Bomberman Act: Zero

September 16, 2006

Bomberman is a bit of a cult icon of gaming. For over two decades, his adorable little mug has graced pretty much every gaming platform in existence, delivering comedic, frantic, and addictive violence. Bomberman became a staple of multiplayer console gaming because Bomberman is timeless in its charm and it its fun.

So, it must be asked, what the hell happened with Bomberman: Act Zero?

Pretty much tossing out everything that made Bomberman worth playing, Act Zero plops itself down as the first certifiable dud in the 360 library. Everything it does it does wrong, and it stands as an insult to the audience as well as the simple graces of the previous Bomberman games that this is what Xbox 360 gamers have been burdened with.

Its most obvious changes are its least offensive. Stripped of bright colours and anime design sensibilities the new Bomberman: Act Zero uses the metaphor of some dystopian future prison to explain the recurring conflicts. The player takes the role of some cybernetically enhanced prisoner who must obey his masters and fight for his freedom … or something. While heavy on the aesthetic influences such a scenario brings with it, Bomberman: Act Zero is extremely light on the exposition so while you get the general gist of what is going on there are few firm, declarative sentences.

You’re not likely to find out the reward for success through experience, as while Bomberman: Act Zero’s single player game is reminiscent of the Bomberman of old they have completely stripped the ability to save your progress. No passwords, no save slots, and no continues. Completion of Bomberman: Act Zero demands perfection all the way from level 1 to 99 in one sitting. The classic gameplay is very similar to the classic Bomberman, but feels sluggish, be it the actual controls or just the new edgy models and animations. As a puzzle game, Bomberman could have been serviceable, but this retro throw back to leaving my console running to “save” my game is ridiculous. Combine this with the zero tolerance for failure and solo Bomberman: Act Zero is an exercise in frustration and repetition with little redeeming value.

To spice it up a bit, the new Bomberman also features a “First Person Bomber” game mode that … well … it sure is different. Single bomb kills are replaced by a life bar and the ability to block to reduce damage. Contradicting the name, you now are playing Bomberman in the third person and must move the camera around as you hunt for victims and powerups. The gameplay is similar, but the ability to withstand – and thus have your enemies withstand – multiple bombs eradicates a good deal of the franchise’s simple charms. Perhaps some will really take to the ideas, but it feels like a streamlined puzzle/action game dressed up in modern contrivances for no damn good reason at all to me.

And while this First Person or Third Person or whatever you want to call it mode is unappealing, its debatable merits are nothing compared to the most flagrant offense a Bomberman title could possibly commit: no local multiplayer. Yep, read it again – one person per console per disc. If you’ve come this far and have not yet decided to abandon any idea of purchasing this title, please seek professional help. For some inexplicable reason the only saving grace this title could have had is missing in action.

Bomberman: Act Zero does feature Xbox Live multiplayer, but a game this simple is for friends to crowd around and enjoy together – it’s simply not as much fun with strangers over the internet. Who cares about rankings and scores? Lets have some fun! But even if you do want to join in on the Xbox Live scene, this reviewer had consistent difficulty finding opponents, especially ones interested in the vastly superior retro-“classic” game mode.

It’s a bloody insult that this entry in the franchise does absolutely nothing to capture the reasons this franchise exists in the first place. The “eXtREmE” visual and audio makeover is stupid, but not a deal breaker. The game play, unfortunately, is. It would be trite to close with “Bomberman: Score 0%” and really there is nothing here to enjoy; there is simply monotony, pain, and a deep feeling of loss. However, since there is a single player game that didn’t crash my console, one some masochist may find enjoyment in, that would be dishonest. However, you have been warned. Don’t even pick this up when it hits $20 just in time for Christmas.

Score: 20%

Score: 1/5

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