When Bomberman DS was released in the summer of 2005, Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connect service wasn't yet up and running. If you wanted to get a multiplayer game going, you had to invite people over and cram them into the same room. While that might have been fine for people with plenty of friends and large homes, it certainly wasn't optimal for loners, apartment dwellers, or anyone that desired to compete against people outside their local area. Thankfully, Wi-Fi Connect is going strong now, and Atlus and Hudson have responded by publishing a Bomberman game that takes advantage of the service. With Bomberman Land Touch!, you no longer have to organize meet ups to get in a few rounds of explosive goodness. Instead, you can use your Internet connection to seek out opponents in mere seconds and flaunt your bomb battling skills anytime you want.
Bomberman Land Touch! is actually two games in one. There's the classic battle mode, of course, but also residing on the cartridge is a collection of 36 different minigames that primarily use the touch screen. If you've ever played any of Nintendo's Mario Party games, then the shoot-outs, races, dance challenges, and puzzles here will all seem very familiar to you. You can experience these Bomberman-themed party games by playing through the story mode's role-playing quest, or you can access them individually from the main menu, which offers the additional benefit of multiplayer play. Minigames can't be played online, but as many as four players situated in the same room can participate using only a single copy of the game. These brief minigames are fun when friends are involved, and it probably won't take much effort to cajole spectating bystanders into a game, since the controls only involve dragging and tapping with the stylus.
Even though the minigames are genuinely fun, the main draw for most people will be the classic battle mode, where up to eight players can fight it out in any of 20 top-down arenas. Using the directional pad and buttons, each player can move his or her bomber dude (or dudette) around the arena and place bombs that explode after a few seconds. Arenas span both screens and incorporate tunnels, trap doors, and conveyor belts. The general idea is to blow up your friends and be the last bomber standing, although some arenas introduce rules that change the conditions for victory from outright survival to capturing the most territory or racking up the most kills. During a match, soft bricks in the arena can be blown up to reveal any of a half dozen power-up items. Most have beneficial side effects, such as increasing your bomb capacity and elongating your bombs' blast radius, but you also have to keep an eye out for downgrades that have the opposite effect. Longtime fans may be disappointed that Hudson left out the boxing glove and remote detonator items that were included in the mid-1990s Bomberman games, but their removal doesn't really hurt the game or ratchet down the intensity level whatsoever. Just using the standard assortment of items, things get pretty crazy when there are at least three or four people involved.
Bomberman DS offered a similar multiplayer battle mode, but you had to get everyone into the same room to take advantage of it. Bomberman Land Touch! eliminates that logistical nightmare, because its battle mode allows online matchmaking through Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connect service. As long as you have an Internet connection and a wireless router, you can easily get together with your friends or challenge random strangers to matches, without having to leave the house or worrying about "stranger danger." On the whole, the severity of lag you'll encounter in online matches is roughly in line with other WFC titles. Some matches start quickly and go smoothly, while in others the lag is so bad that characters will move in fits or you'll be disconnected from the server before the match ends. It all depends on how far away you are from the other players and how solid individual players' connections are. For example, there's rarely any lag at all when everyone on the server is located in neighboring cities. The main drawback to online play is that Internet matches are limited to four players, whereas local multiplayer matches can involve as many as eight players. That's a mild bummer, for sure, but it's easily offset by the realization that you can now play Bomberman against other people without cleaning your room, bathing, or leaving the house.
As for the graphics and audio, Bomberman Land Touch! sticks to the franchise's old-school roots. The 2D character sprites and tiled arenas in the battle mode are colorful and charming, but they don't push the hardware at all. The theme park world in the story mode is packed with cute details and animation effects, while all of the minigames are put together with hand-drawn backgrounds and objects that reflect a Japanese manga inspiration. Sound effects primarily consist of explosions and the associated noises of objects blowing up. Meanwhile, the music reflects a carnival-style atmosphere that is both upbeat and memorable.
If you already own the first Bomberman DS or have no way of taking advantage of this newer game's online features, then you probably don't need Bomberman Land Touch!. On the other hand, if you do have a compatible router or Wi-Fi adapter and you enjoy multiplayer gaming, then you should make it a point to add this game to your collection. The battle mode is as fun as ever, and now, thanks to the implementation of online play, the process of setting up matches and finding opponents is much less of a hassle.