Bomberman has returned in his second and probably last outing on the N64, bringing with him a few changes and a Pokemon-esque pet alien named Pommy. The story this time involves a bad guy bent on intergalactic domination and a quest for seven elemental stones. Second Attack sticks to the proven Bomberman formula: You are Bomberman. You can create bombs from thin air. You will blow things up. A lot.
OK, there's a little more to it than that. Though Bomberman 64: The Second Attack is very similar to the original Bomberman 64, the game isn't a complete rehash. In some ways it's actually closer to the revered NES and SNES Bomberman titles of years past. The first N64 Bomberman featured free-roaming worlds and a flavor similar to Mario 64, but with bombs. Second Attack features 3D graphics, but you'll progress through each of the game's seven planets in a screen-to-screen manner. A fixed, usually overhead view combined with the addition of different types of bombs gives the title more of the action-puzzle flavor reminiscent of classic Bomberman rather than the action-platform feel of its immediate predecessor.
Besides the simple act of laying bombs, the gameplay is largely defined by the all-important power-ups. By picking them up, you increase your firepower as well as gain abilities like the power to throw and kick bombs. You'll lose the abilities whenever you die (unlike Bomberman 64 where you could always throw and kick), but you can find "guardian armor" pieces hidden throughout the game that permanently grant you special skills. Elemental bombs are also central to gameplay. Besides providing variety in what kind of explosion engulfs your enemies, you'll have to use the elemental bombs you gain from clearing each stage in puzzle situations. You'll need to use the ice bomb to freeze water and lava, the hurricane bomb to propel yourself to nearby ledges, and the napalm bomb for when you want to blow up tougher objects other bombs can't scratch. Most enemies can be destroyed with just about any type of bomb, but there are cases of enemies with immunities and weaknesses that make it worthwhile to experiment. Your pet Pommy will follow you wherever you go, and he can evolve in a number of ways based on what food you pick up for him. Unfortunately, the earlier forms of Pommy aren't very useful, and the furry little guy is never completely necessary to completing the game. A second player can control Pommy, but having only one attack for each evolution and being unable to perform critical tasks such as hitting switches might leave the person holding the second controller a bit bored.
Then main draw for many players will be the multiplayer battle mode, and the one in Second Attack is largely unchanged from Bomberman 64. You'll blow up one to four opponents in a variety of environments, including a classic gridlike arena old-school fans might appreciate. There are five battle modes, one available at the beginning and four more to be unlocked by besting the computer in multiplayer challenges. They include two split-screen modes, a traditional survival mode, a battle royale mode, and an interesting new mode called "kings and knights." This mode is a raucous race to commit regicide while at the same time defending your own immobile king - though you can pick up your sire and toss him into a less vulnerable position. A fairly large number of maps (some winners and losers here) and an amusing assortment of viruses (negative power-ups) are nice, and being able to latch on to players as a vengeful ghost and steer them to their doom in the survival mode is hard not to enjoy. Unfortunately, you're limited to the standard bombs in every multiplayer mode - but you probably won't think about it in the heat of battle.
The only area in which the game is painfully lacking is presentation. Graphics are impossible not to compare to first-generation N64 titles. Dull colors and blurry textures make up the bland graphics that compose the game. Not only are game areas often not pretty to look at, but also slight slowdown can occur - despite the simplicity of the graphics - which drags the visual level down a bit more. Paralleling the unimpressive graphics is the equally unimpressive sound. The sound effects and music are standard and cheesy, although hearing the main villain's "Mwahahahah!" in just about every cutscene is amusing in its own special way.
Overall, the single-player mode is right about average. Although the new bomb types add variety, most of the puzzles don't require much thought, and the gameplay is pretty simplistic overall. Slightly uneven levels of difficulty and too little variation in boss battles also contribute to the game's somewhat lackluster feel but don't totally ruin the experience. Multiplayer is easy to pick up and play, especially if you have a few friends around. Although Bomberman 64: The Second Attack is not at all revolutionary, it is not especially well executed in any particular area, and it suffers noticeably in the graphics and sound departments, but it still has its moments.