Bomberman is everywhere. He's been everywhere, and he'll continue to be everywhere. He's been on TurboGrafx-16. He's done the Saturn. In fact, we're even pretty sure that he's hiding under your desk right now. So be cool, and don't make any sudden moves. Bomberman's travels have taken him directly onto the Nintendo DS. If you've been around the block a few times and can't see yourself getting excited about Bomberman all over again, or if you're the type of snob that thinks the only real Bomberman game is Saturn Bomberman, it might be easy to overlook this new handheld edition, because by and large, there are few things here that you haven't seen before. However, the formula still works just fine, and with support for eight players using only one copy of the game, this is a fine choice for anyone interested in a strong multiplayer game.
There are two modes to Bomberman, but really, there's only one that matters. The single-player mode, as in most Bomberman games, pits you against a collection of fairly pattern-driven, easy-to-defeat foes. It has 100 stages in all, complete with bonus stages and boss fights. The twist to the game this time around is that collecting power-ups doesn't automatically activate them. Instead, the power-ups appear on the bottom screen, so you can use the touch screen to activate them whenever they're needed. With its large collection of stages, the single-player mode can definitely be time consuming, but aside from the boss fights, it's not really all that exciting.
As has been the case since Bomberman's early days, the battle mode is what you're really interested in. Here, up to eight players or computer-controlled bombermen face off. The object of the game is to drop bombs that blow up your opponents, while getting out of range of all of those explosions to keep yourself alive. You'll grab power-ups that let you drop more bombs simultaneously, enhance the length of your explosions, give you the ability to detonate bombs at will instead of waiting for their regular timed blast, and so on. All of these items make the game move pretty quickly, but each match tends to start a little slowly as the players blast away rubble in hopes of uncovering the items.
The action in Bomberman's multiplayer mode takes place on both screens, with a series of tunnels that connect them together. But there's a wide array of stages available, and some of them have a reduced number of tunnels, which creates crazy choke points for especially destructive tactics. Aside from changing the tunnel count, some of the other stages add teleporters, conveyor belts, zombie panels that can bring players back from the dead, and more. One starts you out with full bomb power, making the action frantic right from the start. Two settings even take advantage of the DS's microphone, forcing you to make noise to drop bombs or detonate others. The variety is definitely one of the best things about Bomberman, but at the same time, there's something to be said for just playing in classic mode, which strips the game down to its decade-old roots.
Eight players is a good number of people for the two-screen game, but even if you can't find seven other DS owners to play with, the computer-controlled opponents are pretty good. You can choose between three different difficulty levels for each entrant, though the normal setting is smart enough for most players. Obviously, playing against real people is preferable, and the game's support for single-card multiplayer is one of its strongest features.
Bomberman's look hasn't changed that much over the years. He's gotten a little lankier, and the enemies look a little more complicated than they did when the game first hit the NES and TG-16. But, for the most part, it's still a good-looking, though also basic-looking, game. The sound effects are high-pitched and filled with shrieks, as the announcer scratches that poppy, Japanese-sounding itch very well. You might find it incredibly annoying, but combined with the super-upbeat music, it's a cohesive sound that works well in the context of the game.
The single-player probably won't win you over, but if you're on the lookout for a solid multiplayer DS game, Bomberman is exactly that. It has a lot of options, which include letting you play with only one copy of the game, as well as letting you fill in the blanks with computer-controlled players if you're missing a few people. If you're a Bomberman fan, you already know exactly what to expect, but this is also a good game for anyone yet to be acquainted with Hudson's long-running series.