Bomberman is among the essential classics of gaming, creating a template and genre for others to follow. The Xbox brand has had an interesting history with Bomberman, most notably with the rather unusual exclusive for Xbox 360 titled Bomberman Zero, which featured these Halo Spartan-looking characters. In the meantime were a couple of notable Xbox Live Arcade releases of the classic Bomberman experience. fully enabled with online multiplayer. After a significant gap Xbox One then received Super Bomberman R, complete with a Halo cameo. As fun as this type of game is, there aren’t many other alternatives on Xbox One, even on the indie side of things, which is why a release like Ponpu is a welcome breath of fresh air, as it manages to fill that Bomberman void and more.
Ponpu is all about these intergalactic birds that are at war with each other – the word Ponpu refers to any of the feathery fiends who battle by laying and hatching explosive eggs. It’s a silly, over-the-top premise all portrayed using vibrant manga-style art. It certainly feels like something out of the more obscure side of manga culture, but it’s all presented with such style that it certainly leaves a lasting impression.
The monochrome manga style with limited use of colours come together nicely thanks to the fluid and zany animation. The visuals are crisp and appealing, and it just looks great in motion. Complementing the zany comic visuals is the groovy soundtrack, making ample use of guitars, bass and other beats to deliver some catchy music. The presentation is just so unique, and even with so many games around, this is the kind of game players won’t soon forget about.
Ponpu plays like Bomberman through and through, but it also experiments with some of its own ideas and powerups. The eggs that each creature produces basically serve as a bomb, which players are able to kick into opponents. At the same time, there is also a defence mechanism in the form of counters and parries, which adds a different level of strategy. All in all, this is basically Bomberman – explosions and power-ups galore – but Ponpu has a bit more speed and momentum to it.
Multiplayer is the crux of the experience, and in this regard Ponpu absolutely excels, and it may also just be the essential multiplayer experience on Xbox One during the holidays. As a 4-player multiplayer romp the game is an absolute riot, with matches being fast-paced and chaotic. Modes include the standard deathmatch, where players blow each other up, and this is a straightforward but always entertaining match type. Other variants include a Splatoon-style paint mode where players team up in pairs to paint the map in their team’s colour, with the winning pair being the one with the most painted territory before the clock runs out. Finally, there is a coin rush variant where the player who hoards the most coins by the end of round wins, where dying means dropping and losing all your coins for others to steal. All three variations of the multiplayer mode are instantly gratifying, and whether you are playing with friends/family at home (the preferred way of course) or playing online via the game’s rather stable netcode, there is a lot of fun to be had here.
While multiplayer is the immediate and also long-term appeal of Ponpu, there is also an extensive single player story mode for players to dig into. This story mode features levels which offer interesting level design with varied objectives. The presentation is certainly strong, especially when you face the many zany bosses who each provide an interesting challenge. Although multiplayer is where most of the fun is found, the single player adventure doesn’t feel like an afterthought as it provides something of substantive value in addition to the primary multiplayer modes.
Ponpu on Xbox is a no-brainer. This is the quintessential multiplayer romp for the 2020 holiday season and is an absolute riot as a 4-player couch experience. Fortunately, there is also a robust online multiplayer option which offers plenty of entertainment as well. With instantly gratifying multiplayer game types and also a substantial single player mode to top it off, Ponpu combines entertaining gameplay with an excellent stylistic presentation like very few games can.