Act Zero is a ticking time bomb.
Okay, I get it. It’s Bomberman reinvented for a cooler generation. It’s a new twist on an old thing. It’s suped-up, power-packed, nuclear fission hip, dude! It’s Bomberman, because it says so on the box, but no way your old man is going to recognize this funkafied robotic hero cuz it ain’t nothing your dumb stupid old dad, with his balding head and polo shirts will ever be able to identify with. Now there isn’t anything wrong with reinventing the wheel or building a better mousetrap, and that’s exactly what Hudson Soft has attempted to do here. It’s just that for the most part, Act Zero doesn’t capture the essence of what made the original Bomberman games the cult classics they most certainly are and therefore BM purists may be left scratching their heads.
When I think of Bomberman, I invariably can’t shake the memories of Super Bomberman on the SNES. It was the first Bomberman to introduce 4-player mayhem and although I could never stand 4-player split-screen gaming, Super Bomberman featured four players together on one screen. Having everyone go at in one place, made Super Bomberman events crazy affairs. Screaming matches, punching, shoving, cursing and controller hurling was just part of the charm. Act Zero bypasses the multiplayer mania of sitting in one room together, in favor of taking advantage of XBL. Not that this was necessarily a bad idea as sometimes it’s hard to get people to gather in one place these days, but the option would have made all of the difference. It was the original party game and I think most players who know Bomberman, could wax nostalgiac for hours reminiscing about the exploding hijinks Super B-Man delivered way back in 1993. That’s not to suggest that Bomberman’s single player levels were dull and boring. Newbs could cut their teeth on the bots in single-player, until they felt comfortable enough to tackle a room full of their best buds in single player. Act Zero online just doesn’t feel the same, as it’s the comraderie and heated competition of a room full of players not afraid to punch you really hard in the arm, when you take them out of the equation. It’s the screaming, cursing, punching and yelling that has always given Bomberman its white knuckle rush and unfortunately it doesn’t translate well at all to the XBL arena. Playing with other gamers online has it’s many drawbacks which become immediately apparent in a fiercely competitive game like this one. I don’t mind being cursed out by someone I know, but when an 8-year-old spoiled brat is talking smack to me in his little girly voice, it makes me want to kill him – and not in a video game sense either. Act Zero’s other modes are single-player based but there has been alterations to the core of the gameplay, which we’ve taken for granted for many, many years now and quite frankly, they’re missed.
Act Zero offers three modes of play: FPB, Standard and World Battle. FPB (First Person Bomber) is more accurately Bomberman played in a third person perspective over 99 levels. The familiar grid is now at eye-level, the one hit kills have been replaced with a health bar, and there is absolutely no save feature. If you make it to the 99th level and blow it, start again from level one. Not the most user friendly mode I’ve ever played. Standard mode is as close to classic Bomberman as you’ll get. One hit kills return and you will play until you’re blown up for good. World Battle is the game taken online. Whether you’ll find likeminded individuals or not remains to be seen.
The other most important aspect to the heart and soul of Bomberman has been the playing field. The ability to see everything at a glance from the top down view works. It’s functional, simplistic and there wasn’t any reason to change it. Act Zero brings the camera closer to the action, for a behind the shoulders perspective in FPB mode (first person bomber) which completely hinders the flow of the game. Now you’re just wandering the corridors almost blindly for the most part which eliminates the strategy almost entirely. Players are able to manipulate the camera in FPB mode, but in the heat of battle (excuse the pun) and the chaos, controlling the camera was the last thing on my agenda. Yes, you can play the game in its natural state in Standard mode, but you’ll need a fairly large TV to do so due to the fixed size of the board. With all of the bots zooming around I found it headache inducing trying to determine which Bomberdude was mine, even though there were arrow indicators. I’m certain a much larger TV would solve the problem, but I don’t have one and my wife says I don’t want one.
