Rarely is the justice bestowed upon sleeper hits that they truly deserve. Month in and month out, unsung hits fly under the radar of the gaming public at large. Whose fault this is, it’s difficult to say. Are magazines covering the wrong games, or are players not looking hard enough for the silver linings? Five years ago, an obscure puzzler named Devil Dice came to the PlayStation and starred a diminutive imp, more cutesy than malevolent, who rotated dice with a nifty shuffle of his feet and could make proper combinations of face-up dice sink into a continuously active board. Outside of board games, there is admittedly spare use for such primitive entertainment devices, but leave it to who else but SCEA and THQ (and now the inheritor of the series, Capcom) to find a way to implement them into a video game, of all things! It was a game that truly deserves to be called innovative, and I can see why it has taken five years to conceive of and produce a sequel: when thou standest on consecrated ground, thou shalt not tarnish what makes a classic such. Capcom read the Holy Book of Not Ruining Great GamesT several times over, said its amens, and did its rosaries, and entered the ring ready to rock.
What they came out with was Bombastic, which is most likely the product of inspiration hitting as a result of being stuck in the house playing Devil Dice while there was an Independence Day fireworks show outside. Bombastic plays much like its predecessor with one key difference: the dice have a tendency to explode in this game (hence the pun-tastic name). As in the original, the point of the game to roll the dice with your nubbin feet in order to create an adjacent group of dice, all with the same number facing up, in an amount equal to however many dots are face-up on the group in question. Confused? In layman’s terms: create permutations of two 2’s, three 3’s, four 4’s, etc. for points. As the combos sink into the ground, you can continue to connect the same number to create chains, keeping the destruction of dice going forever. Sound easy? As is the case with most puzzle games, it is easy to learn, but a long road lies ahead of you in terms of taming the beast.
The bomb gimmick is at the heart of the game, and as well it should be, taking up a good 40% of the game’s title. Bombastic introduces a quest mode that stands the Devil Dice world on end and gives you far more control over the fate of your game cubes (ho ho). As well as tilting them with your handy balancing act, your dapper devil can now push them around, pick them up and throw them, or jump to nearby ones. Dimensions upon dimensions are added by these little changes, both in the changes to your juvenile lesser demon’s mobility and in the game itself. Now incorporated into the Devil Dice mix, the quest mode stars the little costumed guy in a series of really linear levels – never diverting off the straight and narrow from beginning to end – with fun catches in-between such as racing supporting characters on the sideline to a predetermined finishing point or just a regular level with tons of dicey puzzles crammed in for good measure. Bombastic’s barrel of originality is a humdinger, proving time and again that it is one of the few originality barrels in the world of gaming that lacks a bottom.
The original game also makes a return, with the added bonus of being able to use all the techniques available at your disposal in the return to days of dice-flipping yore. Amazingly, the old ways are still the game’s main draw, and aficionados of the first game will flock to its new streamlined design and enhanced play like a curious sheep to a running wood chipper. People familiar with DD will again recognize the simple premise which has been translated to this game, making it a great purchase and a sneaky deal for newbies and veterans alike (at $35 new, it’s not exactly a steal but more worth the purchase than other games). Even more fun is the War mode that pits even the most hardened high-roller against up to four other players, giving puzzle fans a rare chance to share the wealth and break out the multitap for social gatherings and shooting explosive craps long into the night.
Bombastic takes the low road by jumping on the already overcrowded cel shading bandwagon, but as is commonly the case, the look gives it a kiddy feel that nevertheless suits the game and makes it soft on the eyes so that it ends up easily digestible for the consecutive hours invested into any good puzzler. Actually, the game molds both conventional 3D and cel shading very well, using the latter on only the mime-like sprites and their antagonists and displaying the rest of the game in splendorous height, width, and depth. It has some of the most notably fluid animation I’ve seen in quite a long time, and it holds up a constant framerate even under furious circumstances, like the intense lightning that conjures up a new die out of thin air from the floor tiles and the constant rotating and revolving using your impish protagonist’s feet (and now his hands).
Also containing the entire gamut of sound effects and an impeccably designed hermetic control scheme, Bombastic easily sets itself up as one of the best puzzle games to hit the market in a while. It is not often that a game does so little to innovate but yet is a radical step ahead of its predecessor. Someone must have told a key developer in this project that they found Devil Dice to be a blast, and the developer found inspiration and applied the remark in a very literal sense. However the idea to fit dice with incendiary devices was conceived, it is one that puzzle junkies everywhere should not dare to pass up. Bullets of sweat will crawl down your beet-red face as the game ups the ante, and your brain focuses only on where to hotfoot it to so you don’t turn into chicken-fried devil. The goal of any puzzle game should be to send you reeling into cardiac arrest, unable to process the flurry of objects filling up your TV screen. And in that regard, Bombastic succeeds admirably.