Bust-a-Move is a staple in my collection. I've spent a boatload of time playing my beat-up copy of BaM '99 for the PSOne, and every time I hit an arcade I seem to find the machine by radar (or geek-dar). It's what I always look for, not just because it's a blast to play, but because it's one of those games that can give that feeling of both freshness and nostalgia at the same time. Popping bubbles just never seems to get old.
[image1]SPACE Bust-a-Move is the same bubble-bursting formula that's been floating around for the past... sheesh, how many years? [Since 1994. ~Ed.] The point of the story: Take “control” of Bob and Bub as they fly from planet to planet popping bubbles and avoiding popping the Cosmic bubbles (as they have special power, though it isn't really explained exactly what they can do) to save the little girl, Snown, from the devilish forces of the universe. After all, when a mysterious spaceship with a hologram lands in your backyard asking for your help, what are you supposed to do, just let her digitally rot in the wannabe R2-D2?
The game is... Bust-a-Move... or Puzzle Bobble... or Snood, really. Whatever you've been calling it for the past few years, it's the same game. The simple object is to pop all of the bubbles on the screen by matching the colors together. It sounds simple enough, but in practice it's as tricky as a game of pool, mixed with a hardcore round of Tetris. Bouncing the bubbles at the proper angle can get them into those tight crevices in order to knock down that big icicle-booger of multi-colored happiness is one of the most simple-yet-gratifying moments in the gaming world.
And of course, in true mascot fashion, Bob and Bub and friends are as kyoot as they can possibly be. They're tiny, they have big heads, they have funny names... what is there to hate? Unless you hate the style, and thus, the presentation. But the pastel colors are as eye-watering as ever. Too... much... cute... I... can't... stand... but... adorable... yet... can't... stop... bubbles... KHHAAAAAAN!
[image2]Gameplay is as tight as ever. Point the arrow, press the button, pop the bubbles. 'Nuff said. The only notable bit is that you can't use the stylus at all during play, which while it might not be surprising, I'm a bit disappointed they couldn't find a way to do anything other than menus.
The extra features are actually not too bad, surprisingly. There are a handful of modes to unlock, like Pressure Mode (where only one bubble is at your disposal) and Puzzle Mode (which is a basic “pop everything on the screen” dealie), and while they're not entirely imaginative, they're a nice way to pass a few extra minute. The Endless mode is really where the fun is - classic BaM gameplay, straight-up like a shot of strong classic gaming. The bulk of the other extras are pure aesthetic, like different bubble types and arrows. They're fun, but not anything outstanding.
The only thing inherently disappointing with this game is that... it's the same thing that's been coming out over the past decade-plus. There isn't anything that really seems new here, which means the didn't screw it up, but it's still a let-down. Boss battles are fun, but feel more like the screen's just been stretched a bit. Different modes are the stand-out here, and even then, really, what else can be done with this formula? This series could use a Space Invaders Extreme-level of overhaul, but as it is, once you pop...