Earlier this month we realised just how steep some Xbox Live Arcade games are. 800 Microsoft Points sounds cheap on the tongue in the same way that Euros are like Monopoly money when you're off boozing on a Greek island. But what you're actually paying for Doom and Texas Hold 'Em is £6.80. Almost seven quid. For Doom!
Ahem. Bomberman Live however (this is where the rant ties into the review) for online antics is worth every golden nugget of that seven quid. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be the best Live Arcade release this year.
You know the deal by now; every part of the classic has been retooled to tick the Xbox 360's boxes. The classic pyro antics are all there, plus colourful visuals with a massive amount of beautifully rendered Bombermen (and ladies), a catchy soundtrack, offline and online multiplayer, leaderboards, achievements, yada, yada, yada... This isn't just a port, it's a whole new game.
For the 10-year-olds out there, it's an addictive top-down arena game where you and three or more opponents place bombs around a maze, trying to blow each other up. Controls handle well on both d-pad and analogue stick, which perhaps isn't surprising considering the grid setup of the game. A drops your bombs, X punches bombs (if you have the relevant powerup), R Trigger stops kicked bombs and B detonates remote explosives.
Offline the occasional AI glitch, with opponents mindlessly walking into walls, isn't uncommon, but seeming as Bomberman is predominantly an online game we don't think it's a massive problem. The big draw of this version, besides being able to play the devilishly addictive battler online and in hi-def, is the pleasing amount of options on offer. The offline game is essentially deathmatch with bots and you're given control over nearly every facet of the skirmish, from weapons, to game mode, to where your little guys spawn.
The wealth of customisation reaches all the way to Bomberman Live's prize pony; a Customise Bomberman mode that lets you chose from a large variety of faces, headwear and costumes to make your bomber look original, and in most cases ridiculous. New pieces can be unlocked by picking up special costume items in-game, but it'll take a while to collect everything.
At the moment we've settled on a Tutu-adon Bomberman with a pirate's eye patch and Idianna Jones-style hat. If you want to look slightly less mental there are gladiator, wizard, soldier, cheerleader and spaceman costumes, plus many, many more.
The usual variety is also present in the game's arenas, which range from pirate coves, to green fields and chilly snow worlds.
Outside of the main game by far the best game mode is Paint Bomb, which tasks players with colouring floor tiles into their house colour by (you guessed it) bombing the absolute crap out of the arena. This offers a sharp change of pace from the usual deathmatch, as well a bit of strategy when you're alternating from colour duties, and firebombing whoever's winning.
The other game mode is far less enjoyable but still worth a look-in; Zombie sticks to the same tile-painting philosophy but lets you respawn instantly as if you were instagibbing in Unreal Tournament. A nice offering, but quickly tedious in online games where restraint and tactics go right out the window.
When everyone in the office decides they absolutely must get some work done, online mode is expectedly where the fun's at. And we don't seem to be the only ones having a good time either, as we actually had to turn the voicechat off to silence the amount of belly-laughter spilling from our speakers.