While cosmetic changes could have been forgiven if the gameplay had remained untouched, this sadly isn’t the case. Purists will be saddened to hear that among all of the countless new power-ups featured in Act Zero, throwing and kicking have been removed. For anyone who has played Bomberman seriously over the years, you’ll know what a serious blow to the game this is. The new power-ups such as remote bombs, block throughs, bomb throughs, penetrate bombs, line bombs, infinite bombs et al. can be made into good use, but they just don’t feel right. The new blocking ability makes sense in FPB so that you can withstand a few hits but because it goes against the original flavor of the game, I never found it intuitive enough to use at the right time (as I always forgot about it). Again, change isn’t always a bad thing and Hudson Soft’s concept was to reinvent the game. For those who have never played a Bomberman game before, I could see them enjoying what HS has provided since they won’t know what’s missing.
Act Zero isn’t exactly the most visually diverse or exciting X360 title you’ll play. The arenas are bland and have a sameness to them that I didn’t care for. The environments, much like the upgraded artistic design is largely void of personality. Having to look at the sculptured buttock muscles of my Bomber (female or male) just seems kinda wrong. I miss the little plump Bomberman whom I’m not sure even had a rear end. In keeping with the upgraded hip style and design of the game, the soundtrack is comprised of forgettable generic rock tunes, in an attempt to make Act Zero a little more dangerous.
One could certainly argue that giving fans just another Bomberman rehash would have been just as bad, but I tend to disagree. I believe that had Hudson Soft created Act Zero with its multiplayer mode on one screen (at least as another option) and allowed us to at least revert entirely to the old game if we wanted to do so complete with ALL of the old power-ups, Act Zero would have been a must have.As it is, Act Zero will alienate purists while attracting curious newbies eager to play another game on their new X360. Whether they decide Act Zero is all that is up to them – for me, it could have been so much more if Hudson Soft didn’t feel they had to change the game just for the sake of changing the game. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And the classic Bomberman was definitely not broken.
Bomberman: Act Zero Preview
Bomberman hopes to blow up the X360 real good! by Ryan Schultz
With his cute exterior and haphazard occupation, Bomberman has remained a fan favorite for years since his humble beginnings on the Super NES. However, Hudson has decided that it’s time for their happy-go-lucky bomber to finally “grow up”. Enter Bomberman: Act Zero, a game that looks nothing like the previous games in the series but hopes to maintain its trademark gameplay.
Unless you’ve never played a Bomberman game before (and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you?) then the first thing you’ll notice about this game is its appearance. Gone is the cute and cuddly Japanese inspired character we’ve all grown to love, and in its place is a gritty, heavily detailed cyborg. The story this time around, which is another departure from the series’ previous entries, finds humans locked in an apocalyptic battle with one another in completely symmetrical battlefields. Whether or not this attempt at a darker and more mature Bomberman game becomes a success remains to be seen, but the departure from tradition may be a bit for the die-hard old-schoolers.
But let’s throw the speculations aside for now shall we? Act Zero offers two different styles of gameplay; single player and FPB (first-person bomberman). In single player mode you’ll have the choice of a male or female character as you blast your way through 100 levels of classic Bomberman action. You know the drill; jump into the grid, lay down bombs, collect different power-ups. This twist is that there is no option to save in this marathon session. If you die in level 99, guess what, you have to start over from the first level. It may seem unfair, but it’s just another way to push your gaming to the limits.
Things get a little more interesting and exciting when you switch over to FPB mode. By switching to a behind the shoulder view, the player is brought up close and personal with the action. The explosions seem more intense, and the action more frantic with this new vantage point. You can kneel in both modes to take less damage, and some of the familiar items you’ll come across range from flame up, bomb up, speed up, remote control bombs, and more.
Of course, what Bomberman game would be complete without some sort of multiplayer mode? Luckily Act Zero looks like it will bring the heat (pun intended). Hudson is offering up an 8 player online mode through Xbox Live. There will be a world ranking system set up and you can choose between two different game types, Normal and Battle Royale. Battle Royale is just a straight forward free-for-all where the more people you kill, the more points you earn. In Normal mode, you can set a certain score and battle it out to see who can reach it first.
Bomberman: Act Zero may look and sound different from any previous Bomberman game, but every gameplay element seems to be in place to make you feel right at home. Add in Xbox Live support and a suggested retail price of only $39.99, Bomberman: Act Zero may be the game to help make up for the 360’s summer drought.