Bean-based Bomberman?!

If you’re wondering about the ridiculous title up there I’ll explain:

  1. Why yes I am awful at writing headlines, how did you guess?
  2. This wonderful Bomberman LCD game is part of Bandai’s “Mame game” range, as in “豆”, as in “bean” – due to the shape of the device.

So, now you know!

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In any case, according to this fantastically helpful website there were a total of thirteen games in the range covering a variety of arcade classics like Crazy Climber, Columns, and Densha de GO!, with the vast majority of them being released in 1997. As you’d probably expect they’re all in broadly similar casings and some of them appear to have the same multilayered LCD screen this Bomberman unit does, although I’m only going off photos found online for that last part.

Wait a minute – multilayered?

That’s right! This little VMU-ish sized LCD game has two screen layers, with Bomberman, the blocks, and the score/timer on the lower and enemies, bombs, and the bonus round boss on the upper. This means that multiple objects can exist in the same space, and even overlap! So unlike the (very good) Bubble Bobble LCD game that had to use clever screen layout and an adorably bug-eyed tiny Bub graphic to fit everything in, we’re instead treated to full size player and enemy graphics – and even dedicated boss graphics - with the only compromise being that enemy’s can’t face in both directions on a single tile.

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As if that wasn’t impressive enough the game also flip-scrolls to allow for a larger play area than fits on the screen, with a mini-map by the timer so you always know which quadrant you’re in and half-tiles around the edge (as well as half-enemy graphics too) so you can “see” what’s ahead even when you can’t, err, actually see what’s ahead. If you see what I mean.

If you’re able to tear yourself away from a screen that can only be described as “witchcraft” for a few seconds you’ll find the unit itself feels pleasant to hold and the soft rubber keys aren’t too tall like they can sometimes be on this sort of thing so there’s no annoying wobble when pressed. Between the direction keys and the slightly larger start/bomb set button there’s a trio of useful smaller buttons to toggle sound (on/off only), pause the game and turn it on or reset your current game. The game goes to sleep after leaving it paused for a bit, and if you wake it up you’ll find it paused exactly where you left off, so you can bomb away in short bursts or long sessions as you please.

To further aid in your on-the-go destruction you’re offered two different modes at the start of the game – “Standard” and “Master”. Standard plays out much as classic Bomberman always did, with each of the sixteen stages requiring you to destroy all the wandering enemies within five minutes and then escaping through the exit hidden under a random destructible block. To breaks things up there’s a boss battle after every third stage, these clear the play field of blocks so Bomberman can kick bombs up towards the boss and hopefully hit it before the short timer runs out.

Master mode uses the same stages but allows players to to pick any one of the sixteen to play at the start and kicks you back to the mode select screen on completion, meaning you’ve got a bit of variety available even if you’ve not got the time for a full session.

The manual does say the stage counter goes all the way up to 99, but I don’t know if they’re unique or if they loop after a while – it’d be sensible to assume they loop and probably get a little harder (in this case perhaps enemies would move faster?), but that’s nothing more than a guess on my part as I’m really not good enough at the game to test this out!

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There’s really nothing more you could ask of this unassuming LCD game – it looks great, has the memorable Bomberman jingles, and plays well on a device that’s practical, comfortable, and well built – perfect!