series has been around for almost as long as I've been playing video games. Originally starring Bubble and Bobble of, you guessed it, Bubble Bobble
offered simple, yet addictive play. Years later, the basic concept of the series hasn't changed, but Bubble and Bobble have been replaced with more colorful characters. And when I say colorful, I mean obnoxiously colorful. Though Ultra Bust-A-Move
will satisfy your puzzle game urges, your eyes will never be the same.
Bust-A-Move is a simple game to learn. There are colored gems hanging from the ceiling above you. Your task is to aim your cannon and fire another gem, which attaches where it hits (though it will bounce off walls). Connect three or more like colors to bust the chain and drop those gems. Because you have, at least to start, a lot of distance between your cannon and the ceiling, you'll need a keen eye to line up your shots and some clever pool hall techniques to ricochet off walls and get a good stick.
Puzzle sizes vary, with some puzzles being narrow (easier) and some as wide as the screen. Though this variation can sometimes cause a challenge, the real test is solving the different gem layouts. While most modes randomly generate the next color fed to your cannon, the color pattern of the gems in a puzzle is specific to that puzzle. This means you will have slightly different challenges for each game played, since getting one color right off the bat in your cannon might make things easier, while getting another color could make things impossible.
Along with the Classic Mode, which throws you into progressively more difficult puzzles, there are several others modes to occupy your time. If you're playing alone, there are three additional modes at your disposal: Seesaw, Shot, and Blind Game.
A Seesaw game is all about balance. Put too many gems on one side of the board and it will begin to tip and eventually tilt, ending the game. This is a really tough mode, but a nice change of pace. A Shot Game has you facing a series of puzzles with just a single shot to clear the board. These start out easy, but get a lot tougher the deeper you go. Lastly there's the insane Blind Game, where the color of the gems on the board are a mystery until a launched gem touches them. This can make for some really hectic puzzles and is my favorite of the three bonus modes.
Online is handled in as basic a manner as possible. You can select what level of player you want to face and that's about it. There are no leaders boards and no modes beyond the standard one-on-one versus mode. Everything runs smooth online, but how could it not? It's nice to have Xbox Live functionality, but it wouldn't hurt to try and do something beyond the bare minimum.
While I love the Bust-A-Move series and overall enjoy the new Ultra version, it's difficult to play for long stretches of time thanks to the over-the-top visuals. Featuring some strange and senseless characters offering minimal animations, Ultra Bust-A-Move forces you to stare at mismatched pastel colors and random shapes and images for hours on end. It may well be some sort of hypnotic device to implant subconscious messages into your brain, there's really no other explanation for it. I love the crazy, off-the-wall visuals of a game like Samba De Amigo, but Ultra Bust-A-Move hits the other end of the spectrum, with boring backgrounds that use loud colors in an attempt to be interesting.
Add to this the vaudeville piano playing constantly in the background and it's enough to throw the game away. I actually like a little saloon piano now and then, but this is just too much. How hard is it to put in a custom soundtrack option?
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