But Tetris isn’t the only game on this list with more re-releases than The Joker. Since his first appearance in 1983, the bobble-headed ‘bot has put the world’s various terrorist factions to shame in around thirty titles, and that’s just counting the core games. That number would be much higher if we included all of the RPG, puzzle and sports-based spinoffs, but we won’t. Because frankly, they miss the whole damn point.
The secret to the series’ true success you see, is contained within its name. Bomberman. A man who bombs. A bomber man. A bombing man with bombs who bombs things with them until they are well and truly bombed. He is no more, he is no less, and his simple exploration of the noble joy of blowing stuff up is exactly the reason his series is as timeless and loved as it is.
Again like Tetris, everything is simple to understand on the initial visual level. A grid-like, single-screen maze, bombs that explode at right-angles along said maze’s paths, and bad things to blow up. Absolutely nothing needs to be explained. Everything can be seen, there are no hidden surprises or secret techniques, and with close to a one-button control scheme, anyone can play. But while the original single-player quest of the first game was fun enough in itself, the series was only truly imbued with the elixir of eternal life once multiplayer arrived.
Because as well-designed as it is, only 20% of Bomberman’s fun comes from the actual game engine. That maze running, block blasting framework is really just a vessel in which to nurture screaming, swearing, cackling competitive spirit of the most gloriously deranged order. With simple gameplay, a clear objective (kill everyone who isn’t you), and a fast, friendly, pick-up-and-play philosophy, Bomberman is as perfect a party game as it gets. The fact that it can be played in almost any kind of inebriated state is another bonus in that respect.
It’s an easy – and just as importantly, funny – way for friends and family to jeer and gloat at their victories over each other, and the snappy pace of the rounds ensures that the instinct for immediate revenge never has time to cool between deaths. That’s why its ‘one more go’ factor is loosely on a par with that of heroin. That’s why it’s got away with largely unchanged gameplay for over twenty years. And that’s why we still lap it up on any device with a screen and go nuts for it on Xbox Live.
It’s doubtful that when that humble little game with the explosions and the robots appeared on the MSX in ’83 that anyone would have predicted that we’d still be here in ’08, bombing away in HD, blasting the crap out of folk worldwide and swearing down our wireless headsets at the cowboy-pirate who just got us with the remote control trigger. But we are, and life is good. And it’s all down to Hudson’s understanding that the human factor is the lifeblood of videogame longevity. Particularly when the toasting of your mates is involved.