Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bombuzal/Ka-blooey (US)- 12/01/90



Released December 1, 1990
Published by Kemco
Developed by Mirrorsoft


Surprisingly, the third release for the Super Famicom was not a Nintendo developed or published game. The Black Box days were over, Nintendo developed only a handful of games during the first months of the Super Famicom. Throughout the entire 16 bit era, Nintendo  developed only 19 games and published 100. In other words, they published only 1% of the entire Super Nintendo library and published about 5-6%. Bombuzal marks the Super Famicom's first computer port and Western developed game (of course its an isometric game, what did you expect?). The game itself is a puzzle platformer where you must detonate all the bombs and land mines on each platform without dying. The game contains 130 levels. I got to level 52 before I realized I haven't seen anything new and probably won't in the future. 
circa 1989<br><small>source: ACE #16, 1989/1</small>
Anthony Crowther


David Bishop
Bombuzal was created by infamous Commodore 64 programmer Antony Crowther and game designer David Bishop, two British programmers known for early Commodore 64 and Amiga games.  His most well known work as a programmer is Realms of the Haunting, a hybrid point-and-click adventure and first person shooter released in 1996. It has created a significant

Screenshot from original C64 version

cult following, its available for download here . David Bishop would go on to design games for Virgin Interactive including the superior genesis port of Aladdin, The Lion King, and the bizarre space-shooter Phobia.
Most recently, Bishop helped design the Android ports of Plants vs. Zombies and Bejeweled 3.

Bombuzal's creation is quite unusual. The game was created by the two gentlemen on their off-time from programming other titles for Mirrorsoft. The idea for Bombuzal came about in a flash one night according to Bishop. On his creation, Bishop stated, "I wrote it all down, and in the morning left all the notes with Tony. I came back to his place the following week and he'd prepared a playable demo already. He really is incredibly fast. He based the graphics on some sketches I'd done and that was basically it, the original C64 version of Bombuzal." Unfortunately, Bombuzal did not sell very well. In the very first issue of Amiga Power, a completely free version of Bombuzal on the Amiga is included with the magazine, suggesting the game has not made much of a dent in the gaming market even after three years.

After the Commodore savant duo finished the game, they presented the finished product to Mirrorsoft as a Christmas present. It's amazing to hear stories of games being given to a developer, much like many indie games now (Portal is a great example), instead of having years of development on a single game. Mirrorsoft began as an educational company, but became infamous for being the first developer to gain the rights to Tetris.  Bombuzal would be the only release on the system from the developer.

From my research, it seems that the SFC port of Bombuzal is straight from the Commodore Amiga, though the graphical user interface is much more SFC friendly. The biggest difference is the additional tunes throughout the game. The music for the original Commodore 64 and Amiga version was by someone named "The Wyvern" but it's hard to say for sure. The SFC music was composed by Hiroyuki Masuno, who also composed the soundtrack to Drakkhen. The music is catchy but repetitive as it is the only track for every level. This will be a repeating pattern for many computer ports which did not have level music.


Imagine you are part of a military bomb squad, then pretend you are a blue potato who just didn't cut it for the Grimace auditions, and finally have really bad teeth. British game developers have a penchant for creating colorfully crude and simple game mascots and Bombuzal is no exception. Actually, he has a name, it's Malcolm.

A guide from Amiga Power
In each of its 130 levels, you must detonate every bomb and land mine on the field. The game can be played in Isometric 3D view (above) or 2D view (my preference). The bombs can come in three different sizes (small, medium, and large) which determine how wide the explosion will be. A small bomb will detonate one square, a medium square will do two in each direction (a cross shape), and the large will detonate in a 3x3 square pattern. The biggest challenge to the game is chaining the explosions together to detonate the most bombs at once. Finding the correct sequence of bomb chaining is crucial. At times, detonating a bomb can leave you stranded or blow you up accidentally. Expanding bombs let you choose which size you want the bomb (small, medium, large) and the radio bombs will explode all other radio bombs. Finally, land mines can not be walked on (obviously) and can only be detonated by a bomb chain or a drone.

Besides the bombs, there are different tile types which will determine your path along the board. Ice pushes you toward the next tile, cracked tile breaks after you walk on it, warp tiles warp you to another area, solid tiles remain after an explosion, and Bubble and Sqweek (also a popular British dish of leftovers) tiles (i.e. the red ant in the picture) provide you with drones to explode mines (blue/Bubble) or bombs (red/sqweek). Switch tiles can change another tile on the board to another type. In most levels hitting every switch in the right order is necessary to complete the level.  Slotted tiles allow you to move bombs to different tiles and arrange them in a chain at times. on rare occasions, you will find a power temple which will absorb any adjacent explosion.

There are only two enemies, Sinister and Dexter. If you know your Latin roots, you may be able to guess that Sinister (the bouncing orb) travels through the level and turns left at corners, and Dexter (four rotating orbs on the ground) travels and turns right. These enemies are easy to avoid and can be destroyed via bombs, just make sure you pay attention to the sequence of bombs.

Regional Difference:

The only difference I could tell were the voice actresses who say, "Player One, Get Ready". I much prefer the Japanese version, it sounds a bit like BMO's voice from Adventure Time. The other voice just reminds me generic 90's voiceovers. 


After the first 15 levels or so, the basic gameplay and mechanics begin to repeat themselves, albeit in much more challenging ways. Later puzzles will focus heavily on finding the correct sequence of bomb chains or switches. Bombing certain levels reveal hidden messages, such as a llama taking a dump, though I haven't seen it. As the levels increase, the amount of time to complete each puzzle increases as well, making a complete playthrough to level 130 very time consuming. Puzzles can take upwards of 45 minutes to complete.

Overall, Bombuzal is a fun, challenging puzzle game at least for the first 20 or so levels. I lodge my only complaint at the sometimes rigid solutions to puzzles. At times, it feels like I was merely completing a task analysis, finding each necessary step until I found another one. Being creative is not allowed for the harder puzzles; there is a sequence that must be followed to complete the puzzle. I found this very frustrating, as I would find I missed a bomb somewhere out of sequence.

Give this game a try, but don't try to get to level 130 without a password, you'll end up ripping your hair out.

1 comment:

  1. Never played this one. Looks interesting, but I can see why it wasn't an instant classic. Sounds like a cross between Bomberman and Minesweeper.