled. This overpriced confection isn’t Act Zero bad, but it sits worryingly close to that end of the quality scale, peering vainly at the sublime SNES and Saturn versions far off in the distance.
The kernel of the game remains: four (or eight) diminutive heroes must battle across a maze, placing bombs to destroy blocks and eventually one another, the winner being the last Bomberman standing. Anyone who perishes in a blast can exact revenge by firing bombs from carts that run on rails surrounding these square arenas, a successful hit swapping them back in at the expense of their victim. And to chivvy things along, spiked blocks will descend from the heavens as time starts to run out, forcing the remaining players to occupy an ever-narrowing area until the pressure becomes too much and a victor is declared. Story missions can be tackled in co-op, which at least speeds things up. Regular enemy AI can be outrageously dumb; bosses, however, present a wearyingly attritional challenge when you’re playing on your own
Tellingly, the Old-School map is the pick of the stage options, with most of the rest proving either dull or gimmicky. Medieval sees four 3x3-tile castles obscure the action beneath; Magnetic Sphere has the dubious novelty of horseshoe magnets that suck bombs toward them and rotate 90 degrees with every blast. Junkyard, which features moving platforms that allow you to access a cramped central zone, is perhaps the best of the rest. We might be more forgiving were the character movement not strangely off: from sluggish at the outset to skittish when you’ve accumulated a few speed-up bonuses then try to turn a corner, only to see your avatar bump uselessly into the level geometry. A Story mode (see ‘Bummer, man’) feels like a slog after 20 minutes, while online matches are bedevilled by lag.
Luckily for Konami, it’s impossible to entirely ruin Bomberman. In spite of everything, you’ll likely be able to wring some fun out of it in Battle mode when you’re all suffering the same handicaps. Yet that only testifies to the durability of the original concept, rather than any of the embellishments found here. Seemingly slapped together in haste and without much care, it’s a cynical piece of work, destined to leave those holding a nostalgic fondness for earlier entries wondering whether Bomberman was really all they remembered. This is a cheap game with an expensive price tag, and there’s nothing remotely super about it.