The first time I played a Bomberman game, I was hooked on its multiplayer mode. Bomberman games don't really have an impressive single player mode, but get some people together in a room and you have an addicting multiplayer game that's been around for years. Hudson's Bomberman Live: Battlefest available on Xbox Live Arcade gives us a great multiplayer game without any of the unnecessary single player fluff of previous games. There's nothing about this game that will wow or shock you, but character customizations and the ability to play with up to eight players online give you long-lasting multiplayer fun.
Even if you're not familiar with the franchise, Battlefest is easy to pick up and plays like any other Bomberman game. The object of a classic mode game is to be the last bomber standing. Up to eight players begin the game on a grid and drop bombs that can destroy obstacles and can eliminate anyone that touches its blasts. The different power-ups you can pick up have different effects including powering up your bomb blasts and giving your Bomber the ability to kick, throw, and punch bombs out of the way. You can pick up remote-controlled bombs, bombs whose blasts pass through walls, and dangerous bombs whose explosions are square-shaped and take up many spaces. You can always set how long a match goes, but the last 60 seconds of every match are bound to get crazy as you and the other players have to avoid getting squished by blocks that start raining down from the sky every second.
While I prefer to play the classic mode, the game does offer many other unique modes with different objectives. You can play team modes like VIP, where there is one player on each team that must stay alive, or a classic game of Capture the Flag. You can also play the easily addicting Paint Bomb mode whose winner is decided by how many stage tiles their bombs "paint" with their explosions. This mode has always been my favorite since you constantly have to make sure the other players aren't stealing your tiles. These modes are entertaining online, but even if you play by yourself, the CPU's clever bomb placements and timing can easily destroy you if you don't watch your step.
The game offers plenty of stages to choose from as well with different gimmicks, effects, and catchy tunes. In one stage, heavy winds blow out your bomb's fuses so you'll end up with a lot of dead bombs unless you explode them with live ones. In another stage, time speeds up but then it slows down, so you have to be careful of where you're going. I am not a big fan of gimmicky stages in most games, but if you're looking for a distraction from the pressure of battle mode, these stages are pure entertainment and sometimes the environment can even help you win. You can always choose to turn off these gimmicks and play the game without these added effects too. This is a good thing since the upbeat music that plays in each stage is suitable enough for any serious classic match.
Another nice touch is the ability to collect costume pieces to customize the Bomber you're using. You can also use your avatars, but they look out of place in the game to me. The game starts you off with plenty of clothing options to choose from, but as you play offline multiplayer games, you will be able to find more clothing spheres that unlock other items. There are many items you can use to customize your Bomber including hats, ethnic costumes, and a variety of facial expressions. Sure, Bomberman is basically just two pairs of eyes and some eyebrows, but give him some shades and you have a stylish little dude that you can show off to the world.
Bomberman games have been around for a long time and Hudson continues to make more. It's hard to improve the formula of a Bomberman game, so instead of focusing on single player mode which isn't often its strong suit, they decided to devote a game to the best part about the games: their multiplayer. Great idea. If you've never played a Bomberman game before, then this game is all you need to catch up on the addictiveness of the franchise. Bomberman Live: Battlefest may limit your gaming to its multiplayer mode, but perhaps that's a good thing.