Bomberman Max: Blue Champion and Red Challenger – Pokémon but with bombs

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This is my first playthrough of the game ever, so I went in completely blind. I did ask some friends regarding the two versions (which I will address in the review), so I was at least familiar with the differences. Before I started writing this review, I made sure to beat one of the games. However, I did not 100% complete it and I will go into that reason in the review as well. I also haven’t tried out multiplayer, but I did a little bit of research since they are advertised to be a major part of the games. The games are only available on the Game Boy Colour, having not ever seen a re-release.

We arrived at the final game(s) in the Bomberman marathon! I’ll just refer to it as a single game from here on out by the way. Anyway, this is actually my first time playing it! Both Pocket Bomberman and Bomberman Quest were games that I’ve owned for quite a while, but Bomberman Max… to be honest, I didn’t even know about its existence. I’ve seen it pop-up a few times but until someone asked me if I was going to do a marathon of the Game Boy Colour games, I didn’t know anything about it. What surprised me as well is that looking at the gameplay, it felt the most similar to classic Bomberman games out of the three games. I didn’t really look up more information aside from the version differences, so this will be the only review of the marathon where I’ll be going in completely blind! Today, we’ll be ending the Bomberman marathon with Bomberman Max: Blue Champion and Red Challenger!

Just like last time, I won’t be covering the history and trivia of the game since… I literally could find none. The only interesting piece of information that I could find is that in Japan, there was a very limited amount of a third game called Bomberman Max: Ain Version that was given away in a contest. It is a complete version that has all of the exclusives from both games put into one. But due to its limited availability and product placement, this version is rarely brought up when talking about the games.

The cutscene the game opens with explains why the game is called Bomberman Max to begin with, and also why there are two versions… sort of. An evil supercomputer has been corrupted and decided to mechanize all of the surrounding planets. My question is: Who in their right mind even gave this supercomputer that much power to begin with? They deserve this happening to them, it’s their own fault.  But since Bomberman is a true hero of justice who can only do good, he’ll still save these people. Insert Max, a friendly rival to Bomberman who is also sent out. As you can imagine, you play as Bomberman in Blue Champion, and Max in Red Challenger. Do they play any differently? Nope, not at all.

I’ll get to it straight away. In 1996, Pokémon made a grand debut with a total of two (or three in Japan) games with slight differences between each other. Many other companies saw this and felt it was their duty to do the same… except that they never really understood what the reason was for the existence of two versions. This is no different for Bomberman Max, which takes the Pokémon concept as a whole and butchers it.

While Pokémon has… well, Pokémon to trade between versions, Bomberman Max has Charabombs. The difference between the two is that Charabombs have absolutely no relevance to the single-player experience of the game. They are exclusively designed for a battle mode against another player and while I haven’t personally experienced it, it looks very cheap. You just select three moves and so does the other person and that’s it. Sure, each game has different Charabombs that you can trade, but it doesn’t have the same satisfaction behind it simply because it’s handled so poorly.

Bomberman Max Charabomb
You see this? This is pointless.

To put it bluntly: if you’re here for a single-player experience (which I think pretty much everyone is), just get one of the two versions with the character you want to play as most. The only other difference is a small amount of levels, but that really isn’t worth the hassle. You can link to the other game to access the other levels, which is a requirement for true 100% completion. This would normally infuriate me, but I didn’t go for completion and as far as I’ve heard, just doing every level of one game already counts for the completion criteria.

Now that we got the confusing part out of the way, let’s actually talk about the game itself. Of the three games we’ve looked at in this marathon, Bomberman Max is in core gameplay most similar to the original games: you’re in a maze with blocks to destroy for power-ups, and enemies to blow up with more bombs than a man should ever carry. There’s a boss waiting at the end of each world, and the cycle repeats afterwards. This is also where most of the similarities end. Given that there is probably at least one person reading this not too familiar with the gameplay of the main series, I’ll tackle it slowly while I cover the overall gameplay.

Bomberman Max is in core gameplay most similar to the original games: you’re in a maze with blocks to destroy for power-ups, and enemies to blow up with more bombs than a man should ever carry.

I mentioned that the similarities ended at the core gameplay, and this mainly has to do with how progression is handled. Instead of going through a maze, killing every enemy and looking for an exit, Bomberman Max follows a mission structure. The missions can vary from killing every enemy to finding a Charabomb, resulting in a fresh set of objectives in every uniquely-shaped stage. I like this system because you can essentially skip a large chunk of the stage by just focussing on the objective. For the most part, I’d say the variety in missions is good enough. There are a few outrageous ones though; particularly the missions where you have to kill one species of enemies while keeping the other alive. That’s not an easy thing to do–especially since they have a tendency to chase you around whenever they spot you.

Achieve the objective and one or multiple portals open to the next stage(s). This is where my OCD gets really, really frustrated. There isn’t one straight line to the boss and I genuinely appreciate that, but you never know where a portal will take you. That’s still fine, but a portal doesn’t always mean you’re progressing towards the boss. You could very well end up in a stage that functions as a dead end, with orange portals leading you back to a previous stage. Fortunately–and this is a genuine compliment–we don’t have to do the objective of said stage again and can instead make our way to where the portals are located in the maze.

Bomberman Max Portals
What portal to take? Could be anyone’s guess.

