“Paging Bomberman. Please make your way to ‘relevance’ on Aisle 3″. While you may not know what a pager is, you’ve surely heard of Bomberman, the series with 71 releases since 1983 – or perhaps you haven’t, as it’s only had 2 releases in the past 10 years.
When an industry-leading series with tens of millions in cumulative sales slows its prolific release schedule, it’s only natural that this explosive gap is filled with similar games from smaller developers. Welcome to Blast Zone! Tournament, developed by Victory Lap Games.
For those unfamiliar, the Bomberman formula, which was one of the originators of the battle royale style gameplay, tasks you with defeating enemies on a large grid with bombs. The explosions of your bombs stretch vertically and horizontally, the length of which can depend on the bomb or upgrades picked up by your character. If you sit on a square diagonal to the explosion, you’re safe, assuming you are able to find one in the short time it takes the bomb to detonate. It’s a simple formula that has stood the test of time – to a degree – but it does have some shortcomings. With a group of friends or with an overwhelming number of enemies in single-player mode a great deal of fun can be had, but if you’re only facing a few computer-controlled characters, the pace of the game slows to a crawl, with easily deciphered and counterable moves leading to repetitive and boring gameplay.
Blast Zone! Tournament tries to put a youthful spin on the established blueprint with the characters given a chibi-like design and the menus a Fortnite battle royale-esque loadout screen look complementing the online offering. More modern features extend to the ability to change your appearance with items won through a slot machine loot box or through purchasing in-game currency. While I’m hardly a proponent of loot boxes, it’s somewhat lucky you can randomly change your character’s look as their chibi-like designs instead of cute, are slightly off-putting.
The presentation issues continue with a menu design and soundtrack both basic and unappealing, cheapening the product overall. This is an unfortunate impression to give before you even jump into the action itself, especially as the graphics and animation look more than serviceable and run without issue even with constant action occurring all around the map.
Single-player mode allows you to complete up to 80 missions each with three levels of difficulty and a customizable exhibition mode allows the player to adjust gameplay in every area through various adjustable settings. For myself, this involved making maximum range bombs explode almost instantly with 170% speed increases, resulting in impossibly difficult and unreasonably fast matches, great for those with very little patience. Numerous gameplay types exist with a Splatoon-like mode where two teams compete to cover the majority of the map with paint from the explosions of your bombs, collecting coins from exploded blocks, team deathmatch, and my favorite – a zombie mode where defeated characters are turned into zombies and need to run down the living ones. Online multiplayer with the ability to talk to your team would be the best way to enjoy the action, assuming you can find enough people to play it, but even so, the single-player and local co-op modes provide ample variety to enjoy the game.
With fast, frenetic gameplay and numerous modes, the student in Blast Zone! Tournament may have surpassed the master in Bomberman in gameplay if not visual design. Old-school Bomberman fans will enjoy the classic mechanics and the new modes, and newer fans will no doubt appreciate the online multiplayer and the expansive battles, but it’s hard to say whether the largely identical gameplay and poor presentation will convert any non-fans of the genre.