When it comes to great multiplayer gaming, the kind that sees you and your friends shouting, swearing and occasionally pushing each other off your seats, there are only two games worth mentioning: Mario Kart and Bomberman. Both have been around for over a decade, yet both still manage to create the same frantic scrabbling for controllers and enthusiastic fervour that they always have. Needless to say, if you haven't been part of a full-on multiplayer session of either game - and we mean with everyone in the room at once - you're missing out.
Of course, that probably won't be the case for most of you when it comes to Mario Kart because the Wii version's been a huge success. Bomberman, however, is a different story. You may have missed one of the various DS games released in recent years as they haven't exactly troubled the top of the charts and the same applies to Bomberman Land on Wii. Admittedly you can download the excellent Bomberman 93 on Virtual Console we urge you to get this WiiWare game instead.
Bomb Da Bass
It's not that it's only 1,000 Wii Points (roughly £8 in real money), although that does mean you can't really argue about value for money. It's not that it focuses purely on multiplayer battling, shunning the kind of story-led single-player modes that we've seen tacked onto other recent versions. It's not even that it supports simultaneous eight-player action, online play against friends and strangers, AND the ability to have a mixture of in-the-room and online players playing at once. No, the main reason you need to get this WiiWare effort is, well, because it's fun. Like, proper old-school real fun - the kind you really don't see much of any more.
That's mostly because as concepts go, it doesn't get much simpler than Bomberman. You are a Bomberman. You drop bombs. After a brief moment, bombs go 'kaboom'. Soft blocks that get in the way of these kabooms get destroyed, clearing the path between you and the other seven Bombermen in the arena (and possibly dropping power-ups like more bombs and bigger kabooms in the process). And, not surprisingly, hitting other Bombermen with kabooms doesn't end well either... but then, that's the point.
While the prospect of blowing up your enemies and being the last Bomberman standing sounds easy enough, it never is and that's exactly where the fun comes in. It's frantic, to the point where rushing to beat others to the power-ups and dodging explosions by the smallest of margins becomes the norm. It's frustrating (but in a good way) as you swerve to avoid explosions only to be caught by one you might not have spotted coming. And, of course, it's incredibly satisfying to take other Bombermen out in traps you laid, if only because there's far more strategy to catching people out than there looks.
You The (Bomber)Man
But then, that's always been Bomberman - so what's the justification for getting Blast on WiiWare over, say, Bomberman '93? Certainly, the subtle tweaks to the formula stand it in good stead. There are new clever power-ups such as the Rocket and Bomb Change (detailed above) that definitely add new strategy to how you play. The new modes are mostly great too, with Countdown (which replaces instant death with a 20-second timer that can be transferred to other players to save your life) and King (players fight over a crown, with the one holding it at the end being the winner) standing out as the strong points.
Ultimately though, it's got to be the double-whammy of an increased player limit (eight as opposed to five) and the addition of online play. That it follows the Mario Kart model of offering both friend-code play and ranked battles with strangers is a blessing because it makes getting into an online session that much easier. Granted, it's not entirely perfect and we've spotted a few instances of online lag where players mysteriously teleport out of danger spots when they should have been toast. But such unavoidable rarities don't dampen the fun too much, especially when you can have a combination of people in the room and people online all playing at once. With the focus purely on multiplayer battling, we can understand why some people might be put off by Bomberman Blast. However, when it's so much fun for such a low price, it's hard not to mark it as 'essential' - when one of the best party games ever made gets even better, you just have to sit up and take notice.