Review: Bomberman: Act Zero (XB360)


Bomberman: Act Zero
Genre: Action/Puzzle
Developer: Hudson
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: 8/29/06

Bomberman. An icon of the gaming of yesteryear. One of the many franchise characters to manage to make the transition into modern gaming, and one of the few to do so somewhat successfully. If you’ve never played a Bomberman game, then

1.) You’ve been living in a cave for the last twenty years, in which case you’re better off going back into it, as the world’s just getting worse;

2.) You’ve never had any interest in the franchise, in which case I have absolutely no idea why you’re reading this; or

3.) You’re new to gaming, in which case WELCOME ABOARD! or something to that effect.

If you HAVE played Bomberman titles, however, you pretty much know how the games work, and you’re well aware that yes, this game most likely plays like all the OTHER Bomberman titles out there. Run around, blow stuff up. That’s most likely okay by you. The question is, what ELSE does this game do that other Bomberman titles DON’T do? Well, the answer to that question is… not much. Let’s take a look.


1. GAME MODES


If there’s a story, I can’t find it; the most the game seems to want to tell you is that your Bombermen/women are experiments of some kind or another that don’t understand how they got to where they are. So skip that.

As far as gameplay modes go… well, you’re offered a choice of single player gameplay that works with either normal rules (one hit = dead) or FPB rules (you have a health bar that depletes based on damage taken), or online play that works in the same fashion. That’s it. There’s no multiplayer on the same console, no adventure modes, nothing but the same game modes you’ve been playing since the SNES days with some online gameplay thrown in and a lack of same console multi-play. If you’re absolutely dying to play more Bomberman, that might be all you need, but for, oh, the vast majority of game players, that’s just the absolute definition of limited. Even without any sort of adventure mode or anything like that, the lack of same console multiplayer is flat-out inexcusable and whoever green-lighted that should be ashamed of themselves.

Game modes Rating: 2/10


2. GRAPHICS


B:AZ looks okay enough for an Xbox title, but as a 360 title it’s disappointing. There’s no variety to the game environment, which might be okay if it looked like… something other than an abandoned warehouse full of boxes, but as that’s EXACTLY what it looks like, well, it ends up being pretty bland. The character models aren’t any better; you’re given two universal character models (one male, one female), and only a few color differences between them. The animations look acceptable, largely because there aren’t really very many of them, and the special effects look okay enough, but are unimpressive and nothing special. Also, for some reason, in HD this actually looks LESS impressive, because the sharper image quality just shows off what a minimal amount of detail their actually is in the visuals, which is really rather sad. All in all, if this had come out a year ago, it might be okay, but at this point, it just looks rather bland.

Graphics Rating: 4/10


3. SOUND

One music track, looped ad infinitum. You’d better have some songs on your hard drive, or the background music will drive you nuts. One voice actor, who’s painfully Japanese (and trying to speak English), and a couple of unimpressive death screams. A handful of sound effects, most of which are of shit going “boom”. It’s all really weak and unimpressive, and it’s incredibly pitiful for a $50 retail release. In the end, it’s just one more thing in a series of things to be ashamed of about this title, but nonetheless, it’s weak and lame.

Sound Rating: 3/10


4. CONTROL/GAMEPLAY


Let us assume, for a moment, that by some act of god you’ve never played a Bomberman game in the past two decades. The game world is arranged as such that there is a field, in which there are blocks. Some blocks are placed somewhere for a reason, and those blocks are fixed and unbreakable; this is to create the sense of being in a maze, as well as to make the “bombing” part of the game work. Other blocks are placed randomly; these can be destroyed, either to ensure forward progression or to earn powerups. You can also try to trap enemies with these. You, as the Bomberman or woman, are tasked to run around the maze, dropping bombs that are meant to blow up the breakable bricks, as well as other Bombermen or women, until you are the last one. In the beginning, you can only place one bomb at a time, but through acquiring powerups, you can lay more, as well as increase the range of the fire the bomb produces, move faster, and regain health (in FPB mode), among other things.

This, of course, is old hat to old-school Bomberman fans, who are asking, “okay, so what else?” Well… not much. Aside from the normal Bomberman rules (overhead view of the battlefield, one hit kills you dead, etc), there are new “FPB” rules, in which you can negotiate the maze from a semi-first person view (or you can zoom out and move the camera above you, like I do). This mode provides you, besides a crappier camera, with a life meter that depletes as you take damage from bombs. You’re either going to love or hate this new system, but as noted, standard rules are available if you wish.

B:AZ also offers online gameplay, in ranked and unranked matches, in both rules sets, should you desire to play online. There’s no notable lag in online play, if such a thing interests you, but there’s a reason for that.

See, here’s the problem: B:AZ plays perfectly fine in terms of how the controls FEEL… but it’s not very good in terms of actual gameplay. Assuming you’ve played a Bomberman title before, congratulations, you’ve played this. The FPB mode does nothing significant to make the game more interesting, aside from providing a life meter, and you’ll most likely tire of the also-ran gameplay quickly.


But whether or not you have played a Bomberman title in your life, THIS specific one is, frankly, the shits. The single player campaigns are asinine; you’re tasked to fight through 99 stages on your way to freedom or whatever, with no option to retry if you die, and NO SAVE FEATURE. Let’s assume a standard match takes, oh, three minutes. 99 times 3 equals 297, divide by 60… five hours straight of THE EXACT SAME THING, OVER AND OVER AGAIN. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what Hell is like. And if you die once, no matter how far you are, you must watch like Sisyphus as your f*cking boulder rolls down the hill so you may endeavor to push it back up again. Or, if you’re smart, you’ll take the game out and trade it in, or perhaps not buy it at all.

