The saying “less is more” has always rankled me a little. I get the sentiment, but very rarely is having more of something a bad thing, unless you’re talking about games, of course. Take Super Bomberman R 2, for example, a game that gives you the deceptively simple, cathartic multiplayer you’ve been craving, then buries it under a whole heap of stuff that seems to exist for the sake of it.
Jump into Battle Mode and, while you can tweak the rules of the match to suit, you’re playing classic Bomberman with a few bells and whistles. Four to eight of you drop into an arena and must use huge bombs to blow down walls and, ultimately, trap your opponents until you’re the last one standing. There are a few extra modes, such as the 64 mode, which turns Super Bomberman R 2 into a battle royale, where the survivors of each round are teleported to the next until there’s no one left. Currency you earn in multiplayer can be used to unlock dozens of skins for your characters, with many pulled directly from other Konami properties. There’s a Pyramid Head skin, and an Alucard skin, and multiple others to help evoke that sense of nostalgia as you play.
One of the best elements of the multiplayer Battle Mode is the revenge mechanic, where you can board a little cart at the side of the arena after being knocked out and lob bombs at people out of pure spite. Kill one, and you’re dropped back into the arena. It becomes even more tense when the match nears its end and the arena begins to fill up with falling stone blocks that will kill anyone beneath them.
But there’s also a Story mode, and no matter how I tired I couldn’t get into it with nearly as much enthusiasm as I had for the Battle Mode. It does improve on Super Bomberman R though, by making each stage autosave and doing away with one of the major annoyances of the last game. As the eight Bomberman Brothers (some of whom are sisters) you must defend three alien worlds from the forces of the Black Moon. You do this by bombing blocks and collecting the Ellons, cutesy aliens who will follow you around and open locks or doors, or help you solve “puzzles”.
You proceed through a series of small arenas, destroying roaming enemies and collecting Ellons, until you can enter the next zone. It’s incredibly simple stuff, even when the enemies start to get a little more complex. The environments are ok looking but don’t do anything to stand out or stick in the memory, and the enemies are as basic in their design as the Bomberman is.
Now and then you’ll get pulled out of this thrilling adventure to play a castle defence game that feels so incredibly messy that it took me several matches before I even understood. Matches which I somehow won, probably because the AI is as fiendishly sharp as ever. But I never enjoyed this mode, whereby you must race to capture keys that open treasure chests. Open them all or prevent your opponent from doing so (depending on which side you begin on), and you win.
The Story requires you to build your own base that you’ll periodically need to defend. You can place blocks, set up traps, add cannons and other defences, and there’s scope here to be really quite creative in the placement of obstacles. But there’s a lot to keep your eyes on and it’s pretty easy for the enemy to blow through your standard blocks anyway.
Regardless of the objectives, what I really couldn’t get on with was the story. There’s so much of it. There are cutscenes between every story mission and event, little bouts of asinine dialogue that simply doesn’t ever feel that necessary. It’s quippy and silly and, even when it raises a genuine smile, just feels like something you shouldn’t be sitting through in a Bomberman game. We just want to blow things up in a Bomberman game. And you can skip it, of course, but that doesn’t stop the game holding you up for it every time.
It’s hard to really criticise Super Bomberman R 2 for putting so much effort into the story campaign, but at the same time, it feels like time that could have been better spent on more maps or elements for the main event, which is the Battle Mode. As it is, it’s as fun to play against people locally or globally as it ever was, but the story mode just feels ponderous, tedious and overdone.
Battle Mode is fun
Lots of customisation options
Story mode is dull
Bomber characters are irritating