|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Mekensleep Touch||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
through a Maze
by Maria Montoro
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.