The Puzzle Bobble franchise is arguably one of the more recognizable series in the arcade sector of the video game industry, alongside classics like Asteroids, Tetris, and perhaps even Missile Command. The game has been copied time and again under different names. In some instances, new features were even included to add an ability or two, but the core mechanics have never really changed and perhaps that's the series has remained so endearing. It's easy to pick it up and simple to play. As a mini downloadable title, there's certainly a lot to be said about having a reliable time killer - but the question is, how does Bust A Move Universe hold up as a full-fledge 3DS title?
The title is broken down into two modes, Challenge and Puzzle, with either mode featuring more or less the exact same sort of gameplay with a few differences. Puzzle mode will have players move from level to level, clearing a string of challenges in order to reach the end of the level where a small boss battle occurs. The gameplay is exactly the same as its predecessors with players simply matching a minimum of three bubbles together in order to pop the sequence. The more bubbles matched, the higher the score. Additionally, items and power ups that are touched by a string of pops will also burst, allowing players to get keys used to unlock friendly dinos. Enough keys will unlock a new dino and a new dino unlocked means easier boss battles.
On the other hand, Challenge mode functions like an endless string of challenges, trading in the bubbles with keys for bubbles with special abilities. Once players completely clear a stage, the puzzle continues on, slowly adding more and more elements to the gameplay in an attempt to make things more chalenging. It's interesting and for many it would be the main draw to such a title, but the entire experience tends to fall a little flat once you take a few things into consideration.
First and foremost, being a game is hampered by an almost hilariously nonexistant difficulty level, there's really no way to rationalize how easy the entire Puzzle mode is as it doesn't really matter how many stars a particular level is rated, the game never actually feels like it gets progressively harder. It wouldn't be terrible if the game had an extended campaign to run through, but the entire Puzzle
mode takes less than a couple hours - and that's only if you're moving exceptionally slow. The issue isn't limited to one mode either, Challenge is equally as easy as well, only becoming more interesting after close to thirty rounds have been cleared. It certainly servces its purpose as a time killer to an extent, but a little bit of challenge can't hurt, neither is it too much to ask for.
Likewise, Puzzle Bobble would be far more of a bargain if there were more than two short and simple modes to the game. It feels like there's a definite lack of options to begin with and when the choices players have to work with aren't so compelling from the very start, it's difficult to justify the game's price tag. It's not as though its a bad game either, anyone who has enjoyed prior Puzzle Bobble titles should find this one to be just as pleasant, but it's hard to say for how long considering the lack of features in the game.
Visually, Puzzle Bobble isn't the most brilliant of titles. It definitely doesn't set a new bar for gaming graphics, but it certainly looks sharp in its own right. The 3D effect looks pretty good too, though it seems overkill for a game that's just about popping bubbles, even if watching the balls you've shot fall into space looks that much better on the 3DS. That being said, as most 3D titles, it's completely possible to play the game without the 3D function on and if you choose to do that it's quite alright as
well. Neither one of the visual modes stand out from the other, it's just a nice alternative to have.
Ultimately, Puzzle Bobble is a fun time killer assuming you're interested in spending a couple extra bucks on a game that really just boils down to an endless Challenge mode. Anyone looking to get a few good sessions of puzzle solving will definitely find themselves disappointed and it may just be worth waiting for a price drop before investing in any sort of bubble popping. That being said, all the core mechanics that have made the series so loveable over the years are still here, there's just not enough of it to justify its price tag. Perhaps someone younger will find a lot more entertainment out of the title, as its simplicity may be largely draining on an older audience, but either way I don't imagine they would be entertained for long either. There simply isn't enough to be entertained by.