While the Bomberman games have traditionally been cute, cheery exercises in blowing your friends to hell, the concept is actually pretty grim if you stop to think about it. A handful of combatants, armed only with time bombs, are dropped onto grids filled with destructible blocks and told to fight it out until only one is left alive. Perhaps that's what inspired the developers to take the series' tone in a radically new direction.
In Bomberman Act: Zero, you're an inmate in a futuristic prison where criminals are strapped into robot exoskeletons and forced to fight for a chance at freedom. It might seem a little contrived to turn Bomberman from an adorable mascot into a cyborg badass, but while the look has changed, the gameplay appears to be the same as ever.
From what we've seen so far, Bomberman Act: Zero drops players onto the same old debris-filled grids and tells them to ferret each other out with bombs. There are a few new gameplay touches along with the darker storyline, though, not the least of which is a life bar that lets you absorb more than one bomb blast. More striking is the new camera, which lets you switch between a freely rotating third-person view or a more familiar, top-down appearance.
You can also use stealth this time around, crouching behind the shoulder-height blocks to stay hidden from your opponent. This also comes into play if you're spotted, as staying down will reduce the amount of damage you take from a bomb.
Due in late summer, Bomberman Act: Zero - whose spelling we're taking right off Konami's documents, sothat colon is apparently right where they want it to be - will offer up 99 levels of single-player blasting in its story mode. More importantly, it'll feature eight-way blastfests over Xbox Live. Given that Bomberman has always excelled as a multiplayer game, that alone gives us high expectations for this one, gritty new look or no.