By: Casey Curran
Whatever happened to Bomberman? It seems like he just dropped off the gaming scene completely a few years ago, and now the current-gen consoles have this giant void of a way to blow each other up without turning to a first-person shooter. Basement Crawl hoped to rectify this with a dark, creepy look and feel to it; and to say it fails at this is like saying I need to get a little buzzed when I watch the Angels play baseball.
Basement Crawl actually controls pretty well thanks to a simple setup. If you have ever played Bomberman you’ll know exactly what to do, and even if you haven’t you can pick it up with no trouble. The only real issue is that the game is vague on what effect using any of your abilities has until you actually use them. This, however, is mostly resolved once you spend enough time to experiment with everything.
Basement Crawl really nails a creepy look and feel that makes the characters look really disturbing. The issue with this, however, is that it clashes horribly with its more lighthearted style. The gameplay, like Bomberman, seems to work best when you are in the mood for some simple fun. There is nothing charming about the characters you play as that contributes to this, however, as they all look like something you would see out of Silent Hill instead.
That, combined with the eerie sound effects and music, creates a game that feels horribly schizophrenic, causing the game’s visual style to sap any fun out of the gameplay.
Or, at least, what little fun the gameplay has to begin with. There are a few tweaks to the Bomberman formula, mostly in the form of how the power ups work. All of these power ups, unfortunately, are for the worse. I can see the logic behind placing an emphasis on power ups to give the game a different feel than Bomberman. The issue, however, is that these power ups undermine the core mechanic of the gameplay.
Once my friends and I figured out how the gameplay worked, we soon realized that once you got a certain combination of power ups, you could very easily make yourself immune to any bombs. The game offered ways to tank hits without dying, get out of sticky situations when you’re trapped and even guard against a bomb blast.
The result is that it is way too hard to blow each other up, which goes against everything that makes this type of game fun. While it was initially a little bit amusing trying to survive without dying, this was soon replaced with the grim reality that nothing was really happening. There were no points to get excited over, no explosions to gloat about, no accidentally bombing yourself. It just became a game where either nothing of consequence happened or we were in a feast-or-famine scenario where one or two players were invincible while the others continually died without being able to even the odds.
Basement Crawl has enough polish both in the controls and graphics to have been a good game. Its issues are completely with its design, both in terms of art direction and gameplay mechanics. The result is a game that works but does everything it can to undermine any fun to be had. There may be a game that makes me turn on the PS4 over the Wii U when I’m playing with friends someday, but this is not it.