Bug Bomber - basically brilliant but blighted by bland bit-mag Build blocks, bomb baddies, buy biodegradable, er... bison.
That Sensible Soccer, eh? What a brilliant game it is. Did we mention it to you before at all? Surely we did. It's utterly lovely and, most importantly of all, it's got an alliterative name.
Think about it. All the best things in the world have alliterative names. There's Sensible Soccer, of course, and Manic Miner, and Final Fight, and Betty Blue, and Magnus Magnusson, and the Blues Brothers (the game, that is), and Monster Munch, and Pablo Picasso, and Bubble Bobble (the game, that is) and Marilyn Monroe, and the Morris Minor, and Wayne's World, and the Go-Gos, and Mad Max, and Bugs Bunny, and... [Yes, yes, we get the idea - Ed] But what about Bug Bomber?
Well, I don't know really. I mean, it's got the alliteration bit sorted. No problems in the alliteration department whatsoever. 10 out of 10 on the alliteration-o-meter. But it's still lacking in one crucial area. There's still one fly in the ointment, one spanner in the works, one flaw in the plan - it's still not as good as Sensible Soccer.
I mean, for a start there's the graphics. Sensible Soccer gives you lush green pitches and hundreds of teams with gorgeous, colourful kits which you can even design yourself. Bug Bomber? Well, it's pretty much all bricks, really.
Then you've got sound. Where Sensible features a whole disk of crowd samples, piercing whistles and great, solid-sounding thumps as boots meet leather, Bug Bomber limps along under the weight of the odd beep, bang, parp, clang and crunch. It's all very well, but it says nothing to me about my life, I can tell you.
How about the number of players? Well, Bug Bomber does let up to four play at once (two on joystick and two on keyboard), with a choice of gamestyles (co-operating against the computer or trying to slaughter each other) and lots of selectable skill levels (more and smarter baddies), but Sensible caters for up to 64 at a time!
But the crucial bit, of course, is the gameplay. Here, kids, is where it really falls apart from Bug Bomber. Don't get me wrong, it's not that it doesn't have any good points. For a start, it's, er, 'coincidentally similar' to one of your very favourite games of recent times. Ubisoft's wonderful Dyna Blaster. It's a simpler and yet at the same time more complicated version of the earlier game - the, er, 'adventure' aspect of one-player Dyna Blaster has been dispensed with completely, leaving only the pure arcade element of running around a maze killing things for the sake of it. But tipping the balance brainwards is the way that in Bug Bomber, you don't have to do any killing yourself. Your character is supplied with a limited amount of energy, which he can use in various ways.
You can drop Dyna Blaster-style bombs to blow a path through the destructible walls of the maze or horribly maim any creature which happens to be wandering past (although unlike Dyna Blaster, you're permanently limited to the pretty weedy two-square-explosion bombs you start off with - no explosion-extending power-ups on offer here).
But the interesting stuff starts off when you start examining the other possibilities. Among them, you'll find that you can lay smart mines - that is, ones which let you walk over them, but explode when anyone else tries to cross. Or maybe just build a new bit of maze wall and just hide from the enemies. The really clever stuff, though, is in the eggs.
Eggs? Yup, eggs. It seems your character is a bit of a reptile. A quick tug on the appropriate joystick movement will cause him to, er, 'lay' one of five sizes of egg. The smallest one turns into an extra energy pod, but the other four, more energy-consuming, sizes hatch into different types of little robot. One kind, for instance, seeks out and destroys bits of wall in the opposition's colours to save you the trouble and expense of bombing them.
You can have as many of each kind of robot as your energy level allows, and you can collect 'IQ' icons from the play area which increase the robots' intelligence, making them better at killing the enemy and evading danger. Of course, all the other players can do the same, as can the computer which also has a few droid types exclusive to it. Pretty soon the screen is just a huge mass of independent armies smashing each other to bits.
All seemingly pretty solid stuff on the gameplay front, then - certainly a brave effort. It's a game that's a lot more fun to play that the frankly drab graphics might suggest, and a game with just about enough to it (with the different strategies you can employ) to save it from repetitiveness. But there's no escaping it - it's not as good as Sensible Soccer. Mind you, I suppose if you've already bought Sensible Soccer...
The Bottom Line
Uppers: It's a bit more involved than Dyna Blaster, and a brilliant laugh with four players (without necessarily having to go through all that bother with special joystick adaptors).
Downers: The graphics don't have the immediate Dyna Blaster cartoon appeal that makes you want to dive straight in and play it. It's a bit easy to make the wrong joystick move too. Can lock up at times, leaving you no way of getting killed or completing the level, which is really annoying!
Slightly better than Dyna Blaster as a one-player game, but not quite as good (although still very good indeed) with a big gang of chums.