Basement Crawl’s developers had “exciting opportunities” delaying the initial launch of the game, promising to improve the Bomberman clone before releasing at the end of February. Hoping to revitalize the iconic grid-based gameplay with modern treatment, complete with character specific skills, macabre visuals and an intro movie…that doesn’t really go anywhere.
As the game loads up for the first time, we are treated to an unnerving tale about the narrating grandma convincing her granddaughter to remain locked in her room forever, due to the terrors of the outside world. At the end of the cutscene, poor old grandma is shown dead at the bottom of the stairs with grotesque figurines appearing to move around the house, heading to the barely lit basement stairwell. Normally describing cutscenes in detail is spoiler worthy material, but Basement Crawl doesn’t do anything with it. The figurines shown may be the same characters used when playing the game, but what was the point of killing the old lady? Was it really needed for a multiplayer only game that never references it again?
As you would expect, players are placed into a grid-based dungeons with various crates and boxes to destroy by either dropping or throwing traps (yes, they aren’t called bombs) around without standing in the direct path of the blast radius of your own or an opponents trap. At the beginning of the match, everyone begins with a small plus sign sized blast radius, but by collecting power-ups, traps can be upgraded in not only size, but also quantity. In typical Bomberman fashion, traps will eventually be able to reach nearly across the entirety of the map. Strategically placing traps to “trap” players between two or more or against a solid part of the map is the best way to win. Both of these options worked in the classic game against AI monsters, and stay true when facing human opponents online. Special one-time use items can be found in some of the boxes, including C4 with a triggered detonation.
There are four disturbing characters in Basement Crawl to play as, each one with their own special skill, such as additional shield power (helping you survive a blast from your own trap) or additional health (able to survive a single trap blast).
Basement Crawl features two different multiplayer-only options, local and online multiplayer. Sorely missing is a tutorial of any kind or at least a single-player mode against bots. Anyone that purchased the game the week of launch experienced a borderline unplayable experience. Even after patching the game in an attempt to remedy the server woes, Basement Crawl simply didn’t work. Testing both local and online multiplayer, the online portion of the game has key issues that will hamper any attempt at salvaging any enjoyment from the game. First and foremost, connection issues are rampant, with the majority of joined matches resulting in empty games, a scoreboard screen that never advanced or games where players weren’t moving. I never did find out, if everyone playing the game at the time left the game on and walked away from the controller or if the game suffers from severe online syncing issues. At least completing an entire round without dying will yield a trophy, if you are trophy hunting.
The game is broken up into two main game modes, deathmatch and team deathmatch with up-to 8 players online and four locally. 8-players felt too many for the tiny, cramped maps, but four players netted the best experience, giving players enough room to move around without worrying about spawning in the same spot as an exploding trap. When I did connect to an actual game, lag became a factor, with many times my character exploding into a burst of blood when I was clearly outside the blast radius.
The macabre visuals fit the mood of the game well, but from a gameplay perspective they work against the game. Even after making the characters slightly larger, the game is very hard to follow. Something as simple as trying to figure out what color team I was became convoluted, as my top and bottom player indicator had conflicting colors. Good luck when everyone in the game choose the same character, as you’ll constantly lose sight of which one you are, especially when respawning at the same time as another player.
I wanted to enjoy my time spent with Basement Crawl, as I gave Bloober Team plenty of time to iron out the issues with the game. Even after a month, Basement Crawl’s online experience has not been improved. At this point, even if the network issues are fixed, the online community has abandoned the game, making it hard to recommend a multiplayer online game when you’ll find less than 10 players at any given moment.
Note: The Basement Crawl review was written based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game provided for review.