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Review By: Chris Lee
Developer:   Taito
Publisher:   Acclaim
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Puzzle
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   3-19-01

Ever since I was a youngster and first played Tetris I've loved puzzle games. Of course there were many rip-offs and spin-offs of Tetris and very few original puzzle games, but I loved them all none the less. One Saturday night a few years ago I came across a new game in the arcade called Puzzle Bobble. It was strange because it starred the same characters from the classic title Bubble Bobble except that this time you were shooting colored bubbles at other colored bubbles in an effort to burst them all. Much like the premise of all other puzzle titles, the concept sounds very convoluted until you actually play it. For some odd reason after the arcade release of Puzzle Bobble, Taito decided to change the name to Bust-a-Move. Puzzle Bobble was a great game, so much so that it's had 3 additional incarnations. While none of them stray from the original formula, that's not too terrible a thing. Super Bust-a-Move continues that tradition.

As with the rest of the series SBaM is a very simple game at heart. For those of you who may never have played a BAM I'll explain how it works. In general the play field is a rectangle or square shape, in the middle are various colored bubbles clumped together. At the bottom of the playfield is a crank/cannon which is loaded with other colored bubbles. What you have to do is connect at least 3 bubbles of the same color by shooting the cannon and bouncing the bubbles off the walls. It's simple in theory but there are many obstacles and challenges that prevent you from making the perfect connection. In the first titles there were only marginal challenges, but in SBaM there are many more factors at work.

To begin with you've got conveyor belts on some boards which change the trajectory of the way your bubbles bounce. There are small bubbles as well that are roughly half the size of normal bubbles, these are great because they can fit in the tight spaces in some areas and once they hit another bubble they expand into normal size. Then you've got bubble captives, if you hit them with a bubble they will explode and turn every bubble on the field into one color. As far as modes go there's no shortage of those either. You've got Puzzle Mode, CPU Battle and 2 Player Battle and within all of those there are additional options to choose from. There's an option to play classic BaM as well which consists of some of the best BaM puzzles from the other titles in the series and you play in classic style with none of the new-fangled features and contraptions. The CPU Battle and 2 Player battle modes also have some unique features. Each character has his or her own techniques and bubbles that they like to use. So there are a lot more things to do and see this time around as well as a little more personality.

The cast of characters remind you, if you've ever seen them, of some of the wacky commercials they air in Japan. Characters are cheery, colorful and full of life. There are 10 characters to choose from each with their own agenda (no matter how sugar-filled it may be) and when you're playing against them, their own strategy. When you're opposing them they each have a specific attack pattern, as in when they get a large combo certain types of bubbles or blocks will be shoved onto your board and of course if you can't clear them and any bubble or block touches the bottom of your screen then you lose. The one player game consists of multiple paths of your own choice. They branch off depending on which path you take and each one presents a separate challenge. Each one will test your skill and as you get higher in the branching the puzzles can be downright devilish taking multiple tries to clear if you don't give up and start crying, although that's nothing I'd know anything about. Ahem. My only regret character wise is that it seems as if Bub and Bob the original dynamic duo are reduced to bubble loaders for the new cast. Maybe there's a way to unlock them for use. But there's no complaint about the new bobblers, with original Japanese voices you can't help but love em.

Graphically what can you do? It's a puzzle game and it's looked pretty much the same since the original, it's just a little more colorful and cheery this time around. There aren't any insane explosions or gunfire, just bubbles popping and characters celebrating their victories. Sound wise there isn't much to speak of either, there's some playful if not elevator-ish music that plays while you're in game. When you first start the game there is an odd 30-35 second load time but after that it's pretty much smooth sailing. Other than all that the game is technically solid. There really isn't much to say about Super Bust-a-Move. If you like puzzlers or you've been a fan of the series I'd at least suggest giving it a rent. I don't know if I'd put it in the elite group with Tetris and Tetris Attack but it's certainly in the top 10.

HIGHS:

Great one player mode but it's even better with a friend. It's one in a classic series of puzzle games.

LOWS:

If you're tired of puzzle games it's not for you. And there's not a huge amount of substance to the game other than completing the actual puzzles themselves.

FINAL VERDICT:

Super Bust-a-Move doesn't stray from the formula that made the initial games in the series popular. It's fun and colorful so the whole family can play and there aren't many games like that being made these days. Give it a shot, you'll like it. And you WILL fear the baby.


DUN DUN DUN

Overall Score: 7.5

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