Basement Crawl

Looking for Bomberman? You won’t find it here. Blooper Team’s competitive multiplayer action title, a PlayStation 4 exclusive, is intended to be a nostalgic revival of the classic Hudson Soft game. While Basement Crawl manages to build a game that functions exactly like Bomberman, its myriad of issues renders the game mostly unplayable in its current state.

To those who have played Bomberman in one form or another the gameplay will be quite familiar. In fact, Blooper Team makes no attempt to disguise Basement Crawl as anything but a Bomberman clone. Competing players are dropped into a grid based arena filled with obstacles that must be destroyed by dropping a series of traps--actually it is much easier to call them bombs--that detonate across a small blast radius. Rather than create wild, wantonness havoc the idea is to strategically place these bombs in a manner that will kill unaware or trapped opponents. A simple idea that would work well if not for the lion’s share of the game’s horrendous issues.

The game can only be played online, be it local or global multiplayer. This in itself is not an issue as there are plenty of online multiplayer games on the market. What separates Basement Crawl from others of its kind is its inability to create a smooth online experience thereby making the game borderline unplayable. There are several factors that bring ruin: lack of a much needed tutorial mode, an ill planned visual aesthetic and significant online stability issues.

To cover the most egregious problem first, for a something so dependent on online play, the network problems are a severe detriment. During any given play session, you’re likely to come across a bevy of bizarre scenarios. After sitting through a load screen, instead of dropping into the game I was instead taken to the match results screen and all I could do was quit to the main menu. In another game, the opponents and myself were dropped into a match but I was the only one moving. It was as if the other players decided at the same time to drop their controllers and walk away. By far, the most bizarre situation involved staring at an arena devoid of players and nothing to do but watch the timer count down to zero. When I did manage to get into a playable match, network lag made the match a frustrating and unbearable experience. For a game that relies on placing bombs in the right place and detonating them at the right time, this is completely inexcusable.

In light of the game’s failure to deliver a functional online experience, which is as good as any reason to save your $10, Basement Crawl’s other problems pale in direct comparison. However, take the following to heart in the event that Blooper Team manages to reign in its network problems. Blooper assumes those playing their game have a significant background in Bomberman and offers little instruction for those completely new to this type of game, tossing them into an area filled with crates and indiscernible powerups. Each of the loading screens offers a controller map that identifies what button does what but it s not enough to educate new players causing them to fumble in the dark for the first handful of rounds--assuming, that is, they work. I eventually found myself hoping the game would break and put me in a"solo" match so that I could familiarize myself with the game further.

Basement Crawl is wrapped in a dark, macabre visual style that has a tendency to make the game difficult to see. A cutscene sets up a narrative that doesn’t go anywhere once it is over. Trapped in a basement comprised of frightening looking kill rooms, a young girl asks her creepy, doting grandmother about wanting to go outside. There’s no reason to get attached to either of these characters because they never show up again. Instead, the game shifts focus to four creepy looking interlopers: a demonic teddy bear, a scary clown, an obese woman with a full face mask and...a crash test dummy in a wheelchair? While the game does support eight players, there are only four characters available. During a match where everyone is moving around and blowing up the environment, seeing multiple versions of the same characters as they lack any eye catching flairs or costume variants makes play a more confusing than it should be. Compounding this confusion is the game’s low brightness which allows character models to blend into the environment. Characters also have a tendency to get caught on the environment on occasion, resulting in a number of cheap deaths.

With its fair share of problems, both large and small, Basement Crawl isn’t nearly enough to scratch anyone’s itch for Bomberman. In fact, the easiest thing to do would be to track down a copy of Bomberman and play that instead. In this era of consoles that emphasize online connectivity and interactivity, gamers have a well earned expectation that online games will work at launch. Basement Crawl has been out for just over a month and still suffers from crippling online issues. Not a good sign.

Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.