It’s not a rare thing for a game to wear its inspirations on its sleeve. Inspiration is a great motivator, and there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with imitation, either. On the other hand, it can be a little jarring to start a new game and have it immediately remind you of an older product. This was precisely my first impression of Blast Zone! Tournament. When I started my first match, I couldn’t help but think, “Hang on. This looks a lot like Bomberman.”
There’s no two ways about it: Blast Zone! Tournament bears more than a passing resemblance to Konami’s long-running blow-’em-up franchise. Like I said, however, imitation isn’t inherently a bad thing, so long as a distinction is made between imitating and outright copying. It’s hard to look at this game, with its grid-based levels and explosive combat, and not see Bomberman, but it is quick to establish its own personality separate from the franchise it borrows from.
The premise here is that you’re a contestant on a game show, and your goal is to blast all of the competition to pieces. The character designs and general aesthetic are all very reminiscent of old game/quiz shows, at least until a match begins. Blast Zone’s presentation is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s smoothly animated, responsive and full of all the colourful, on-screen mayhem you would expect from a game where your primary tool is explosives.
Unfortunately, it can also be a bit of a messy spectacle to watch. Smaller matches are fine. The level of zoom is just right, and fewer contestants and hazards mean the match is easy to follow. This isn’t the case in bigger games, where a stage can be absolutely covered in hazards, power-up icons and roving enemies. It makes sense that the camera zooms out to compensate for this, but the result is that everything becomes noticeably more difficult to follow.
In a game like this, a certain level of chaos is to be expected. In fact, when done right, it’s fair to say it would make up a huge part of the experience. This isn’t a turn-based, strategic affair, after all. This is a contest to see who can blow up their enemies quicker. Playing a game on a smaller map with fewer player is tremendous fun, but it simply isn’t viable to try to play on the biggest stages, packed full of players and floating icons.
Still, it’s hard to fault the core gameplay. It’s simple, straightforward and easy to pick up, allowing for players to quickly immerse themselves in the explosive shenanigans. For the most part, your bombs are how you get stuff done. From blowing up obstacles to taking out your opponents, you’ll need to get used to clever placement and good timing to get the best results. Your enemies, whether human or quick-thinking AI, will naturally move out of a bomb’s blast radius, which moves along horizontal and vertical axes, meaning you need to place your explosives in a way that prevents escape.
The aforementioned cluttering power-ups I mentioned come in a few flavors, including speed boosts for your character, buffs to your bombs’ power and an increase in how many bombs you can place at a time. They’re plentiful and easy to acquire – you just walk over them – but I couldn’t help feeling they were a little superfluous. Of course, you’re going to be at a disadvantage if your enemies have lots of buffs and you don’t, but I often found that it was simple enough to win a game without ever really bothering with power-ups.
There’s definitely a huge focus on the multiplayer here. Blast Zone! Tournament does feature a set of single-player levels, but they’re all fairly basic and easy to beat, to the point that the whole thing feels like a protracted tutorial section. Online matches can support up to 32 players, and it’s where the bulk of the appeal is – or should be. If you can get past the overcrowding and hectic on-screen jumble, there’s certainly a manic sort of fun to be had.
Certain aspects of the presentation do the game no favors, either. Default character styles are generic in a very free-to-play mobile game sort of way, which is only exacerbated when you level-up and discover that there are loot boxes to provide you with randomized cosmetic gear. While I do admittedly enjoy the whole “level up and unlock more stuff” approach to progression – in reasonable doses, at least – the style of Blast Zone! Tournament just doesn’t stand out enough to warrant level-grinding for a new item of clothing.
Blast Zone! Tournament is, essentially, a budget Bomberman title. While there’s nothing wrong with that approach, the one thing that got lost in translation which really shouldn’t have was the charm. Bomberman games are quirky, whacky and downright fun experiences, with few exceptions. Trying to make a scaled-back, party-game spin on that concept is admirable, but Blast Zone! Tournament simply doesn’t have enough character to pull it off. The gameplay is functional and more than engaging enough to keep you amused, but otherwise, there isn’t a great deal here to hook you in the first place.