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Review by: Pete Hines
Published: August 13, 1997
Atomic Bomberman is the latest console game to make the transition to the PC. This action title is a fast-paced, frantic game of quick thinking and even quicker reflexes. In matches against 1-9 opponents, your task is to blow away your competition with bombs, while staying in one piece yourself. While the game is not too complex or hard to understand, it can be very tough to play, and even harder to master. With some skill and luck, maybe you can be the last one standing and proclaim, “I’m the bomb!”
The basics of Atomic Bomberman are simple. You begin on a playing field, which varies in appearance depending on the scheme selected, and may contain destructible and/or indestructible blocks. Schemes alter the shape of the field as well as the way the game is played. Some schemes begin the game with all players in one “room,” while others start them in small enclosures spread throughout the screen. Destructible blocks can be eliminated by placing a bomb nearby, while indestructible ones are permanent and cannot be removed. You can further change the look of the playing field, and the shape and design of these blocks, by choosing which screen you will play. Besides the standard screen, options include an ice skating rink (with pucks) and an ocean floor (with clam shells).
In most games, you begin in a small space on the map armed with only a few bombs, and you must blast your way out of the enclosure. In addition to those used to move your character, only two other commands are available in the game. A primary action key sets bombs and also can be used to throw or punch bombs, when you gain those abilities. A secondary action key allows for other special abilities that can be gained along the way. Special tiles appear randomly throughout the game, and give players these special skills, as well as diseases that can have undesired effects.
Once you place a bomb, you only have a limited number of seconds before it detonates. A bomb explodes horizontally and vertically from the location it is placed. The number of squares the explosion will cover up, down, left, and right is dependent on the strength of the bomb. This strength can be increased by picking up special squares that increase the length of the explosion until it can reach the four walls of the arena, if unimpeded by blocks.
Now, to make things more interesting, these special abilities can really throw you for a loop. For example, by picking up the boxing glove, boot, or hand icons, you gain the ability to manipulate bombs in special ways. The glove and hand allow you to propel bombs, either yours or another player’s, over any object and, more importantly, away from you. The boot kicks any bombs in your path down open spaces. These abilities can be very important for a couple of reasons. First, players cannot move through a square occupied by a bomb. So, if you haven’t gained these abilities your opponents can trap you into a corner or area, doomed to a fiery death. Second, they allow you to attack your opponents from afar, without the need to risk close encounters that could result in your own untimely demise.
Other special squares give you extra bombs (you start with only 10), roller skates (which allow you to move faster), trigger bombs (so you can leave a bomb and set it off when you want), and the spooge, which allows you to drop multiple bombs into a space in front of you. Of course, not all special items are good. Skullz often give the bombermen who touch them unpleasant diseases. Some of these diseases can prevent an infected bomberman from dropping bombs (constipation), cause him to drop them randomly all over the place (sort of like diarrhea), make the bombs he drops have super quick triggers, and other such calamities. The cool thing about diseases is that they are passed from one bomberman to another simply by touch. So if you happen to pick one up, either by accident or on purpose, you can run around and infect all your opponents, provided you last that long.
Lastly, time is not unlimited in Atomic Bomberman. The games can be as short as 1 minute, or as long as 10 minutes. When the clock reaches 1 minute, the arena begins to shrink, and indestructible blocks begin to fill in the outer rows of the grid in a clockwise fashion. If any bomberman (including your own!) is standing in one of these squares when it closes with one of the blocks, he’s dead. What ends up happening is the game arena shrinks down to a small size, so that the remaining players really have nowhere to escape to and dodge bombs. If two players manage to survive to the end of the game, it is declared a draw and no one gets a win. You determine before each match how many games a player must win to be champion of the match.
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