“More than a little boring!”
When did the whole world go 3D on me? Seems like not all that long ago Pacman was enough. Pacman, and Frogger, and Earthworm Jim, and Prince of Persia, and Galaxian. And I was pretty happy back in the days of flatlands; never climbing over, never going under, just going along. Of course, my grandfather would tell me about the good old days of his childhood 1D world. “We only had one die-mension,” he would say, one rheumy eye fixed upon me while the other gazed longingly into the past, “and we were grateful for it! Sure, you only had one line to go on, but at least a man knew where he was headed. Then the Gerries came along in Dubya Dubya One and tried to take our line away. But our boys gave them what for! Drove them back to their end of the line.” Crap joke. Forgive me, I’m rusty. Anyway, there is a growing genre of games which consists entirely of taking classic games and constructing them in a 3D realm, pretty much without any other changes to the gameplay. Shift the world into some isometric view variant, slap a 3D in the title, and you’ve suddenly pretended you’ve made a whole new game. Not necessarily a better game, as Prince of Persia 3D can attest, but perhaps a different game. Exploman is popularly considered to be a 3D version of the game Atomic Bomberman of a few years back, but as I’m probably the only game reviewer in North America to never have played Atomic Bomberman, I can’t make any useful comparison there.
The game is really simplistic, perhaps too simplistic in my opinion. You’re Exploman (Exploman! Exploman! Does whatever and Explo can?) trapped in some sort of maze, the object being to make it to the exit before time runs out. The catch is that the exit is closed until you kill off all the enemies in the maze. Enemies are perhaps the wrong word. I mean, the little cannon figure is busy shooting everywhere, and he clearly means harm, but there is no clear indication that he specifically means you harm any more than your average junior high school gunman from California. He’s just out there blasting, and if you get hit, that might be your fault, right? And the turtle kills Exploman merely with its touch, and you surely can’t blame the turtle for that, can you? Anyway, Exploman has delusions of persecution, and he feels the need to off all those he perceives as his enemies in order to escape from the maze of his own sociopathy. Picture him as sort of a nutball extremist Santa Clause. Maybe I’m reading too much into all of this; maybe it’s just a game. But then again, maybe not. Like any good nutball extremist, Exploman comes equipped with a ready supply of bombs to blow his enemies to kingdom come, except that when you blow one up they go “Whee!” or sometimes “Oh!” and they kind of fly away out of the maze and not into a million pieces. Low violence quotient. So you run around in the maze, kind of timing out your enemies’ patterns and trying to place bombs in their path. You too have to be clear of a bomb when it goes off, by the way, or you’ll be killed in the explosion. It’s a game of timing to figure out how long the fuse on the bomb will burn and how fast your enemies are moving. Sometimes if you drop a bomb in a spot just as the enemy is stepping there, he gets kind of stuck on it. I can’t decide if that’s a bug or not, but if it is, it’s the only one I ran across.
The guys to blow up are varied – some shoot back, some are faster than others – and the mazes get more intricate – you can go up on the walls and such – but that’s pretty much the whole game. All 20 levels of it. Yippee. To try and wipe out some of the monotony of all this, there are power ups scattered around the maze, usually hidden under something you have to blow up to find it. Extra guys, a burst of speed, bombs you can throw, that kind of thing. Some of the power ups are mysteries (showing only a big question mark before you pick them up). They are almost universally bad, reversing your controls for a time or causing you to drop a series of quick-exploding bombs that you have to run from for as long as the power up lasts. I guess after playing weeks of Hitman and Warlords: Battlecry this game is just not complex enough to hold my interest. Maybe it’s supposed to be a child’s game, but that runs into the usual issue of being too complicated for a six-year-old to play, and not interesting enough for anyone older. At least the game appears to generate the mazes for each level as it goes along, unlike, say, the old arcade Pacman, which had fixed mazes that could be memorized. So if you’re into this game, it does have some replay value.
The graphics are sunny and bright with cartoony colors. Some of the little characters in the maze are very well animated. There is this little Mr. Potatohead looking soldier who marches around and ducks down under his helmet when a bomb goes off nearby, but not close enough to blow him out of the maze. And if you corner the turtle between a bomb and a wall, he’ll look around frantically trying to find a way out before the bomb explodes. Cutesy. The 3D view in this game is almost exactly the same one that Frogger 3D has, and it has a little of the same problems that go along with it. One direction (down) is pretty short due to the angle of the isometric view. You can’t see very far downwards, and when running in that direction you can run into an enemy you couldn’t see until the very last instant. The game, like 97% of all games out there these days requires a 3D card, but it’s not going to stress your Mach Hercules AT Rage 32MB overclocked card any. A little sizzle on the fuse, a flash of light in the explosions – that’s about all for that. Sounds are a combination of jolly and happy with explosions mixed in, like a day at the circus with a crazed Islamic fundamentalist.