Don't just stand there...
From tea and fine silks to rice rockets and electronics, the Far East is a hotbed of imports. And when it's hot, a tasty imported drink sure hits the spot. How about a thirst quenching Pocari Sweat? Too nasty? Then how about a tasty Pearl Milk Tea (Boba Nai Tsa), an import from Taiwan and Hong Kong? Small, sweetened orblets of tapioca rest on the bottom of a milk and tea concoction. The drink comes with a thick straw to suck up the little fellas. These tapioca balls are called "boba" - translated, that means "breast."
A perfect match for this randy drink is the equally bubbly Bust-a-Move series (known as Puzzle Bobble in Japan), a subtractive puzzle game of quick reflexes and careful aim. This tried and true formula has changed little as the series made its way across several sequels on nearly every platform. And now another sequel has floated its way to the PS2, Super Bust-a-Move 2.
Using a bubble cannon, you must defend against an onslaught of bubbles descending from the top of the screen. When the multicolored menace reaches the bottom, you lose, but by shooting a bubble into two or more like-colored bubbles, you disrupt the bubbles' molecular cohesion, catalyzing a chemical change in their structural integrity - POP!
The series has succeeded in the past thanks to a smooth learning curve and simple, effective gameplay. You become accustomed to the nuances of aiming, learning exactly how to bank a bubble off the wall right into that corner nook. With the help of the top L and R buttons, you can make minor adjustments for that perfect shot.
The previous Super Bust-A-Move sported gimmicky 'giant' and 'mini' bubbles that have been removed from this version. The new special bubbles include such notables as the fire and rainbow bubbles. The fire bubble burns away any bubbles that it hits, acting as a helpful wildcard bubble to rubs out previous misfires. The rainbow bubble causes any bubbles to be repainted a random color. Every time you fire one off, it's a gamble. Both make good additions to the gameplay.
Bust-A-Move 4 featured a mediocre pulley system; replacing that in this version are the annoying 'moving perimeter' stages. Belts run along the perimeter of the field, altering the direction of any shot firing at them. While these stages provide a change of pace from traditional layouts, the changes in physics and trajectory can be a bummer and a needless distraction.
There are a few ways to play, including a Story Mode, Puzzles challenges, Versus games, and a Puzzle edit where you can create your own tests of skill. Missing in action is the 4-player versus, found only in the N64 version of Bust-A-Move.
The characters in Super Bust-a-Move 2 are a trippy bunch of misfits, miles away from their cute forbears. My favorite is the racy Puka Don, whose selection animation is rather alarming. "Weird" would be the best way to describe the lineup. Bub and Bob, dragon kingpins of the Bust-a-Move circuit, are relegated to supporting roles of designated bubble blowers. They just stand there to the side blowing bubbles for the other characters to shoot. Poor guys.
The two dino brothers cause some visual inconsistencies. The main characters have a fuller, rounded look, whereas the twins look flat and two-dimensional...but I'm just being nitpicky. The look of the game isn't a terrible improvement, continuing the usage of bright colors and patterns. The two Super Bust-a-Move games look slightly sharper than the previous non-PS2 iterations.
The cut-scene dialogue and the in-game voices have been completely dubbed over with some laughable English voice work. I miss the original Japanese hollers and whimpers. Sure, I never knew exactly what the hell was being said, but who cares! Pa-yumpa! Sadly and sorely missed.
Super Bust-A-Move 2 is really more of the same with some minor touches. There's not much to complain about, but also little to laud. At this point, I'd be much happier if they released a compendium of all the earlier versions, and the choice of which options to include in a Versus game.
The best feature of Super Bust-A-Move 2 is that it costs about as much as 6 pearl milk teas - $20. And either way, you'll have yourself a ball.