Disclaimer: The writer of this feature was invited to a preview event hosted by 505 Games, the publisher for Roll7's Laser League
Bomberman: A Brief History
The place: Japan. The year: 1983. There’s a new hot dog on the block: Bakudan Otoko‘s his name, and explodin’s his game. Unfortunately for this hot dog, he released on home computers, so you and your pal Toshi can’t play him. Dang. Guess you have to wait a couple years.
Now you and Toshi are a couple of bad high school dudes looking to cut class and engage in general delinquency. What better way to do that than by using your Famicom to play the new hot dog on the block, Bomberman (who looks suspiciously like the old hot dog on the block, Bakudan Otoko)? It’s great, you and Toshi have a blast, but he makes some smart-mouthed comment about getting a higher score that makes you wish you could get Bomberman-based revenge on his smug face.
Well don’t look now, but it’s 1991 and Bomberman II just dropped. The hot dogs keep coming, and this time they’ve brought multiplayer with them. You call up Toshi and say “Hey, dude, I’m really sorry about what happened with Yuriko. Look, I know it’s been a while, but can we meet for beer and talk?” So you talk, hash things out, and pretty soon you’re getting hot and heavy with Bomberman II’s new multiplayer action.
It’s the morning after and you have trouble looking Toshi in the eye after your sick winning streak. You say your goodbyes and agree to meet up again the next time a Bomberman game comes out. You shred your way through the 90s, and Freddie Prinze Jr. into the 00s. New Bomberman games come and go, but they feel like more of the same. You start to question if this is really worth it. Should you have told Yuriko you were sorry? That you could be better? That you made a mistake spending $59.99 MSRP on Bomberman R?
Fast forward to now — 2017. You cry yourself softly to sleep at night with Bomberman games turning out to have the same old gameplay every time. Suddenly, a bright neon flash catches your eye. What’s that? Who’s there? Is it Yuriko? Is she finally returning your calls? No, it’s —
Laser League: a Bomberman for the Modern Age
Laser League does what Bomberman doesn’t. By taking the basic premise of “territory control” that Bomberman established, Laser League works within a familiar context and adds some interesting changes to the mix. From unique classes and abilities to customizable loadouts, the game’s mechanics can best be described as a “Best of” mixtape of the past few generations in game design.
From the studio that brought you Olli Olli comes the high-octane murdersport of 2150: Laser League pits two teams against one another in a confined arena where the objective is to eliminate the opposing side. You do so by activating neutral nodes traveling around the arena, which expand into bright neon walls of death that sport your team’s color. Should someone run into a wall that’s got the color of the enemy team, they’re instantly vaporized.
The gameplay as a whole is tight, snappy, and satisfying. Matches are divvied up into three potential rounds, with each round’s winner determined in a Best-of-Five. You as the player only have to worry about two inputs: your movement and your class ability. This allows you to easily keep tabs on the action, as well as where your character is in relation to everything else. Simple enough, right? Well, we’re still cracking the surface here.
Laser League shakes things up through three distinct factors: map variety, classes, and powerups. Each map has a unique setup of nodes that travel in discrete paths. Over time, the number of nodes increase, and the map’s confines quickly become awash in a neon sea of death. Where the game really throws you for a loop is the wrap-around mechanic. Like in Pac-Man, if you go the edge of the arena, you get transported to the opposite side of the map. This opens up a whole range of movement and maneuvers that synergize with the moving walls and individual class choices.
In order to get the edge on the other team, Laser League sports a number of different classes with unique abilities and attributes, covering offensive, defensive, and supporting roles. You can play the deadly “Blade,” who slices through opponents with ease and proves to be just as deadly as the laser walls. Or you can play the “Shock,” who lets out bursts of electricity that stun and disorient their enemies, leaving them prey to an oncoming wall or a sick combo™. To further complicate matters, various powerups will spawn on the map over time and affect the game in a number of different ways, from speeding up wall movement to switching their colors.
What’s Old is New Again
Now how exactly does Bomberman relate, you may ask? Well little Jimmy, let’s go back to this idea of “territory control.” Bomberman‘s core design mechanic was based around placing bombs on a grid-based map in order to blast your enemies to smithereens. The danger and fun came from surrounding your opponent in a wall of explosions that they couldn’t escape, which you could very easily be caught up in as well. Some basic powerups — like the increased number of bombs, higher movespeed, and bomb-throw — gave players the ability to develop a token sense of unique identity. For the most part, however, everybody plays the same general way.
Laser League cuts all the boring tedium out and dumps you right into the action
Laser League borrows that key design element of “territory control,” but introduces much-needed player agency. Bomberman matches would start each player out with no powerups, trapped in corners of the map that they had to slowly blast out of, maybe picking up the occasional ability. Laser League cuts all the boring tedium out and dumps you right into the action. As soon as a match starts, you’re already face-to-face with the enemy, vying for domination of the neutral nodes. Each team member’s unique abilities provide varied and interesting ways to affect both the flow of the match and skirmishes, while a mix of sick combo™, spatial awareness, and timing highlight the competitive depth that Laser League possesses. The game truly shines when you’re playing with multiple people, with frenzied cries of victory, defeat, and surprise intermingling.
So give your Toshis a call and tell them: “Hey. Are you a bad enough dude to Laser League“?
Laser League is currently accepting signups for Closed Beta