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A rather decent game with good approaches By DocAetzn

It should be mentioned right from the start that Panic Bomber is not a port of Bomberman for the Virtual Boy but rather a puzzler in the style of “Columns.”

As typical for a puzzler, there is only a short, dry story. Our virtual hero, the good old Bomberman, finds himself on a dark island named “Ever-Mist.” On this island, our character wants to make the legendary “Golden Statue of Bomberman” his own. Looking at the legend, many adventurers have already been here to get a hold of this, but nobody has ever made it back. 3 medals are needed, which you can earn, in order to gain access to the so coveted statue.

Now, it is our turn. At the beginning, the island is divided into 3 levels. There are “The Scary Ruins,” “The Sinister Forest,” and the “Desert of Desolation.” In each level, you play against 3 very strange figures – for example, a balloon, a ghost, or an alien. After just 2 enemies, you already have to deal with the end boss of a stage, and you receive one of the coveted medals if you defeat him. Once you have defeated the end boss in the last level, “Desert of Desolation,” you will reach the secret “Doom Castle” level, where you will first have to deal with a Dracula-like enemy, who has to be beaten in a best of three match, and then lastly, as a secret boss, you have to deal with a certain “Ms. Flashy.” Once you’ve managed to defeat her, you’ve won the game and played it through. Thus, there are, sadly, no more than 11 meager enemies/levels in the whole game.

At the beginning, you can choose several options. You can go directly to the password function or introduce yourself to the game rules and the gameplay. In addition, in the actual options menu, you can change the default settings, like the difficulty level from very easy to hard. You can also adjust the contrast and choose the “Skull Mode” for the boss stages. I’ll still come to the latter one later in this review.

The gameplay is relatively simple. Blocks falling down from above are placed in such a way that at least 3 identical symbols fit next to each other horizontally, vertically or diagonally, so that they disappear and bombs can build up on the bottom of the playing field and in small spaces in between. The more blocks you make disappear, the more bombs that consequently appear on the screen and the more a meter becomes filled in. Once this meter is completely filled, a so-called “Decker Bomb” appears – a sort of giant, detonated bomb, with which you are able to blow up the smaller accumulated bombs, in order to make enough space for new game pieces. Moreover, a few blocks will then appear on the enemy’s screen, just like in the good old Tetris, and the amount of blocks depends on how many bombs you have let explode at once.

A cool feature is the “Skull Mode,” which you can choose in the options menu. As a result, you have the possibility of winning a few goodies by letting a “Decker Bomb” explode in a boss battle. That’s how you can, for example, change the control of your enemy for a short time or put a small Bomberman figure in front of his nose, in order to influence his sight for a short time.

The graphics turned out to be rather good. There are nice 3D effects that you can see in the scrolling background, and the graphics of the enemies, who introduce themselves at the beginning of each level and who romp around in the middle of the screen during each level, really turned out to be very good. The sound isn’t exactly a gem, but it fits the game, without getting on your nerves in the long run.

A rather decent game with good approaches. Unfortunately, it’s far too short, and after you’ve played it through a few times, it just gets boring, which sadly takes away from the fun of playing. A two-player mode would have guaranteed more variety and gaming fun. Therefore, it’s just another normal puzzler for the Virtual Boy.

7 / 10

Rated: Jul 12, 2003 • 13:05