IGN Review of Bust-a-Move Deluxe
Time marches on. Mountains rise and fall, the sea ebbs and flows, and the inevitable force of change is ever altering the universe. Yet, there is one constant on which we can all rely: that there will be a Bust-A-Move game released on every system ever released. Ever. Sometimes a new addition in the puzzle franchise is a welcome surprise (Bust-A-Move DS) and sometimes it is an aberration (Bust-A-Move Bash!). And so it is with great satisfaction that we report to you that Bust-A-Move Deluxe falls into the previous category.
The time-tested Bust-A-Move (BaM) formula stands among other long-running puzzle franchises such as Tetris. Players must clear multi-colored bubbles from the playing field by launching orbs from the bottom of the screen and matching at least three like colors. As play progresses, the mass of bubbles will slowly be forced down towards the "deadline," and if they cross the line it's game over. BaM Deluxe wisely allows fans to enjoy this proven formula and includes 300 new puzzles in a Classic Mode that doesn't mess with what makes BaM great. There are several new modes included, however, which provide a unique twist on this scheme.
In Ghost Mode, bubbles must bounce off a wall before it will stick to another orb. Until it hits a wall, a bubble will pass through any objects it encounters on its trajectory. This mode forces players to think a step ahead and plan their shots more than they might be used to. There is also a "heart meter" that increases your virtual heart rate each time you fail to clear a set of bubbles. With every shot that doesn't help clear the screen, the heart meter will increase by one notch. If it reaches five, your game ends. Each time you do clear a few bubbles, the meter will decrease by one. Drop enough of 'em and a ghost will appear on your opponent's screen and mask the colors of their bubbles for a short time. Both the heart meter and the ghost bubbles add additional layers of strategy to the BaM formula.
There are also eight Challenge Puzzle modes, with six rounds each, that all change the BaM gameplay in one new way. See Saw sends the screen tilting towards whichever side is more bubble-heavy. Players must keep the playing field balanced, lest the screen topple over and end the game. Blind Puzzle hides the colors of your orbs until you launch a bubble to their vicinity. In Count Puzzle, players (either human or computer) alternate turns on the same playing field and earn points for each bubble dropped. The player with the most points when all bubbles are cleared wins.
There are other modes that take even more liberties with BaM's gameplay with mostly successful results. The Running Launcher puzzles put the player's bubble shooter on a horizontal conveyor belt. Poppers will have to deal with a constantly moving launcher as they try to make their shots. In Mix 'Em Up mode, the bubbles are continuously changing colors, so you'll have to work even faster to make matches. The Shot puzzles can be cleared with just one shot. The new mode that may have you pulling your hair out is Time Warp. Here, the speed of your launcher and bubbles is constantly changing and you'll have to adapt on the fly.
While there is fun to be had in all of these modes, the aiming reticule seems to have been slowed down compared to previous Bust-A-Moves. At times it can feel excruciating moving the launcher from one extreme to the other. It's not a deal-breaker, but the primary control function of a game should feel buttery smooth.
Longtime busters will recognize their favorite characters: dinosaur siblings Bub and Bob (thankfully Majesco dropped the idea that Bub and Bob are human kids from the UK, as seen in the terrible Bubble Bobble Evolution), Monsta, and Dorank are all here. There are a few new faces, too: Banebow, a spring with boxing gloves; Goon, kind of a hairier Grimace; Chick'n, a cartoonish version of the popular barnyard fowl, minus the beak; and Propella, a pink marshmallow with a fan sprouting from its head. You can pick any of these characters and take them into any of the game's previously mentioned modes to level them up. Don't expect much out of this character building, though -- the game doesn't give you any stats for the characters and after increasing several levels we couldn't discern any improvement in anyone's abilities.
Bust-A-Move Deluxe features bright, colorful graphics that look great on the PSP's widescreen. Instead of taking up the entire screen, the action happens in the middle 50 percent while a border rests on either side. The developer made a strange choice with what border to go with, though: a graveyard. It would make sense if there were different themes as you progressed through the puzzles, but this is the only border in the game.
Notably missing is the classic Bust-A-Move music. The arcade original still gets a lot of play here in the IGN offices, and all employees have this theme burned into their minds, whether they appreciate it or not. The music in Bust-A-Move Deluxe is inoffensive, if forgettable.
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