Super Bomberman R 2 is the latest in the long-running series about cute astronaut-like people who happen to enjoy laying and detonating bombs. It’s a juxtaposition that’s worked well for 40 years. Can this latest installment live up to the reputation of its predecessors?

For those uninitiated with the series, it began way back in 1983 on various consoles before making its way to the NES in 1985. The series became a staple across Nintendo’s platforms, particularly during the SNES and Game Boy era, cementing itself as a fun and chaotic multiplayer game. 

What that all really means is that Bomberman has been popular for a long time. Most players will associate the franchise with its famed Battle Mode, the multiplayer side of the series that involves blowing up your friends before they do the same to you. This mode is where many of us will return time after time for quick bouts with family or friends or during game nights. It has similarly addictive vibes to those of Mario Kart, bringing out the competitive side of every participant.

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Matches take place from a top-down perspective, usually in a maze of bricks and other obstacles. Players control one of many different-colored bomber-people to destroy blocks, collect power-ups, and be the last one standing. The formula hasn’t changed much over the years, and for good reason: it works. That’s why the “classic” level is always the first one available from the list.

Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of options in R 2 to customize your experience, including new modes. You can alter everything from level layout to match duration, not to mention the ability to toggle items like revenge cards (to throw bombs after you perish), skulls (which give negative effects), and creatures known as Louies (which you can ride around like a Yoshi). You can truly create your own experience, even to the point of building your own levels.

One of the biggest selling points of R 2 is its all-new Castle Mode. This mode involves two teams pitted against each other: one to protect a group of treasure chests, and one to attack. It sounds fun in premise, but it’s overly complicated. The unclear rules and chaotic arena make it hard to get into initially. After many multiplayer rounds with my family at home, it hasn’t become one we’ve gone back to. Having said that, Castle Mode is forced upon you as part of the Story Mode, which admittedly eases you in and makes it more palatable.

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Despite most players automatically leaning towards multiplayer battles, there’s usually a half-decent single-player mode bundled in there as well. R 2 is no different and, to be honest, it’s a lot more fun than expected. That is, after the lengthy introduction, explanatory text, and loading screens. Once the action finally begins, you can freely explore three planets (one at a time), collecting and rescuing cute squishy aliens and battling planet-destroying ones in the hope of saving the galaxy. 

Each planet is divided into 14 sections. There are 100 squishy aliens (called Ellons) to collect. It’s satisfying to find them all, with some simply hidden and others accessible via little puzzles. I found this an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. The story itself is presented via light-hearted cartoon cutscenes, though unfortunately they can’t be skipped. 

As previously mentioned, you’ll occasionally be thrust into Castle Mode battles as you explore. These begin with a simple approach compared to the deep end of the Battle Mode, helping you become accustomed to the layout and style. You’re able (and encouraged) to edit the field of play, with new items unlocking as you level up during the story. It’s not that Castle Mode is bad; it’s just that there’s so much going on, making it overwhelming at first. 

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Defending is the easier of the two sides. As the defender, you can add gimmicks (an alternative word for traps here) to slow down the attackers. Attackers have to find a key before making their way to the treasure chests. As part of the story, you’re usually on the defending team, however, you’ll occasionally have to reverse your role and attack. This is where chaos ensues, with lasers, bombs, blockades, and enemies all standing in your way. It’s fun in its own way once you get to grips with it, but there’s one aspect that bugs me: your “team” can’t help you win.

Let me explain. While defending, it’s just you – one lone Bomberman – against the aliens. Meanwhile, you’re actually traveling with seven other bomber-people during this story, who, for some reason, are there to assist during the attacking sessions. Two things about this: firstly, why aren’t they helping during defensive rounds? Secondly, while attacking, if your teammates acquire a key and open a chest before you, the battle is immediately lost. I was bewildered by this outcome; what is the point of their presence if my team isn’t actually helping? There were some battles that took many attempts because my AI players were too efficient (or I wasn’t good enough). Either take them out of the game or let them help me win! 

Graphically, everything looks lovely, with colorful sprites and environments to discover. The music, though repetitive, is simple and bouncy and reminds me of the ‘90s for some reason. It fits right in. It really will get stuck in your head! The constant need for loading screens is a bit of a drag, though. You’ll have to wait 10-20 seconds when loading battles or even returning to the menu. It borders on frustrating and smacks of poor design optimization.

Overall, Super Bomberman R 2 is a fun return to the world of bomb-toting multiplayer madness. It’s a challenging and addictive premise, and if you’ve never had the pleasure of playing, it’s an easy title to recommend for the Battle Mode alone. The Story Mode is also quite enjoyable, despite some design flaws.