Bomberman has been showing up everywhere lately: The DS, the Xbox 360, and the PSP. For the most part, the latest batch of Bomberman games has been met with a lot of harsh criticism. While not as bad as some of the other iterations, the PSP release is keeping with that tradition.
Bomberman is basically an action/puzzle game, with many elements from both genres. Each level is like a game board that you must maneuver while strategically placing bombs to eliminate enemies and uncover the portal out of the level. The portals and likewise the power-ups are hidden underneath bricks that are randomly placed throughout the level. By detonating a nearby bomb, you can blow up the bricks, which opens up the pathway and may reveal the treasures. To move on to the next level you must uncover the portal and eliminate all the enemies.
The strategy is in deciding where to place your bombs. You have an unlimited number of bombs but a limited amount of time within which you must complete the level. Brick and enemy placement is different each time as well. So, playing a level more than once has a limited amount of advantage. Looking at the level and quickly sizing it up becomes an important skill to develop. You have to be careful which blocks you destroy because you may unleash an enemy that you don't want to fight yet. This is important because a single touch of an enemy will end Bomberman's life and erase all your progress for that level. Getting caught in your own blast will also end your life. There are more intricacies but that is the gist.
There are lots and lots of power-ups: power-ups that let you place more bombs at once, move through bricks, move faster, and a whole lot more. They are pretty abundant too. I didn't really use any of them for the first handful of levels and had quite the little inventory when I got the harder levels. They carry over even when you get game over. There is no reason not to save them until you really think you need them. In fact, when used, the effects last into the next level, until you die. Therefore, you want to wait until you feel you are doing well enough on a level that it is worth using to power-up. This adds another level of strategy.
There are ten worlds to progress through, each with 10 levels, for a total of 100 levels in story mode. That is a lot of levels for your buck. The last level of each world is a boss stage. These are a little different, mainly in that you are no longer allowed access to your stock of power-ups. You have to be aware of this on the ninth stage of each world because the only way to use a power-up against the boss is by equipping them before the end of that level. As much as some people think boss battles are antiquated in videogames, I personally love them. In Bomberman they were my favorite parts. Especially since they are a welcome break from the repetition of the other levels
Repetition is Bomberman's biggest enemy. Five levels into Bomberman I started to have the old 'been there done that' feeling. The level designs just don't change that much. They change some as you go world to world. That is still nine, very similar levels in a row before you get to the boss fight. After a while the levels start to blur together and my interest in Bomberman starts to evaporate.
Another problem for Bomberman is that the action isn't very exciting. For all the strategy that can go into bomb placement, the act itself is far from pulse pounding. Half the time you end up just going around blowing up bricks like checking names off of a list. Which is about as fun as...checking names off of a list. I tend to spend most of each turn placing bombs and then running away, placing bombs, running away. There just isn't that much to it.
Bomberman has a pretty decent multiplayer through wireless ad-hoc. Game sharing will let you and 3 other people join up off of one Bomberman UMD. That is sweet. The multiplayer battle game is much like the story mode. The main difference is that when you are killed you can still launch bombs at your opponents from the sidelines. If you do well, you might even make it back into the game. You can customize the matches in a number of ways and, with the unpredictable nature of playing real opponents, you can have a less repetitive experience than available in the story mode.
As a bonus feature, you can unlock a 3D version of the original Bomberman. It is always nice to have these little touches. To unlock the classic game you'll have to play all the way through story mode though. Not worth it for me.
Overall, Bomberman on the PSP is a valiant attempt to make a so-so game something worth your money. There isn't any real departure from Bombermans past so if you already know how you feel about Bomberman then stick with your instincts. There isn't enough puzzle and too little action for Bomberman to excel at either genre. At first play, I didn't care for Bomberman much. Then I got the hang of it and started to enjoy it more. In the end though, the repetition keeps this from being more than a three star game.