Super Bust A Move


    The story is a familiar one: A new console is introduced and, soon after, a new version of Bust A Move follows. Taito's ubiquitous puzzler has graced every platform from the SNES to the Neo Geo Pocket and now the PlayStation 2 gets its own dose of bubble popping with Super Bust A Move. But despite a major graphical overhaul and a few new play mechanics, there just isn't enough here to make the series' most recent incarnation stand out from its prequels.

  Heeeeeeeere's Bub!
I'm baaaaack.

    This isn't to say Super Bust A Move is a bad game. At its core it still remains one of the best puzzle games of all time. That core, however, hasn't changed much. Players face off against an array of multi-colored bubbles that descend from the top of the screen. Armed with their own bubble launcher, players fire into the descending onslaught and attempt to match up the colors. When three or more of the same color are matched they pop, sending the bubbles attached below flying off the screen. Remove all the bubbles and you clear the round; if they reach the bottom you lose. It's a simple, but winning, formula -- one that's immediately accessible at first, but requires enough skill to keep you playing just one more round.

    Although Super Bust A Move's puzzle mode remains basically the same as past installments, a few new elements have been added to the mix. The puzzle arenas now may be irregularly shaped, requiring a little more skill and some tricky bank shots. The other innovations, however, come off more as gimmicks than solid gameplay concepts. Two new bubble types are introduced: tiny bubbles, which can squeak into small spaces before expanding, and huge bubbles, which, when popped turn all bubbles on the screen to their color. Moving walls have been added, and when a bubble hits one it will be deflected at a different angle than when it hit. Small, densely packed obstructions also appear on some levels, making your carefully aimed shots deflect wildly. Past games have managed to introduce elements that integrated well with the basic Bust A Move gameplay, such as pulleys in BAM4 or the rainbow bubbles in BAM3. Super Bust A Move's additions serve more as a distraction than an added challenge.

2-player is still where it's at.

    The two-player mode remains almost totally unchanged, and is where the game truly shines. Competitive Bust A Move has always been one of the most accessible and addicting games around, and this installment is no different. As usual, the two opponents battle on separate sides of the screen, each busting bubbles as fast as they can. Any bubbles that are actually dropped, as opposed to popped, lead to more bubbles added to the other player's side. As in Puzzle Fighter, the game's characters each have a specific attack pattern. Some are ridiculously cheap, but this can be used to naturally handicap a skilled player. The chain reaction system from the last installment returns, as well. With the chain reaction turned on, any bubbles dropped will zoom back up the screen to pop others of the same color, potentially leading to huge cascades. It speeds up the pace of play considerably, but there is still more than enough strategy here to balance the game.

    Inexplicably, you can't play against the computer with the chain reaction turned on. This is just the first in a list of omissions in what is the most bare-bones version of Bust A Move this side of a handheld. A host of modes and options from past games, such as the ability to design your own puzzles or a competitive puzzle mode, are MIA, and nothing much has been added to replace them. No story mode, no special challenges, just basic one- and two-player games. Super Bust A Move certainly doesn't need to be a compendium of all that's come before it, but with a series is as old and relatively unchanged as BAM, Taito should be offering as complete a package as possible.

  Including Pukadon, who's cute and cuddly and, um, pukes a lot.
The new crew

    Luckily, the lack of modes is mitigated by the series first major graphical overhaul since its inception in the arcades. The 16-bit graphics and old school style of the past games has been done away with, replaced with a sharp and more modern presentation. They are still extremely simple, but the graphics are now drawn in crisp high-resolution and animate fluidly. In addition, most of the recurring characters have been ditched in favor of a new slightly edgier looking crew. It still may play exactly like last year's Bust A Move, but for once it doesn't look like it.

   Unfortunately, the updated graphics aren't enough to save Super Bust A Move from feeling like a rehash. The game itself is still as good as it ever was, but it's been done before and, graphics aside, done better. Considering there are more complete versions of the game available at a bargain price, it's difficult to recommend the PlayStation 2 version to anyone but series fans or people who have been playing Snood all this time. Super Bust A Move is an adequate addition to the series, and certainly the best puzzle game currently available for the PlayStation 2. However, as Taito seems determined to prove, just about any version will do.

Review by Zak McClendon, GIA.
Super Bust A Move
Developer Taito
Publisher Acclaim
Genre Puzzle
Medium CD
Platform Sony PlayStation 2
Release Date  09.28.00
32 screenshots