Bombuzal, also known as Kablooey or Charlie Blast's Territory was a great little puzzler. The bomb-busting blue blob seems to have been forgotten since it's 1988 debut, but if there's one puzzler that tugs the nostalgic heart-strings for me, this is it.
Originally developed by Image Works for the 16 bit home computers, Bombuzal sure did tax my little 9-year-old mind. The logic is fairly simple: explode all of the bombs on a map without blowing yourself up. Hazards such as disintegrating blocks, ice tiles and randomly sized bombs make completing each of the 250 plus stages quite a challenge.
It starts off easily enough with a simple level that nudges you to the idea that there's an order in which to do things. Dissolvable tiles prevent you from turning back if you make a mistake forcing you to commit to your actions. That's the crux of the whole game explained in one level. A masterclass of game design (modern developers take heed). The difficulty soon increases with levels designed by some legends in the industry. Jon Ritman (Head Over Heels) and Jeff Minter (Attack of the Mutant Camels) both take a stab with the latter cleverly designing his level so that it ends up looking like a camel pooing. I would've expected nothing less.
There are 20 different tiles that can be utilised for each stage. They each complicate matters in a fun and easily identifiable way. I haven't got far enough to know if they are used all at once, but if they are that's gonna be one crazy level to look forward to. They are;
A standard tile. In green.
Dissolves when you step off.
Bombs can be carried along these grooves
Will slide you to the next tile of steady ground.
Impervious to explosions.
Comes in three sizes and a random 'swell' bomb. Manual detonation.
Comes in three sizes. Detonates on contact.
Comes in three sizes. Detonates when any other aerial bomb does.
Absorbs explosions so you don't have to.
Throws you in any direction randomly. Appears if you're idle for too long.
Moves you to another tile on the map.
Another character. Treats all bombs as mines.
Another character. Does anything you can.
Out of the home-computer originals, I would say the Amiga plays the best, even if the cover is not at all representative of the final game. Nevertheless, it surpasses the Atari ST, Commodore and DOS versions in all but the gameplay (which remains the same for all). It even beats out the 1990 Super Nintendo port Kemco produced in time for the console's Japanese launch window. Both the pseudo-3D and top-down views still look aesthetically pleasing and it controls quite well with the d-pad. It's similar in look and feel with some nice attempts at digitized voice work, but with a total of only 130 stages, it's missing almost half of the levels from the original. That number's nothing to scoff at but it is a bit of a blow for console owners.
With this release, Bombuzal would now be in the hands of Kemco. They took their time in issuing a sequel. It was first released on the PlayStation in 1997 under the name Bombing Islands. If regular visitors to the Chamber recognise that name it's because it was featured in my Kid Klown Kollection review. In an attempt to keep their waning mime mascot relevant they tailored the sequel around him. You can read what I had to say about it here.
When the decision came down to do a Nintendo 64 port two years later, they took another route. While ostensibly being the exact same game, Kid Klown who replaced Bombuzal is now replaced by Charlie Blast, a construction worker with a striking similarity to the guy on the original Amiga cover art. It's funny how things can go full circle sometimes. Released in 1999, Charlie Blast's Territory is often cited as a remake of Bombuzal. It is, in fact, a completely new game. The goal is still to blow up all of the bombs, but this time you're required to do it all in one go. The bombs themselves are impassable which adds a touch of the box sliding puzzler known as Sokoban (aka Boxxle) to the mix. There's also a decent multiplayer option where each player races to mark as many tiles with their colour as possible. Naturally in order to do this bombs are required. Any tile caught in the explosions' blast radius will flip over revealing your colour. Other players can claim them back with their own detonations, so make sure you're not caught in the blast. It's a fun diversion and can get quite frantic but it's not going to usurp Bomberman as the king of multiplayer. The main draw is certainly the single-player puzzle game, which thankfully turns out to be a more than worthy successor.
Each title in the underrated series is a blast to play. So much so that I'm not at all sorry for that terrible pun. It's incredibly addictive like any good puzzle game should be, with a belated sequel that proves the formula still works. Just don't attempt to complete all 250 odd levels in one sitting.
As of 29th April 2022, Bombuzal is now available to buy on Good Old Games.
Buy from GOG
Bombuzal is © Image Works
Kablooey & Charlie Blast's Territory are © Kemco
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me