I’m actually having no trouble getting through Bakudan Handan – my first playthrough I was wondering if I could last, because I was really tired and had a hard time paying attention to the mystery and puzzles. But I got through it quite well (no guide!) and am now on my fifth character.
Let me step back and explain the plot a bit. The heroine, Saki, is a normal, intelligent high school student, who’s looking forward to the opening of a new amusement park, Blossom Land, which her uncle designed/produced/something. Her uncle is the well-known game producer Inafune Keiji (who also did most of the art for Mega Man.) She’s going to the exclusive opening party, which for some reason is only open to close family and the press (this confused me; since amusement parks are pretty much the biggest venue you can have, why not let people bring as many friends as possible??) Anyways, she has to go alone to the opening. During the opening ceremony, her uncle is making a speech when suddenly the mike goes dead, and the stage is hijacked by someone in a weird pig suit, calling himself World Boo. His minions take the people on stage hostage, and he announces that he’s starting a game for the hostages’ survival. At first the crowd thinks it’s part of the show, but when an explosion brings down the ferris wheel, they panic and start to flee. World Boo says he’s going to pick 7 ‘heroes’ to try and clear the ‘game’ and save the hostages, and Saki volunteers to save her uncle.
One thing that’s good is that the prologue/intro isn’t too long – you jump right into the ’7 days of life-threatening puzzles’. You get minimal dialogue of Saki getting ready to go to the amusement park and then the action starts with the opening ceremony.
Every day, the 7 heroes have to visit a certain attraction and ‘clear’ it – usually with two or three stages each. They’re all really different, and all based on fictional video games. One of the characters is a game otaku who explains the background of the game, which sometimes help them figure out what to do. And there’s an interesting gameplay feature, where often they’ll have to figure out what they missed, and Saki has to review the game explanation and point out what was missed. It’s pretty simple – you can choose up to three things from about 8 possibilities, and as long as the right one is chosen it’s all good. There’s one other bit of gameplay that’s different from a normal visual novel – at certain point during the storyline one character or another (even World Boo sometimes) will say something that’s so wrong and/or harmful that Saki will get mad. At this point, you can choose to tell the character off or hold in your feelings. I always tell them off, it often results in an affection increase (they appreciate your setting them straight, I like that in a man ^_-), and it never seems to be a bad choice. And it feels like I’m playing Phoenix Wright – it has a scene like the ‘Objection’ scene, where Saki poses and huge text of “Donna handan da!?” (What kind of decision is that!?) appears against an exploding background. It might just be for fun, but I like it.
Other than that, though, it’s just a visual novel. I was really hoping for more gameplay, especially since several of the games they have to clear are literally videogames – there’s a shooting aliens game, a go-kart driving game, and an avoid zombies game, among others. It would have been fantastic if they put in minigames for these – although I’d want them to be easy However, compared to most otome games Bakudan Handan has more gameplay than usual already, so I won’t fault it too much.
Then there are the characters. The art in this game is not pretty otome/shoujo. It’s clean and attractive, but the character designs are far from typical otoge. Subaru is the only character I could see as the typical hero, and maybe the idol Wakasa, although even his design is far from the normal ‘cute younger guy’ look. But they definitely stand out, and after playing through Subaru’s route, I was quite happy to jump into Ryuusei’s route (yay, a host who looks like an MMA fighter, with long pink hair!). Their personalities are all well-developed, but there’s not much romance, which I’m not sure how I feel about.
Overall, I’m enjoying it quite a bit. A lot of the plot is about the group working together and growing as a team, and finding out the background of this whole situation. If you’re feeling a bit of overkill from otome romance melodrama, this might be just the game for you.