My issue however lies with the “you never know where a portal will take you” part. There is no indication of what stage you will be brought to aside from the orange colour of the portal for ones that you have already visited. But given that some stages can have at least five portals with only one or a few leading to your destination, it can become a chaotic fiasco. On my stream, we jokingly dubbed world 3 ”dead-end central”, and not a single word spoken (or sung) here was wrong. I have been checking every portal constantly to see where it would bring me, just to end up in a stage where I’ve already been with all portals there also having been visited already. This is not fun. This is {insert a not so family-friendly word here that rhymes with ducking} annoying.

You know how easy it would have been to fix this? Very easy. Just placing the destination of a visited place on top of an orange portal. That could possibly have been difficult due to technical limitations but hey, that’s what we have a map for right? The stage select map in itself is not really good since it still doesn’t show where which stage will lead to, but the very least they could have done was to put it on the select button which is never even used to begin with. Any of these or other fixes would have made this problem… not a problem, and I would have enjoyed the game far more as a result.

Aside from the objective being unique and the portals leading to who knows where, the core gameplay is still solid. Almost all of Bomberman’s arsenal from his past games following this gameplay can be found here, with bombs able to be upgraded in firepower and effects, and the ability to throw them or kick them. But for whatever reason, Bomberman decided to… not be the Bomberman we love and remember, because he can only carry some power-ups to the next stage for whatever reason unknown to me. The only reason I can think of is for balancing reason because, let’s be honest, remote bombs make all Bomberman bosses a joke, but this could have been handled differently. Like y’know, not letting Bomberman die in one hit?

Bomberman Max Boss

It feels stupid to complain about a mechanic that is a Bomberman series’ staple, but other games are more generous by letting you continue and just decreasing your amount of lives. That’s not the case here as you have to start the stage all over again, and since some stages have obnoxious objectives or can just take a very long time, that’s {insert a not so family-friendly word here that rhymes with clucking} annoying.

I should stress that I do genuinely like the variety in stages though. I mentioned earlier how the stages aren’t just simple mazes with a square layout, but all feature unique layouts with some also having their own gimmicks which is good. The latter is hit or miss for me since, aside from the cart which annihilates every enemy in one hit, all other gimmicks mostly exist just to annoy you and only you. I’m talking about you stupid swords in the second world that stun you and steal your power-ups, you suck! Joking aside though, the stages on their own are good, and it’s usually the objective that makes or breaks them.

I mentioned earlier how the stages aren’t just simple mazes with a square layout, but all feature unique layouts with some also having their own gimmicks which is good.

Which brings me to my favourite part (read: not favourite) of every Bomberman review I’ve done so far: the boss battles! Though actually, they’re not that bad in this game since they follow the formula of the classic Bomberman games again. They’re flying or moving throughout the maze which is shaped like your usual square-sized arena, while you just need to blow them up and avoid their attacks by standing behind indestructible walls. They’re honestly fine, and dying isn’t too much of an issue here since they’re short, and you do keep the bomb power-ups themselves until you get a game over.

One boss is a nightmare though, and I genuinely do not like it. Actually, I thought it was {insert a not so family-friendly word here that rhymes with trucking} annoying. It’s a long battle that requires perfect reflection skills but worst of all, it’s big, coverts most of the screen with himself and attacks and can even split up for the final phase. But the worst part about it is that it is faster than you in its second phase unless you have the skates, which you probably won’t have if you got a game-over from the same boss. It truly was a sour note to end the game on.

Bomberman Max ended up being a mixed experience for me. The core Bomberman gameplay is great and I thought it was a brilliant idea to have every stage be structured like a mission instead of just killing every monster and finding your way to the exit. The variety in stage layouts combined with unique gimmicks often helps this structure forward, even if some missions and objectives are obnoxious. What hurts the game though, is its awkward progression system. I genuinely appreciate there being multiple paths to your destination by having every stage end with one or multiple portals, but the problem is that you never know what portal is going to lead where unless you’ve been keeping a lot of notes. This constantly results in dead-ends or loops to the point that it unnecessarily extends gameplay by quite a large margin. This is not helped by Bomberman still dying in one hit, but made worse by that he has to do the entire stage all over again when he dies–and some stages can get very long. The latter is debatable on whether it is an issue or not, but the progression system definitely could have been handled way better. Oh, and the two different versions and Charabombs are completely useless for single-player content, and even for multiplayer it is poorly handled.

6.5

Nepiki's Rating

Overall rating

Game Score
7.0
Fun Score
6.0
Positives
  • Good variety in stage layout.
  • Mission-based progressions instead of ''beat all enemies to move on''.
  • The core Bomberman gameplay is mostly untouched.
Negatives
  • The two versions are pretty much pointless and only exist to profit on the Pokémon craze.
  • No indications on where one of the multiple portals at the end of a stage lead.
  • High (often artificial) difficulty.

Thank you for reading! I was surprised to end this marathon on a not-so-high note since I had good expectations for the games, but it ended up being my least favourite due to questionable game design. Hopefully the sequels fixes some of these issues? Probably, but it might take a while before I check them out since I’ve seen enough bombs for the coming time.

With the Bomberman marathon finished, it’s time to go back to my usual schedule of reviews! I have no idea which one is coming next since my backlog is getting increased constantly, so it will remain a mystery for now!

Can you name a game that has a bad multiplayer, or a multiplayer mode that just did not belong in said game?

I unfortunately couldn’t come up with an answer straight away (why am I making these questions so difficult), but Bomberman Max would be a good contender regardless.


Does this genre interest you? If so, I have multiple other Action reviews ready for you!

About author

Nepiki

A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!

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