And not even one of the ones that people know about, either. I’m screaming into the void for this one, I recognize – But, boy am I screaming.
Bombastic is a PlayStation 2 dice-themed puzzle-platformer game developed by Shift and published by Capcom in 2002. It is the sequel to the PlayStation title Devil Dice. It received generally favorable if relatively unenthusiastic reviews during its time. RacketBoy.com called it one of the PlayStation 2’s “Hidden Gems”, and at some point in the past few years, Game Nut of Lawrence, Kansas deemed it “For Sale for $9.99”, and around the same time Joe Bush, now of Lawrence, Kansas but at the time probably of Olathe, Kansas I can’t remember exactly when I bought it, deemed it worthy of purchase.
On July 10th, 2022, Bush – I don’t know why I’m writing this like a newspaper article in the third person but this train’s already rolling down the hills and I’m statistically writing this an audience of me in four or five years looking back on what I wrote about four or five years ago. I’ve played through the main “Quest” mode of Bombastic. The main draw of Bombastic is probably not the “Quest” mode, it’s the “Trial” mode, which is more or less what I and probably most other people bought Bombastic for, both back then at its original price point and right now at its ~10 dollar price point. The Bombastic Trial mode is… actually quite difficult to explain, now that I try to start explaining it. I’m fairly adept at it after playing with it consistently for a while but I still can’t really explain to you what I’m doing to succeed on any level deeper than “I try to match the dice up and when they’re about to explode I try to match them to others so I get combos.”
I like it like that, though, there’s something almost mystical about the way that I’ve become more adept at it and my trial runs get longer despite the fact that I can’t really describe it to you. It’s kind of nice, I just feel it, reminds me of how I felt when I was learning French, sure I was learning the proper grammatical structure of academic and conversational French in my classes, but in the moments when I was speaking fluidly, I never thought of what tenses I used or my conjugations or anything. Is that real learning? I forget which philosopher said it but there’s a quote that goes – “Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb” that this reminds me of. I think I’ve experienced that with Bombastic’s Trial Mode.
And I am not here to complain about Bombastic’s Trial mode. Bombastic’s Trial Mode is really very good. I am here to complain about the final boss stage of Bombastic’s Quest mode. Quest mode is relatively easy to explain: There are dice in your little guy’s way, you need to match up the dice to make them explode so that he can make it to the end of the stage. I think I can best sum it up by writing a Weird Al style parody of a Ween song:
Push th’ little diceys and make ‘em blow up
Push th’ little diceys and make ‘em blow up
I’ll see if I can go back in time to 2010 and pitch that to Palette-Swap Ninja. Sorry, I digress – Bombastic’s Quest Mode is not exactly a puzzle-platformer as there is no jumping, but it has the same DNA as a puzzle-platformer. It’s like No One Can Stop Mr. Domino if you had the ability to stop Mr. Domino.
I feel dirty having just written that sentence, that I even implied that a world could exist wherein Mr. Domino could be stopped. He can’t be stopped. It’s arguably his only character trait. What is Mr. Domino without his unstoppability? I apologize for that. Some thoughts are better left unwritten.
Sorry, I digress – Quest Mode It’s fairly straightforward. The progression’s cut up into five little worlds of four stages each, after all four stages on a world are completed, you fight a boss, which involves strategic play of a game of Bombastic. It’s a short quest, and not a particularly difficult quest – still challenging on a mental level, and there’s some extra replay value in going back to levels to eliminate all the enemies and finish the stage without taking a single death. On a dexterity level it’s closer to Football Manager than FIFA.
That is, until the final boss. There’s a clip of this two-stage final boss on YouTube here:
The first stage involves you playing a simple dice game against the angel who’s trying to keep you out of heaven (The plot of Bombastic’s quest mode involves your little cherub character trying to get to heaven, I think. It’s sort of a thin pretext and I will admit I was not paying attention during the cutscenes, I don’t think they were either.) This mechanic is introduced in this specific scene, never pre-empted during the entirety of the quest beforehand, which is not really a problem here as it’s a very simple mechanic, it only requires decent hand-eye coordination and recall of which button to press when your dice ends up on a higher number and which to press when it’s on a lower number, which I messed up on at least once as my damnable western upbringing prompted me to instinctively prioritize square over circle as the Dualshock’s secondary button.
