Last Thursday, Konami announced its latest Bomberman title would release exclusively on Apple Arcade the following day. The game, titled Amazing Bomberman, was shown off with a 30-second trailer that feels and hears like a person swiping through a Dance Dance Revolution song menu at the arcade.
After watching it, I thought, could this actually be a weirder, distinct Bomberman game? Are getting a rhythm Bomberman? Could this be the new game that catapults Apple Arcade into the spotlight?
No, no, and likely no. But that’s fine. I’m still having fun with it.
Bombing to a beat
We were quite excited when Amazing Bomberman was announced. It’s a charming game that takes the classic Bomberman series gameplay and updates it with a blend of lo-fi and music game aesthetics. Konami took the original formula of Bomberman, added online play for four-player matches, and tacked on a killer soundtrack to repackage it as an Apple Arcade exclusive. While it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of gameplay, it’s still a very enjoyable game.
Although Amazing Bomberman relies heavily on music, it’s (unfortunately) not a rhythm game. After the teaser trailer dropped, I imagined Konami made a Bomberman where you’d get points and rewards for dropping bombs on the beat, sort of like Crypt of the NecroDancer. I was wrong. Instead, music affects each stage.
The songs come with unique rulesets and rhythms. Items and blocks fall from the sky to the song’s beat. The more upbeat and exciting a song gets, the more chaotic a stage feels. The opaque music video backdrop pulses and thematic flourishes accent the screen to match the cadence and flurry of a track. It gets hard to see with all the chaos in each level, even despite how mellow some songs can be.
Chaotic, bumping, and confusing — but still fun
Adding to the on-screen bursts of color and chaos are mildly frustrating controls. The touchscreen analog used for movement doesn’t register your finger well enough if it slides too far away from its starting point. This can cause players to run into walls and sometimes even into the bombs you just set, which, of course, kills you. When playing online, you’ll often see others stumbling into walls and circling in place as they try to reorient themselves to their positions. But that also makes playing online a little goofier than it should be. Unfair, sure, but still a good time set to some amazing music.
Speaking of which, every song featured in Amazing Bomberman is a banger. The game has eight stages/songs to choose from, and the development team managed to grab seven originals for the game’s release. This includes the bubbly and bouncy “Bomb, Bom, Blow ‘Em All!” from chiptune trio YMCK, and the EDM, thump-heavy “Amazing Bomberman” by TESSEI TOJO.
It’s easy to excuse somewhat lackluster gameplay when Amazing Bomberman has strong art direction and aesthetics. This game feels closest to Tetris Effect in that way. It’s a legacy title that’s been revamped for a new age, yet missing the heart and innovation of older titles. (For the record: Tetric Effect rules.)
Its art assets are gorgeous and almost remind me of the striking fan art you can sometimes find while scrolling through Tumblr, or dare I say, DeviantArt. The game uses plenty of muted colors and cool blues to convey a Very Chill Time, yet it’s weirdly juxtaposed with chaotic gameplay and loud music.
Just take a look at the game’s title screen art:
The background and loading music sounds very much inspired by those 24/7 lo-fi hip-hop beats to study/relax to radio stations you can find on YouTube. It’s a calming presence that’s almost at war with its blippy sound design and often booming EDM.
It’s a classic blast
Still, with all of its flaws, I’m glad Amazing Bomberman is on Apple Arcade, and that we have such a basic version of Bomberman to play online. The flashy aesthetics may not be for everyone, but with a pair of headphones and in the right setting, it can be a blissful sensory overload.
Next year marks 40 years of the franchise (!!!), and in some ways, this seems like a prequel of things to come from Konami’s proposed celebration. Hopefully, we’ll see an update and some additional content for Amazing Bomberman that works out some of its kinks and adds so more depth to this quick-play title.