Know your classics. Bomberman is one of those games that gets an update every time a new generation of gamers arrives. Same thing this year, as Ubisoft brings a new version of this bomb dropping fellow to the PS2.
Bomberman Hardball exists out of 4 minigames and a Life Mode. The seemingly only purpose of this last one is to create and customize your very own Bomberman, which you then can place in the arena against your opponents. Apart from that, you can – and I’m not making this up – watch different Bomberman games on the Bomberman TV-channels. What now exactly the purpose is of all this, I really don’t know. It’ll be something Japanese, I guess. This Life Mode then, will probably appeal mostly to the younger audience who can put together their very own Bomberman or Bomberwoman.
The 4 mentioned minigames are the classic Bomberman game, tennis, golf and baseball. I immediately assure the worried console gamers; they did a nice job on every aspect and put a lot of time and effort into every minigame. Every game has an enormous amount of settings and options, clearly a great asset to the replay value. Your reward after playing a match consists of golden coins which you can use in the gumball machine to receive new items for your own Bomberman. A nice variation on unlocking ‘stuff’. You have to get used to the wobbly pace of the Bombermans though, but you’ll find out soon that the pace of this game is pretty high. The controls are very intuitive and not complicated at all, except for the baseball part. This last one wasn’t exactly one of my favourites anyway.
The most irritating thing however, is the background music, which you can turn off. Thank God for that. Every game has its 30 seconds synthesizer tune which constantly loops but the worst part is: it stays in your head. And suddenly you’ll find yourself humming the Bomberman tune in the buss and the people around you start to look weird at you. Defending yourself with the sentence “It’s just the tune when I was planting bombs” isn’t the most tactical move to make. Believe me. The sound effects and the little voices are hilarious however and sometimes over the top. For the graphics, the game uses the Renderware-engine which we know from the GTA-games and de Burnout-series. Hence the graphics are pretty good, have a bit of a cartoon’s feel but it’s clear however that the developers didn’t pay a lot of attention to the surroundings. A 2D-audience and a lower resolution for the environment, this could’ve been better. It’s only a detail in this game, but come on guys…
To be honest, you don’t have a lot of time to enjoy the view anyway. The gameplay aspect of the game is a total hit, especially the Bomberman game itself, tennis and golf are very fun to play and although this game is nice enough to play on your own and is provided with all kinds of tournaments and singleplayer campaigns, the real strength of it lays in the multiplayer option. Hook up the multitap and you can play ball or bomb with up to 4 players. Keep your attention to the game at all time is the best advice I can give you, because one second too late or one second too fast and you’re blown to pieces, lost a set or are 4 points behind in the 7th inning (whatever that means).
And finally a couple of negative remarks. The game is written onto a cd-rom (something I wasn’t quite used to anymore with the PS2) and that shows itself in longer loading times and (as said before) a slightly lesser quality of the surroundings, but these aren’t fatal flaws and they only stood out because everything else was pretty good.
At first sight the game is meant for the little gamers between us, but I think even the older generation will have a lot of fun on this title. Agreed, Bomberman isn’t as cool as Solid Snake or Tommy Vercetti but invite a couple of friends on a rainy day, stash a supply of booze and other stuff, start the game and you’re in for quite some hilarious moments, I can guarantee you that. Whether you should buy or rent this game is up to you. To some people it might be more of a great rental title than a purchase.