The next part, wherein the Angel gets into a mech and challenges you to a game of Bombastic, is really the center of my complaining here. My only major complaint surrounding the first part is that it’s tedious and you have to do it again after every game over, and I had many. The second part prompts the player to place dice on number-coordinated spots on the edge of the playfield and have them explode in order to do damage on the mech. This is the worst part. This is what I’m complaining about, this is the aspect of the boss fight that prompted me to write a blog post about a 20 year old PS2 puzzle game.
This is not pre-empted just as much as the little dice guessing game that precedes is not, but this is much worse, as while the dice guessing is very simple and easy to learn, this bit is quite difficult to pull off, especially for someone like me whose favorite aspect of the real Bombastic game on the big board with the rolling and flipping and matching numbers together is the way that I’ve become better at it without really understanding why I’ve become better at it. I haven’t the faintest of an idea of how to match a dice face up with specificity, that’s never something that I feel I had to learn during the course of the game, at least not under this pace.
For an analogy, this is like if you were playing one of the Maddens without that stupid quarterback passing vision light cone, and all of a sudden that stupid vision cone during the Super Bowl. I’ve never been asked to do this, I’ve never been taught to do this – and really the worst thing is that even as I try to set it up THE GODDAMN MECH –
THE GODDAMN MECH KEEPS MAKING A TORNADO AND SWIRLING ALL THE DICE AROUND EVERY TIME I GET CLOSE TO EVEN MAKING IT HAPPEN.
I can’t determine what the worst part is, the fact that this pivotal final boss fight relies on a mechanic that isn’t pre-empted at any point, creating an unnatural difficulty spike at the end of what was really a fairly satisfactorily challenging game that breaks the cohesion of the entire experience or THE GODDAMN TORNADOES THAT FUCK ME UP EVERY TIME I EVEN GET CLOSE TO THE END.
I don’t know. Regardless it’s upset me enough both to write a blog post that I know has potentially zero audience save for myself and not to finish the game. Granted, it doesn’t take much for me to abandon a game, but it does take something for me to abandon it out of a sense of BETRAYAL like Bombastic has presented me. I loved you, Bombastic.
Or, I loved your Trial mode and was amused by your Quest mode. I still love your Trial mode, and I feel that you deserve your place on the RacketBoy.com list, and I am not ashamed of the ten dollars I spent on you – But I am betrayed. You twisted my love at the last moment and I’ll never forget that. I don’t think I hate you, as you’re a PS2 game I spent ten dollars on and I try not to hate things, but you did betray me. And by betray me I mean “present me a more difficult final boss stage than I expected.”
What an excessively mild feeling, to be betrayed by a PS2 game I spent ten dollars on. I am not angry, I am barely animated, I typed this at a table at a coffee shop I go to and I imagine there was no animation, at least nobody treated me as if I was acting strange and the barista I like talking with in there spoke with me on her way out about normal things so clearly I wasn’t uncomfortably animated, I assume. The chairs in there have me sit uncomfortably straight, I suppose.
I grew up in the churches of Rolfe and Walker and ItBogart, those critics who comically expended furious energy towards otherwise unremarkable works – but I am unable to reproduce this. Perhaps my overexposure to critics calling poor quality inexpensive old games “Shitloads of Fuck” and “Diarrhea Dick Waffles” among other things in youth blunted my rhetoric as I grew older. I am not Angry, nor Irate, nor Spoony, nor a Fat Mann who Judgeths. At most I am the Ennui-Struck Video Game Nerd, maybe the Pragmatic Gamer.
Actually The Morose Video Game Nerd would be funny. I know there’s already an Angry Joe, maybe I could be Mopey Joe, or Deconstructive Joe, or something along those lines.
Thank you for reading my post about Bombastic for the PlayStation 2.