IGN Review of Bomberman: Act Zero
If you took a hardcore Bomberman fan and sat him in a room with Bomberman Act: Zero without showing him the box copy, without showing the menu screen, but just gave him a controller and said "play," one of three things would happen: A) They would shout in confusion and frustration, "AGHHHH! WHY did you KILL Bomberman?!!!????" B) They'd politely ask what game this was, as it seemed like an old favorite of theirs -- but it couldn't possible be a remake of Bomberman. C) They would suffer quietly, realizing oh-so-quickly that the Super NES favorite had just gotten the big next-gen shaft.
I took the third option while playing Bomberman Act: Zero because I wanted to dig into it. I was curious to see if some mistake had been made. If some hidden love, some undiscovered beauty, some overlooked gem hid beneath its cybernetic new shell. All I found were shiny new nuts and bolts, a Bomberman grid, new camera angles, and perhaps one of the worst remakes in the history of videogames.
Hudson's remake of Bomberman appears as if it were designed for the stereotypical "American gamer." That being a spiky-haired white male who obviously skateboards in half-pipes, is in love with hard-edged military weapons, dark themes, and who has little regard for the past. Also, apparently, no North Americans, or perhaps even Europeans, bothered with that "old" Bomberman game, which has been completely ditched for this new one. See, this isn't so much an insult to the millions of Americans, Europeans, and even Japanese who loved the old version of Bomberman, as it is
well, no, it really is an insult. It's like saying, "We know what you love (drink Coke forever!), we'll give you want you really want (quick! Eat a Snickers!), and here it is, robotic, metallic action in a box." Well, screw that. Bomberman Act: Zero is easily the worst Xbox 360 we've seen since the system's launch in November.
Bomberman Act: Zero is made exclusively for Xbox 360, a system whose predecessor was made popular by action games, shooters and online titles. Thus, Act: Zero is fastened with an unsatisfying and rudimentary set of single-player games, but more significantly, it's built primarily to play on Xbox Live, which is just more really bad Bomberman -- but online. The character design is completely different than before. Bomberman was originally designed as a super-deformed new-age little dude with a tiny bomb suit, tiny little arms and legs, and created with a very Japanese sensibility. He was cute but deadly, perfectly designed for his primary colored world of mazes, grids, and strangely Mario-esque adventure lands. Yeah, that stuff is old these days, but when you saw Bomberman, you knew what you were getting: a quick, fast, fun, party game that could be enjoyed for hours on end with friends. Super Bomberman on the Super NES and Saturn Bomberman were ridiculously fun party games. When I worked at Next Generation magazine we played Bomberman for two to four hours, five days a week, on the weekend, for two years. It was the office favorite, and people across the office building, even those who didn't play too many games, joined in, got good, and became part of the fun. Bomberman Act: Zero is badly designed game that throws out the best elements of the series in order to make the game "new," "next-generation," and "American." In Hudson's efforts to attract the next generation of gamers, they forgot to bring along the aspects of the game we originally fell in love with.
Speaking of gameplay, Konami's new game has ditched not only the old look, the old character design and the old feel, but it's ditched at least two of the best gameplay features, throwing and kicking, while adding in entirely new problems that drag it deeper into cybernetic hell. In addition to fire-ups, bomb-ups, speed-ups, hearts (additional lives), speed downs (sorta new), we now have newly added remote controlled bombs, penetrate bombs (which penetrate soft blocks), line bombs, infinite bombs, bomb throughs and block throughs. Players can block too, giving them the ability, with some good timing, to prevent bombs from totally destroying them in one fell swoop. But none of the new abilities make up for the brilliance that is the kick power-up, which can instantly incinerate gamers across the board, and the throw power-up, which enables players to hurl bombs over blocks into another player's territory. The change to accumulate power-ups through the course of the single-player game makes sense in this non-ending, one-life style of play, but it wouldn't have made sense in the old game.
Players are offered three modes of play: Single player -- FPB, Single Battle -- Standard, and World Battle. Single-player FPB offers a bland single-player versus bots experience enabling you to compete in 99 levels of gameplay against a growing number of bots using a close-up third-person viewpoint. This is supposed to create more tension-filled feeling, but it only serves to ruin the experience because instead of seeing your field of view better, you see it from a worse perspective. Luckily, using the trigger buttons and analog sticks you can zoom out to a small range of isometric views and move the camera around. Hudson added the occasionally-used ability of a power bar, so that Bomberman, now a faceless generic human test slave, can withstand more than one bomb. This is moderately effective in prolonging the pain of playing, but thanks to Hudson's unwise designers, there are no save points or level-clearing points. Which means, yes, once you die you start over from the beginning. Even if you're on the 98th level and you die, you have to start over. Terrible touch, guys. The Standard single-player mode is very basic. Play until you die, and then start over at the beginning.
World Battle is the Xbox Live experience, which is to say that all of the bad choices, design monstrosities, and un-fun gameplay are transferred over to the online arena, where you can play with as many as seven others on Xbox Live only. System Link is not supported. Finally, the Achievements are primarily comprised of secrets, with the occasional obvious Achievement thrown for good measure, like throw 1,000 bombs or destroy 1,000 soft blocks.
©2006-08-31, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved