Find Yourself by Sailing
through a Maze
Once in a while, it feels good to play a simple game that just gets your mind off things and takes you to a new world without requiring too much from you. That’s basically the case with Soul Bubbles. This game was quite entertaining (at least for a while), as well as rewarding. Moreover, the easy gameplay style makes this one playable for nearly all ages.
The game tells the story of a “spirit herder” (Psychopomp) who, with the help of his master, must guide the lost spirits to safety. These spirits need to be carried and protected inside a bubble, so it’ll be your task to bring them to the gate at the end of each level. There are quite a few souls that need to be saved, so the further you go, the more challenging and puzzling worlds you’ll encounter. For that reason, the game becomes progressively more fun and entertaining. Guiding the bubble through mysterious labyrinths is easy, but getting past fire pits, rock-inundated areas, and gusty sections is a whole different story. Of course, it won’t take long to figure out that you need water to get rid of the fire, or that tapping rocks will bring them down. Random sign posts also help you figure it out, and if there are no signs, you can bring up a help message by pushing one of the face buttons.
Looking at the box art for the first time, I thought Soul Bubbles would make me blow on the DS microphone in order to move the bubble around. I wasn’t too excited about that, so I was glad to find out the game is simply controlled with the stylus and a few face buttons. The Spirit Herder is the one working his lungs, blowing the bubble around and sneaking it into different areas while you direct the way he blows with the stylus. Luckily, there’s more to it than just blowing the bubble around. By holding specific D-Pad buttons, you’ll achieve secondary functions that allow you to cut the bubble, put it back together, deflate it a little bit or all the way (if it’s an empty one), and draw new bubbles to protect the spirits, carry water to extinguish fire, etc.
As you can tell, the game is not based on standard platforming action. Instead, Soul Bubbles relies on puzzles, mazes, and slick touch controls. The gameplay is actually quite relaxing, and it gives you plenty of time to react if things are going wrong. The path is marked by stardust scattered throughout. In later levels, the pathways will be invisible on the map until you discover them. If you want to go to a different part of the map, you can easily do so by tapping where you want to go. However, the bubble will stay where you left it, waiting for your return.
The level design is simple but original at the same time. As you advance through the game, you’ll see different environments – from the jungle to the underwater world, etc. You’ll also encounter new creatures as you go. Some of them will help you, and others will try to steal your bubble or pop it. To avoid the risk of losing the souls you’re transporting, you’ll have to be quick and agile about cutting the chameleon’s tongue or tapping on the birds till they’re gone. There’s a kind of creature that takes you from one side of the map to the other. These guys are crucial in certain levels in order to find hidden areas.
Also, you’ll have to search for golden calabash, squash-looking fruit hidden in each maze. By collecting a certain amount, new worlds will open up. Depending on how long you took, how much stardust you collected, the number of calabashes you found (up to three), and the number of souls you saved (up to seven), you’ll be given a rank. Since the game doesn’t offer multiplayer gameplay, perhaps this is the only factor that adds replayability; people who enjoy playing time and again to beat their own scores may find some incentive here. Hidden items will also be added to the gallery as you find them, but there isn’t much excitement to be found in that.
If you care about graphics on the DS, the game isn’t visually astounding, but the hand-drawn style looks nice and definitely gets the job done. It looks like a traditional and artistic children story book. There are eight different worlds with over 40 levels (or should I say mazes?). The characters are cute and decidedly cartoonish, which will appeal to children and light-hearted adults (like me). The environments are imaginative and almost enchanting, though they have little detail. We can say the same about the music – it’s nice and relaxing, but it doesn’t really stand out.
I’m sure many of you will get addicted and won’t stop playing the game until you beat it. Others, especially those less inclined to playing puzzles and enjoying soothing gameplay, should probably just skip it. Either way, it may just be worth at least a rental to see if this is your kind of thing. If you do enjoy it, you can always pick it up (only at Toys R Us and some online retailers) and take it on your next car ride!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Cute, hand-drawn, and zany characters of all kinds will make you giggle, but simplistic environments leave a bit to be desired. 4.2 Control
Navigating the bubble couldn’t be easier, and secondary controls to activate the cut, draw, and deflate functions make perfect sense. In some occasions, bubbles get split when you try to join them and vice versa. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Relaxing tunes are ultimately forgettable, but they are nice to hear while you play. Sound effects are mild and sparse, which is often better than playing a game with annoying sound effects. 3.5
Soul Bubble is a very simple and rather easy game with about 50 different levels. There’s nothing else after getting through Story Mode, but you can replay every single one of the levels and try to improve your score…unless it was flawless to start with!
3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.