Bomberman Hands-On Impressions

Hudson's mad bomber resumes his incendiary activities on the N-Gage.

While most actual bombers are ostracized and relegated to maximum-security prisons, Hudson's helmeted mascot continues--unhindered--on his 19-year, demon-detonating binge.

The N-Gage version of Bomberman retains the tried-and-true formula of its predecessors. Stages are cleared through the strategic detonation of enemies and roadblocks, the form of each being stage-specific. Various power-ups aid you on your quest, either increasing Bomberman's speed, the number of bombs he can place, or the radius of those explosions. Garnering and attaining power-ups, the latter feat performed by simply staying alive, is crucial to a player's success in the single-player campaign. Certain obstacles are indestructible and they can be used to protect Bomberman from his own, formidable explosives. Unfortunately, baddies may also use this tactic.

After a few levels, Bomberman must beat a boss in order to gain access to a new world and all the glorious, refreshed sprites that accompany it. The boss of one level is actually a giant version of Bomberman himself.

Bomberman's Bluetooth multiplay is likely to be its main draw. Although versus mode supports only two players, these duels boast that frenetic pace and chaotic feel that is inimitably Bomberman. There are several multiplayer stages available, each of which adds a unique gimmick to play. One map features sewer pipes in which one can hide or conceal bombs. An unwitting opponent might walk next to a seemingly innocuous, gray pipe, only to get burned by a bomb blast as it escapes its aperture. Another level, which is set on some sort of space station, is peppered with teleporter pads, which dematerialize you Star Trek-style and transport your avatar to the next pad over. It is often a good strategy to place a bomb directly in front of one of these pads, knowing your opponent will travel there. This move is akin to camping outside a spawn point in an FPS, albeit considerably less groan-provoking.

In multiplayer mode, power-ups come fast and furious, and it's important to nab these to stay on top. Whereas, in the single-player campaign, it is possible to beat every level without the aid of power-ups, multiplay power-ups are inexorably linked to your survival. If your opponent can outrun and outgun you, there is little you can do to stop him, except hope that he immolates himself.

If, before launch, the pace of Bomberman's single-player game is dramatically increased to match its multiplayer counterpart, the game will prove to be a well-rounded, enjoyable experience. If the balance remains as is, Bomberman will be almost exclusively a multiplayer title.

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