Bomberman fans must be a patient bunch -- they only get to see their bobble-headed hero once in a while, and more often than not, he's doing the same thing he did over fifteen years ago in almost the same way. For better or worse, Bomberman's first Wii title is quite different than what his fans have come to expect: it's a minigame fest. Don't dismiss it as a party game, though, as it's not quite the type of game to pull out at get-togethers, focusing much more on a single-player experience.
Bomberman Land Wii starts off as our ever cheerful white hero -- named "Cheerful White," as a matter of fact -- is on vacation, when he is invited to a strange tournament in a carnival-like place called "Bomberman Land." The first champion of the tournament has taken over and is being quite the pain, instituting his own ridiculous rules and hindering the participants from playing the way they want to. Obviously, playing through round after round of competitive minigames and ranking higher than the rest of the flock will subdue the tyrant and restore peace to the land. And so it is that players are sent through a myriad of "attractions," mostly single-player focused, attempting to rack up high scores and outrank the competition.
In this way, Bomberman Land separates itself from every other been-there-done-that minigame pile on the Wii. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? Most likely a good thing. The change of focus lends the minigames to often take on an arcade-like aspect, and as a result, can deliver some challenge to overcome. Once in a while, this level of challenge will likely frustrate many gamers, both young and older, but the game usually lets players dodge the ones they have the most trouble with. The minigames never feel as solid and polished as one might hope, but then again, minigames rarely are -- that's sort of the point. The traditionally controlled minigames are usually executed well enough, while the Wii-specific games are often hit and miss. Some are genuinely interesting and creative, while others feel unnecessary and would be more enjoyable with a standard control set up. As expected, some of remote-focused games can have dodgy controls -- they seemed to either feel quite solid or frustratingly shoddy. There are enough duds to hurt the experience now and again, but as a whole, Bomberman Land's minigame collection is adequate and occasionally addicting.
This is largely due to the training mode that lets players play minigames at will, tackling on special missions within the game, such as setting certain scores or accomplishing special tasks within the games themselves. By rising up to these tasks, players are rewarded with money, which can be used to purchase new outfits for your "Cheerful White" bomber. Some of these challenges can be rather tricky, even for seasoned gamers, but a true collector will relish scooping up the bonus outfit pieces earned by clearing the missions. In this regard, Bomberman Land feels a bit like Animal Crossing in that the ultimate reward at the end of the day is pimping out your character to look as gangsta or as dweeby as you like. An Indian American headdress with a snow jacket, ninja pants, and samurai clogs with a guitar over the shoulder -- that's how I roll. While a bit shallow, it can still be a fun time to mismatch clothing to create a unique style, though it can dip into the transsexual side of things -- players can dress the protagonist as a girl but can't actually make his face look feminine. Creepy or funny: you decide. Either way, it allows for some rather peculiar-looking Bombermen outfits, and younger players are sure to eat up this element of personal expression.
Bomberman Land's main flaw is not its minigames, nor its depth, as there is plenty to do, collect, and play. The rather noticeable chink in its armor is its presentation, which can be so bad at times that it can hinder the enjoyment of the game itself. The "story" and its stiff cutscenes will repeat the same five or so animations, which, while they manage to bring some personality to the characters, will likely just cause players to grow impatient. Imagine if the Mario Party games were bogged with shallow, sloth-like dialogue sequences every ten minutes -- it completely breaks up the pacing and the purpose of having minigames in the first place. The "tournaments" can be tedious in their set up and overly complex execution, and I frankly found it much more enjoyable to sit back and play the minigames and their challenges outside of the main story. The tournaments can add an unneeded pressure to succeed on the very first try -- it's an interesting dynamic, but has mixed results. The story may be enjoyed by some, and perhaps its brand of charm is lost on me, but either way, it breaks up the pacing enough to hurt the experience.
When not playing tournaments or practicing minigames, players have the option to simply play any unlocked minigames at their leisure. Unfortunately, there are a handful of enjoyable multiplayer minigames worth playing. On the flipside, Bomberman Land Wii includes a full-blown classic mode for friends to blow each other away in traditional Bomberman style. With a wealth of options, this side-mode can be very fun for Bomber fans, with a huge multitude of different level types, multiple rule sets, and the ability to customize practically any feature, including which items appear. Considering that this mode is more or less an add-on, it offers everything fans of the old-school Bomberman could want.
Final Verdict - 7/10
Bomberman Land Wii has a lot of tasks to accomplish despite its perceived image as merely a minigame collection. While this is the meat of the game, all of its customization, unlockable content, challenges, and the added classic mode help to bolster its value, especially when considering that it has a default price of only thirty dollars. For that bargain price, Bomberman Land Wii is a great title for smaller gamers who love minigame collections with its single-player focus and healthy amount of content to wade through. Older gamers will notice its lack of polish, but younger players will find something to love and plenty to do despite its bland production values and awkward execution. If you're looking for a game to give to a small gamer, Bomberman Land Wii will keep them busy for a good while.