Although Bomberman World joins the last few Bomberman games in its jump into the third dimension, it's actually quite unlike its contemporaries. While both of the preceding titles broke away from traditional Bomberman play in their own way, Bomberman World returns to convention. It just does so in a way that's a little more 3D than before.
The first-person scenario within Bomberman World is very familiar. In fact, it can easily be seen as a polygonal version of Saturn Bomberman - one viewed from a slightly more skewed isometric perspective. As in SB, you fight your way through four different elemental worlds (in this case, gathering crystals to jail your foes with), each with its own distinct boss. And once this is accomplished, you travel to a final area where the last boss resides. As in nearly every Bomberman title, the basic gameplay sees you in mazelike, block-filled environments, which must be blasted through in order to reveal helpful power-ups and clear enough room to properly destroy enemy creatures. There's some slight graphical fandango in BW, but basically, the structure remains the same. And the sound is noteworthy insofar as that the voice-overs are even worse than Sega's translation of Saturn Bomberman.
But if the Bomberman games have been about anything, they've been about getting several of your friends in the same room and blowing them to smithereens, along with a couple computer opponents. The multiplayer matches in BW are played on flat, isometrically viewed boards, where you clear paths to each other and through each other. Some new twists have been added to the arenas, such as exits allowing you to go out one side of the screen and come back in the other (by way of a mining cart, for example, on an intertwining track), revolving doors, and platforms that hover above the main playing field onto which you can hop back and forth, to and fro. Also, new power-ups allowing you to pick up and throw enemies or pass through walls, as well as increased setup options, such as choosing which and how many power-ups appear over a round, are features in BW. The variety is nice, but there's something definitely missing from the mix this time around, even if it's not easily identifiable exactly what that is.
In comparing the single and multiplayer modes, in individual play, while much the same as in earlier titles, the characters in Bomberman World seem to move very slowly - a holdup that can understandably cause much frustration since it counts for a lot in a game where timing is everything. The multiplayer mode appears to run a little faster, though the 3D nature of the title is to blame for taking away from the fun in this case. Items are often partially hidden behind objects in the foreground, enough so that it's hard to identify what these items are. And the fact that areas of the arenas can appear offscreen at times makes it difficult for you to keep track of your opponents. Overall, it leaves you wondering if the series really needed to go the 3D route. Perhaps 2D was the best bet for Bomberman after all.
While Bomberman World isn't a particularly bad game, per se, it's clearly not the best representative of what the series has to offer. It's a shame that the two best Bomberman games in recent memory, Saturn Bomberman and Saturn Bomberman Fight!! (the latter of which is import only), have been for the least popular system here in the States. It's unfortunate that the first Bomberman title for the Sony PlayStation really won't be wowing the new players it's bound to attract. Here's to hoping that the next titles find some better way of bringing back the game everyone seems to have grown dangerously attached to.