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.
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.
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
||Sony PlayStation 2|
|| 09.28.00|| 11.25.00