Online mode isn’t any better. I would assume that playing a full match might be amusing, but FINDING a full match is an exercise in frustration. Obviously this can be attributed to poor sales, but the answer is not to buy more copies to flesh out the ranks; the answer is to wait for something better. Even as an online Bomberman title, there’s a distinct lack of depth to the game, and no real fun to be had after you grow tired of doing the same thing over and over again.

And to round it all out, the noted lack of same console multiplayer is an absolute sin, and the option to customize your Bomberman or woman is simply another limited option in a game full of them.

Ultimately, B:AZ isn’t so much BAD is it is woefully underdeveloped and poorly implemented. The game plays perfectly fine, but why you would WANT to play the game for any longer than an hour, total, is beyond the faculties of this reviewer. There are well over 50 Bomberman titles available in the world, and you could most likely find a better one by taking all of their names and throwing a dart at them. This is just the same gameplay you’re used to, with some tweaks that do nothing to add to the value, and absolutely nothing else.

Control/Gameplay Rating: 4/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

Assuming you can assemble a group of people to play against online, you might be able to find a reason to come back to B:AZ. It’s unlikely, but let’s play pretend. That said, the single player mode is abysmal, there’s absolutely no option to play with friends unless they’re NOT at your house, and there are no unlockables to speak of. I was barely able to force myself to play the game enough to be able to REVIEW it, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to come back to this ON PURPOSE.

Replayability Rating: 2/10


6. BALANCE

Against the computer, the game isn’t so much challenging as it is monotonous. Forcing yourself to complete the 99 levels of single player with no save option is an exercise less in “skill” and more in “masochism”. Against other humans, it’s a far more balanced experience, which is pretty much about the only thing I can possibly say about the game that isn’t a knock against it. Players of equivalent skill should find competitive sessions to be tense affairs, assuming they can be bothered to go out and find opponents in the first place. Granted, it’s kind of hard to screw up Bomberman, but… well, never mind.

Balance Rating: 6/10


7. ORIGINALITY

Nonexistant.

If I could give the category a zero, I would.

There’s not one single solitary original concept on display here. Not ONE. This is the exact same game you’ve been playing for about two decades, only it’s “futuristic”, which only serves to cheapen the concept that much more. I have no idea how you could POSSIBLY rip off yourself, but that’s what it feels like Hudson has done here. Pitiful.

Originality Rating: 1/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

Assuming you’re either a major Bomberman addict or have never played the game before in any fashion, you might find yourself addicted for about an hour. At that point you’ll pretty much realize that you’re playing the exact same thing over and over, and your addiction will die faster than teenagers in a slasher flick. There’s literally almost nothing to become addicted TO, and unless repetition to the point where it becomes OCD is one of your turn-ons, you’ll be put off than Lucard at a furry convention.

Addictiveness Rating: 2/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

Bomberman no longer has the drawing power he had back in the day (largely due to a bunch of watered-down sequels, imagine that), and THIS version of Bomberman is especially uninteresting and unappealing. The 360 also finally has a solid library of interesting and entertaining titles, so no one out there should be so hard up for something to play that they’d want to play this. This is pretty much only going to appeal to the hardcore Bomberman fan who’s so hard up for Bomberman action that he or she would buy this just because they feel they HAVE to. Everyone else is most likely going to ignore it, which is for the best.

Appeal Rating: 2/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

This game sucks. I can’t say it any plainer than that.

Were this, as an example, a $10 download on Xbox Live, I’d be FAR more forgiving of its existence. Were it a $20 budget title, I’d be more willing to overlook some of its flaws. Were there same console multiplayer, I could see how it could perhaps appeal to someone that wants some on-and-offline multiplayer, and maybe is looking for a party game. And if it had SOMETHING, ANYTHING else in the game besides the meager selection of stuff that it offers, I might be able to say that there is a reason, no matter how flimsy, for this to exist.

But none of that is so. This is a poorly designed, sparsely developed piece of drek that even I can find no enjoyment in. I can say absolutely nothing good about it, nor do I feel I should have to. It’s a miserable experience that only provides joy when it is over, and if you have purchased this prior to reading a review, I truly feel sorry for you.

Bomberman: Act Zero is a sniveling little pile of dog droppings in the world of video games, and I’m insulted to have even played it.

Miscellaneous Rating: 1/10

The Scores:
Game Modes: 2/10
Graphics: 4/10
Sound: 3/10
Control/Gameplay: 4/10
Replayability: 2/10
Balance: 6/10
Originality: 1/10
Addictiveness: 2/10
Appeal: 2/10
Miscellaneous: 1/10

Overall Score: 2.7/10
Final Score: 2.5 (DREADFUL).

Short Attention Span Summary
Look, let me spell it out: take your $50, pay $30 of it to someone and have them beat the hell out of you, then take your $20 and use it toward a game somewhere that takes trade-ins. Buying B:AZ is the exact same thing, only less painful. I mean, I guess it’s good that the 360 has its first truly awful game, but I don’t think that’s supposed to be a selling point. Do yourself a favor, and save your money for… well, anything else.