May 10, 2011, at 11:15 AM
Mini Review: Bust-a-Move
Puzzle Bobble (パズルボブル) / Bust-a-Move is part of the rather weird Bubble Bobble/Rainbow Islands series of games. It’s a well-based puzzle game (in the same milieu as Columns and Tetris) where you control the direction in which a coloured bubble is shot. Bubbles stick to each other and three the same colour will disappear; unconnected bubbles then fall away. In the main game, the goal is to clear the screen, while the ceiling falls, and bubbles reaching the bottom of the screen means game over.
The gameplay area itself is narrow, so there’s a lot of unused screen left over. The game does a pretty good job of filling it up with semi-random graphics; I’d guess that’s what most of the ROM is full of, in fact. The core gameplay graphics are never changed, and they’re just coloured circles really; but the graphical effects when bubbles burst or drop are nicely done.
The graphics themselves are aligned on a hex grid so I guess it’s doing some somewhat clever stuff with a pseudo-bitmapped display. It seems to achieve this reasonably quickly - as the ceiling drops, you sometimes see it take a few frames to draw the top and bottom, but most of the time it’s impressively seamless.
The directional arrow seems to be rotated in code, which is nice (since it has a large number of positions to display), but this suffers from aliasing and overall always seems to indicate not quite the direction you thought it did. That’s frequently annoying.
There is one theme per game mode, which is nice enough but really lacks variety as a result. The ending has a nice remix of “Old Man’s Legend” from Bubble Bobble which makes up for it somewhat.
There are two longevity fronts: score attack on the main game and the second endless game mode which counts time, bubbles and score and presents these (and some other stats) to you on game over. Endless mode is probably a good time-killer if that’s what you’re looking for - much like Tetris - but it’s not great.
Apart from the aiming difficulties, there’s occasionally some iffy collision logic. If you can live with that, and can get accustomed to the aiming, it’s a nice fun puzzler. The varying backdrops actually do make it more interesting, as they’re effectively incremental “rewards” as you play.
The original arcade game idea is actually pretty innovative, if not particularly deep (but still deeper than Tetris...). There’s a few special bubbles that add variety, although I’m not sure if this is more or less than the original arcade game. This is a nicely done port, and there’s nothing else like it on the Sega 8-bit systems.
One of the better puzzle games, in a good conversion. What’s not to like?