Bomberman Act: Zero is a weird one. The new graphic style is best described as “What the hell is this?” While its lack of content merits a solid “Is that it!?” Designed almost specifically as an online game, it's as fun as the series has ever been when a good group of people are happily blasting away and then cold and empty the moment the match is over. Bomberman should have been a great game, but it's hobbled not just by a lack of content but missing features in the little that's available.
Bomberman is, as usual, about surviving in a grid of blocks by blowing up all opponents. Bombs explode in either a “+” or “–“ shape depending on whether they're set in an intersection or not, and the blast is as deadly to you as it is to any enemies that may be around. At the beginning you can only set one bomb at a time with an explosion radius of two squares, but blowing up the soft blocks reveals power-ups that do all sorts of neat things. More bombs, bigger explosions, penetrating explosions that can cut through the soft blocks, speed, and other goodies are scattered throughout the playfield, just waiting to be uncovered in the usual Bomberman style.
And that's basically it. Run around a square room laid out in a grid, blow up blocks and enemies that look just like you, and do it all over again next level. The two game modes are Classic, where one hit equals death, and FPB, with a health bar that goes down every second spent in a bomb's fire. Clear 99 levels fighting enemies of varying power and intelligence, all without being able to save, and that's the entire single-player mode. Still, Bomberman has always been about multiplayer, and that's where Act: Zero both shines and almost completely loses it.
Bomberman has always been about multiplayer, and that's where Act: Zero both shines and almost completely loses it.
Multiplayer is online only. There are a few options to play with, but "sitting around a TV with friends" isn't one of them. Xbox Live is a wonderful thing, definitely, but the 360 can recognize up to four controllers at once. Disallowing their use makes no sense at all, especially when finding a game online can be tricky. Still, when a game is up and running it's a lot of fun, and almost redeems the whole package in a go. It's just too bad that features that should be standard, like being able to hang out in a room after a match is over for a quick restart, are painfully absent. Being dumped from a six-member bombfest where everyone is chatting away back into the online wastelands is a harsh reward for completing a round.
The biggest problem is that Bomberman Act: Zero is a Live Arcade game masquerading as a full-priced retail package. When it works it's a total blast, but there's just not enough content on the disk for a $50 price tag. The single-player mode is a joke, the online play is undeniably fun but hobbled by a lack of features, and the graphic redesign this version has suffered is just plain wrong. The McFarlane-esque character designs are completely at odds with Bomberman's decades-long history, and I never once needed to see breast-jiggle effects in this series. Bomberman fans deserve better than this, hopefully in a sequel that feels more like a retail product.