This was one of three games I received for my birthday recently, the other two games being Vertical Force and Dragon Warrior III on the Game Boy Color. Panic Bomber was one of a couple of Virtual Boy games I was looking forward to playing and it’s my first Bomberman game in my family’s collection. Was my excitement worth the wait or it Panic Bomber just another puzzle game to be forgotten?
Bomberman sets off to Ever-Mist island to gather three celestial medals of power that legend says open a door with a valuable statue on the other side. His journey won’t be a cakewalk though since the island is full on monsters waiting to block Bomberman’s path.
Panic Bomber was originally released for the TurboGrafx-CD in 1994, but was soon ported to the Super Famicom, Neo Geo, and the Virtual Boy. More recently the game has been brought to the PSP, Virtual Console, and as an extra game in Bomberman Land 2 for the PS2 and GameCube.
Panic Bomber is a puzzle game staring Hudson Soft’s mascot Bomberman who must face 11 opponents to collect the three medals: Star, Moon, and Sun. With these medals Bomberman can access Count Dracu-Boom’s castle and battle him. Being a puzzle game, how do you battle? The game plays like Puyo- Puyo or as more people may know it Kirby’s Avalanche and Dr. Robonik’s Mean Bean Machine. You need to line up at least three of the same symbol either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. As you clear rows/lines/groups of symbols bombs will appear on the bottom of the playing field. These bombs can’t be cleared by normal means, to clear them you have to use a lit bomb which will fall from the top of the screen occasionally like the symbols. The more bombs and symbols cleared on your side, the more scorched bombs will appear on the opponent’s side these are basically the black goo things from Avalanches and Mean Bean Machine but they can be cleared with a chain of bomb explosions. Other objects like blocks or rocks may appear too which have to be cleared using a Decker Bomb. To get a Decker Bomb you have to fill a meter to the left of the playing field. The more objects cleared, the higher the meter gets. With the Decker Bomb you can clear huge amounts of symbols, bombs, rocks, and what have you at once which can quickly screw over your opponent. Although this may sound really complicated in text, it’s easy to learn and the game even has a Rules section to show how the game is played. Whoever’s playing field gets filled with objects first loses.
Although the game is short with just 11 levels you get a password at the end of each third stage when you win the medal. Thankfully Panic Bomber has simple, easy to memorize passwords since it only uses four digits and they’re just numbers. The controls are easy to understand and use.
You also have some options like being able to change the contrast, boss mode, and BG scroll. When starting a new game you have the choice between skull or normal game, the only difference between the two I’ve noticed is that skull mode has rocks while normal mode does not.
The game gets harder as you beat the monsters, but if it still isn’t hard enough, you have four difficulty settings: very easy, easy, normal, and hard. Although having these difficulty settings is nice, the game will always have 11 opponents, so it’s still short.
I wasn’t expecting detailed graphics out of a puzzle game, but surprisingly Hudson Soft put a lot of effort into making the Virtual Boy port look as good as possible. The characters keep their usual cute chibi look from the artwork with great animations and the background and cutscenes look great for having four shades of red.
The 3D is rather minimal except for the characters and Bomberman icon during the menu screens; they look great. When battles are over, the win and lose lettering uses scaling and 3D well too.
Rather than being stuck with the same music piece like in Tetris and Dr. Mario, Panic Bomber gives you new music to listen to every two stages and these themes don’t sound too shabby either, although they don’t get stuck in my head. The only tune that gets stuck in my head is the Bomberman theme at the start of each battle. Also the game has three different themes for the boss battles.
With almost every puzzle game, Panic Bomber offers you a large amount of gameplay choices to get you to play the game more, but unlike Tetris or Dr. Mario, this game is short and can be beaten in about an hour if you’re really good at the game. Looking at a lot of Virtual Boy games, length seems to almost always be the main problem.
Panic Bomber, being one of the few puzzle games on the Virtual Boy it may look more fun but overall it doesn’t have anything to make it stand out from 3D Tetris and V-Tetris, although I can safely say it’s better than Virtual Lab but then again every Virtual Boy game is better than Virtual Lab. The game is still fun to play regardless of its length. It has simple controls to understand, excellent graphics, and different difficulty options to keep a player interested.
The Virtual Boy version of Panic Bomber isn’t a very expensive with an average price tag of $19 on eBay. So if you own the console and enjoyed 3D Tetris, V-Tetris, or haven’t played any puzzle games on the VB, this is a great, fairly cheap game to get.
Panic Bomber scores an 8/10 (Great).