The Right Move
When Taito became a subsidiary of Square Enix, I wasn’t sure if it’d be a good or a bad thing; I didn’t want them to “transform” key Taito franchises, and at the same time, I wanted those franchises to stay afloat.
Considering the Japanese gaming giant has high quality standards for their games, I shouldn’t have worried too much; the new Bust-A-Move title they’ve published for the Nintendo DS is very fun to play and offers several interesting features that make it a very complete offering – more so than the Bust-A-Move DS game published by Majesco back in 2005.
First of all, the graphics have been greatly improved. The classic characters look a lot sharper and cuter, and the bubbles and backgrounds are more interesting and elaborate. It also includes some very nice anime-style illustrations, and you can even unlock new bubble and arrow designs to customize the game. This makes the new title more visually appealing to start with, and then if you consider the great gameplay additions such as online and local multiplayer support, the diverse play modes, and the mini-games, you’re in for a nice portable treat. The background music is what one would expect from this kind of game: classic arcade style, cute, cheerful, but a bit tiresome after a while; in its defense, the game includes a varied soundtrack with different tunes for each play mode.
Bust-A-Move’s classic gameplay hasn’t gotten old. The goal is to aim the arrow and shoot down groups of bubbles of the same color. You can simply take down the bubbles one group at a time, or you can use strategy to pop bubbles that are holding others, so that when the upper group of bubbles vanishes, the rest of them will fall down as well. In fact, this method will give you better results all around, with time bonuses, attacks against the enemies, trade points, special Cosmo Bubbles, etc.
Aiming at the bubbles is intuitive but not without challenge; sometimes you’ll be able to just shoot straight up and take the bubbles down, while other times you’ll have to plan a ricochet effect much like you would when playing pool. Thankfully, Square Enix and Taito’s new game has tight controls. Moving the arrow launcher with the D-pad is a piece of cake, and if you prefer to use the stylus, you can do so as well. Simply tap (and hold) to the left or right of the launcher to aim, and then tap the bubble to shoot. Using the buttons certainly works better and is closer to the original gameplay controls, though of course, nothing beats a joystick!
The main modes in Space Bust-A-Move are Story, Versus, Endless, Challenge, and Extra. The main story includes Puzzle Bobble’s classic duo Bub and Bob. They find themselves living a quiet and peaceful life in a planet far away when suddenly an unidentified object crashes right in front of their eyes. This is how they meet Snown, a prisoner of the evil Devilin. He warns Bub and Bob about the Cosmo Bubbles Devilin is trying to gather in order to rule the galaxy. It’s now up to them to get a hold of those special bubbles before he does to avoid danger at all costs. In addition to regular puzzle-style gameplay split up between many different levels within different planets, players will have to face bosses at the end of each set of stages. Just as the difficulty of the puzzles increases as you advance, boss battles also get more tedious and require more strategy later on. In order to fight these bosses you’ll have to use their surroundings to your advantage, bursting the bubbles they try to use as shields and making sure they never reach the bottom.
Other single-player modes will have you fight against CPU characters (Versus), play for as long as you can in order to set new records (Endless), chart your daily progress / overall results (Challenge), and play mini-games that you purchase at the game’s virtual shop. While the story mode is the most engaging one, it’s fun to use special items against the enemies and kick them out one by one in Versus mode. Things such as the Eraser (hides arrow), Chakkun (speeds up the counter), or the Blind (hides bubbles for a short period of time) certainly make things hairy for the opponents!
The mini-games you buy at the shop are not too exciting. They are simple puzzle challenges that require quick thinking and strategy. Spending the points on the custom bubbles and pointers seems like a better deal, at least for me.
In addition to the mentioned gameplay modes, you can compete against other friends locally via Download Play (your friends don’t even need a game cartridge). Also, you can go online and battle against your friends or other random users (up to three others), though I haven’t been able to make this work yet on my DSi. My Internet connection is just fine, but the game keeps giving me the same error code and not connecting to the servers. Hopefully this problem will be addressed in the very near future; otherwise the game might lose some clout, which would be unfortunate now that it’s finally been made the way it should be. Nonetheless, at the time of this review, I can’t confirm everyone is having this problem, so maybe it’s just me, and that’s what I’m assuming.
From all the Bust-A-Move games and other variants I’ve played lately, I find this one to be the most solid offering, especially when it comes to portable entertainment. Space Bust-A-Move contains hours upon hours of addictive play, a notably updated visual style that’s pleasing to the eyes, and fun multiplayer gameplay. The storyline is very basic and nothing to die for, but I still recommend the game to all Bust-A-Move fans looking to expand their library of addictive puzzle games.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The game has cute and updated visuals with nice anime-style illustrations. It’s missing animated cutscenes, but that’s not a big deal. 4.5 Control
The game works just like it should, and players can use either buttons or touch controls to aim and shoot the bubbles. 3.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Classic arcade music and sound effects are cute but get a bit tiresome after a while. At least there’s nice variety! 4.2
Single-player modes galore, multiplayer action, unlockable bubble and arrow designs, and tight controls make this game very addictive and entertaining.
4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.