If you think videogame puzzles begin and end with "Tetris," it's time to think again.
One of the best of the post-"Tetris" puzzlers is available now in the guise of "Bombastic" from Capcom for the PlayStation 2.
Explaining "Bombastic" is almost as tough as playing it.
You control a cute little creature with a spit curl in the middle of his forehead as you try to match the number faces on dice. Linking three threes, two twos, etc., causes an explosion which clears blocks in all directions equal to the face value of the exploding dice. Thus, if you link four fours, the blast extends four blocks in all directions. If it comes across other fours, or dice of lesser value, it blows them up, too.
Sixes take longer to blow than twos, and make a much more satisfactory blast. However, it's also far harder to link six sixes.
The explosions also work to clear off a collection of strange little enemies, any of whom can cost you a life. There's a killer Boss at the end of each level which takes a lot of effort to dispatch.
That might not sound so tough, and in the first few levels it isn't. But as the game proceeds, the maze gets more complicated, enemies multiply and grow smarter, and logic and quick thinking become increasingly vital to success.
You get five of the little creatures, called Aquis. When they're gone, it's game over and you return to the last spot where you collected a flag, which is usually at the end of each level. The Aqui normally stands atop one die and moves it by rolling the die with its dancing feet.
The creature can move from die to die, occupy safe perches on the game board and even descend to the board by means of little stairs that appear to shove dice around the board.
The game kicks off with a tutorial which you can repeat as often as you like. The standard game is Trial, but there is a relatively quick Quest mode, a Wars multiplayer survival mode and an Attack mode, which you can access by getting a password from Capcom's Web site.
Graphics get a C. Graphics are rarely a puzzler's strong suit; "Bombastic" offers graphics that are crisp, clean, simple and far from special.
Control gets a B. Moving your little guy is about all you have to do, and he follows your lead quite well. It's sometimes hard to tell which die the little pixie is standing on, making for an occasional early demise.
Sound gets a C+. The jingly, bouncy Techno tunes will quickly drive you looney. The only saving grace is that the game takes so much focus and concentration that the noise of your brain in overdrive quickly drowns out the sound.
"Bombastic" gets a B. It's a solid, demanding puzzle game which will make you forget "Tetris" and all its permutations. It's not lovely to look at, but the challenge -- and the fun -- make the trappings irrelevant.