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Bombastic (PlayStation 2) artwork

Bombastic (PlayStation 2) review

"You bask in the glorious immolation of Aquis."

At best, Bombastic is the sequel to the action-puzzler Devil Dice for the Playstation. At worst, who cares?

Sure, there will be that dustcloud of time when you will be sucked into that vacuum of clearing assorted geometrical objects - that unforgiving whirlwind of a once-steady pace blurring faster and faster and faster... until that ill-fated mistake. Game Over.

But unlike those free afternoons willingly lost to the burning masses of Meteos, the resonating squares of Lumines, and, yes, even the brooding mines of Minesweeper, there is nothing in Bombastic to reel you back in. It will try luring you with a generic Story Mode, off-brand variations of Devil Dice, and an annoyingly cute baby named Aqui. But you quickly stop looking. You quit.

That is, if you can withstand the learning curve in the first place. Most puzzle games know that if they don't relieve the difficulty of learning the technical rules through extra lives, a slower speed, or something that flickers "E-A-S-Y", many players will just give up. But Bombastic doesn't understand how to do this. Press Start at the title screen and BOOOMB!!! An overly complex and overly enthusiastic dubbing:

You play on a diagonally-planed grid with DICE!!! Move Aqui around on a die and match the faces of the dice by rolling two 2's together, three 3's together, and so on - and they will IGNITE!!! After they explode, they will ignite OTHER DICE!!! with face equal to or one less than the number on the exploded die within a crossfire spread equal to that number causing a CHAIN REACTION!!! But don't get caught in the EXPLOSION!!! or let the dice that come out of LIGHTNING BOLTS!!! fill the plane, or you will DIE!!! So you should learn the B-B-B-B-B-B-BASIC TECHNIQUES!!!

Did you get all of that? The game certainly thinks so, because soon after, you are force-fed hints on how opposite sides of a die sum up to seven, how you can maneuver dice to land on a specific face, and how these tutorials make learning the rules harder than inorganic chemistry.

Then as you scour through all the modes, recovering from the bombastic ruleset, you will realize that you got a dud. Trial Mode is the basic heap of boring modes rolled into one: "reach the highest level" mode (Standard), "you only have three minutes" mode (Limited), and "beat your opponent" mode (Attack).

Fortunately, the multiplayer modes save the game from boredom. Barely. Winning usually involves frantically see-sawing with your opponent. Wars Mode, in particular, has you drain your opponent's health by igniting dice. Attack Mode takes a different spin, forcing you to tag a certain number die by igniting, say, 4's and preventing your opponent from tagging it back.

Do I go for the easy but easily stolen 2's and 3's? Or should I go for the difficult but safer 5's and 6's?

On the other hand, finding worthy opponents and worthy friends for co-op is near impossible due to the lack of online play and the steep learning curve. Moreover, though you can battle against AI-bots, any modicum of difference between your skill level and the AI's skill level gets blown out of proportion. If you just can't think as fast as the computer, you will lose - and continue to lose. The game doesn't offer many ways to sabotage your opponent. So though you can adjust the speed of the AI-bots as a handicap, your fate is practically sealed before you start the match.

Bombastic tries to blast through its flaws by following an unfortunate. Apparently, the solution to lacking innovation is a Quest Mode. Need we recount the failures of recent classic adaptations in justifying a half-baked narrative? Frogger, Q*Bert, Pac-Man, Dr. Mario, ad nauseum. So, with no need to reinvent Devil Dice, we have...

Five Aqui brothers (the pink one must be metrosexual) sneak out of bed on a Candyland journey to find their grandfather who lives in the clouds. Though they could have just asked Mama and Papa to take them to him, they merrily roll their dice on a death-defying adventure of drawn-out puzzles, across dangerous lands like The Land of Sweets that lurk with perilous enemies like Miss Cling.

The only saving grace for this saccharine Quest atrocity is that the graphics finally stop fixating on dice and Aquis, and sugarcoat backgrounds with cel-shaded lollipops, primary colors, and all things kindergarten-cute. But after seeing the Aquis frolicking in harmonic meter with the sickly sweet J-Pop, you will begin to wish that you had never gone on the quest.

The first world is a tutorial. Wait, another one?! Yep, only this time you get English subtitles and Mr. Macho, a gym teacher that rips off Captain America (stars and all) and yells Japanese-turned-English puns: Knowing that the opposite sides of a die add up to seven apparently SENDS YOU TO THE HEAVENS!!! Soon after, you trudge through puzzle after puzzle, blasting balloon-looking enemy after balloon-looking enemy. Even with five lives and infinite restarts, you will eventually never want to see another exploding die ever again.

Bombastic is a paragon of what not to do in puzzle games - and real life. Besides the scant few unlockables modes that are just previous versions of Devil Dice, there is no reward system. Your only incentive is the ever-rusted "achieve the highest score" mechanic - do games even have points anymore?

So after pressing Start at the title screen, you unknowingly strike a match against the pointless learning curve. A bombardment of cubic crap then ignites:

Quest Mode.
Sevens to the Heavens.

But you smirk. You bask in the glorious immolation of Aquis. You learn that burning babies end the game - end the suffering. And that's just wrong.

draqq_zyxx's avatar
Featured community review by draqq_zyxx (May 19, 2006)

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