Bust-A-Move
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Developers:
    • Taito
    • Santos (GG)
    • Yoshidayama Workshop (WS)
  • Publishers:
    • Taito (SNES/GG)
    • SNK (Arcade/Neo Geo/Neo Geo CD)
    • JP Micro Cabin (3DO)
    • US Panasonic (3DO)
    • Sunsoft (WS)
  • Released:
    Arcade
    • JP June 1994
    Neo Geo
    • JP December 1994
    SNES
    • JP 01/13/1995
    • US March 1995
    • UK 06/29/1995
    Neo Geo CD
    • US 04/27/1995
    • JP 05/02/1995
    3DO
    • JP 11/22/1995
    • US 1995
    GG
    • US 1995
    • JP 08/02/1996
    WS
    • JP 07/01/1999
    PC
    • US 1999
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/11/2015.

Bust-A-Move is a puzzle video game developed and published by Taito Corporation. It was originally released for the arcades in Japan as Puzzle Bobble in June 1994. Not long after its initial release, the game got ports and remakes on countless other platforms, like the Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, 3DO, Game Gear, WonderSwan, and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. That's not even including all of the sequels, of which there are many. The SNES version of Bust-A-Move is probably the most well known one, especially in the West. This game is actually based on another series known as Bubble Bobble, which also started out as an arcade release, but later got home console ports. All these games feature two friendly dinosaurs named Bub and Bob, both of which are the main characters of the series. Bust-A-Move is a very interesting and refreshing take on the oversaturated puzzle genre of the early 1990s.

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The premise to Bust-A-Move is vastly different from most other puzzle games of the time. Instead of manipulating blocks, you're shooting bubbles at bubbles. That may sound redundant, but it is what it is. You control a large gun at the bottom of the screen, referred to as the Bubble Launcher, and use it to shoot differently colored bubbles at the bubbles hanging from the top of the screen. Match three or more bubbles of the same color and they will fall off, vanishing into the ethers of the unknown. Bubbles will stick to the ceiling or other bubbles, but they bounce off walls. The tricky part is being able to gauge exactly where your shots will end up. Early on in the game, there's a line guide that shows exactly where your shots will go, but this is taken away from you later in the game. Additionally, the ceiling will slowly lower over time, which lowers all of the bubbles stuck to it. If those bubbles go below the line at the bottom of the screen, you lose. It's a fairly unique system that's extremely intuitive, making Bust-A-Move a good puzzle game for beginners.

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Due to the nature of the game, progression of the normal single player mode is handled in a level-to-level manner. Generally, clearing all the bubbles on the screen results in a victory and then you move on to the next stage, or as the game calls it, round. Every round has a different arrangement of bubbles to burst, and obviously, it gets harder as you move on. The game, I mean, not the bubbles. Bubbles are always soft. Sometimes new colors and gimmicks will appear in later rounds. There are a total of a hundred rounds in the game. That's overkill if you ask me, but there's a convenient password system that lets you continue from where you last left off, or skip undesired levels if you look up the passwords somewhere. The most unique round in the game is actually the final round, which is a boss fight. This is the final and only boss fight in the entire game. Even though this is cool, nobody in their right mind is going to play 99 rounds of Bust-A-Move just to see the boss. If you want length, then you've got it in Bust-A-Move, but this is a girth that few people will be able to stomach.

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Bursting bubbles three at a time is fun, but it gets old after a while. That's where the more advanced stuff comes into play. There's a neat trick to get rid of a ton of bubbles of various colors all at once. Basically, if there are a bunch of bubbles stuck together, you can try to target the ones all the way at the top to drop everything at the same time. Say there are green, blue, and yellow bubbles all stuck to a row of reds near the ceiling. Taking out the reds would also drop all the other colors, provided those colors aren't stuck to anything else. Doing this is not only amusing, but it's also practical, as you're getting rid of more bubbles with fewer shots. Plus, you get plenty of bonus points! Also, if you end up getting a bunch colors you don't want, you can stick them all to a single color and use the same method to get rid of them in one go. It's this strategy that prevents Bust-A-Move from getting stale, as it requires creativity to make good use of.

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There are three special bubble types that do more than just stick around. These are the Flame, Thunder, and Water Bubbles. Each one is triggered by simply shooting a bubble of any color at them, and they all do different things. The Flame Bubble will create a flame that combusts everything within a circular radius from it, the Thunder Bubble shoots out horizontal bolts of lightning that vaporize anything in the way, and the Water Bubble changes nearby bubbles to the same color. These special bubbles don't appear often, but when they do, they help add more variety to the game. Strategically going for them at the right times is important in the later rounds of the game, as they essentially provide free mass bubble bursts. It'd be nice if there were more than three types, though, as it does get tiring to see the same ones all throughout the game.

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VS mode, or as some circles know it, two player mode is a mode for two players. That makes perfect sense, right? In this mode, you can either challenge a computer AI or compete against a budding buddy. In either case, the two players both get a separate play area with which to burst bubbles. The goal is to win, and that's accomplished by making the other player lose. To do that, you must burst four or more bubbles at once; doing so will send bubbles over to the opponent's side of the screen, which increases the likelihood that they'll lose to bubble overflow. The more bubbles you pop at a single time, the more will be sent to the opponent. Dropping bubbles also does the same thing. The same rules apply when facing computer opponents, and there are a total of ten AI opponents to face, with each one being harder than the last. Bust-A-Move's VS mode is pretty standard for a puzzle game.

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Bust-A-Move will make you bust a move. It didn't reinvent the wheel, but it does do something new that doesn't suck, and that's pretty cool. The graphics are delightful, the music is relaxing, and the game is pleasant to play. Popping three bubbles to drop a trillion other bubbles is very satisfying; perhaps the most satisfying thing to do in the whole game. There's plenty of play and replay value here, as the single player is super long, and the multiplayer is super fun. Bust-A-Move may not be the best puzzle game ever, but it's certainly one of the better ones.

Word Count: 1,205

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