Bust-A-Move: Bust this Review with Bobak!
Back in 1986, Taito brought out Bubble Bobble - a cute, addicting platform game starring cuddly dinosaurs Bub and Bob. The premise was simple: blow bubbles to trap your opponents and then pop them while jumping around the single-frame levels to avoid being hit. Released for arcades, SMS, and storming the NES - Bubble Bobble became Taito's biggest hit. After a few platform sequels, Taito decided to take on the puzzle-game genre with a spin off to Bubble Bobble, Puzzle Bobble (which became Bust-a-Move in English mode). Taito, an SNK 3rd party, decided to develop the game for the Neo Geo MVS (probably to increase its reach with already established units). The rest is history.
Arguably the best known non-fighter on the Neo Geo, Bust-a-Move and its progeny became an independently successful franchise for Bub, Bob & Taito. The premise echoed the earlier series by having Bub & Bob clear screens of different colored bubbles (with bad guys inside) by catapulting their own bubbles at them. If you match three touching bubbles, they burst. Like the best puzzle games it is very easy to learn and nearly impossible to master. Too bad only one of its many, many sequels returned to the Neo Geo (Bust-a-Move Again EX/Puzzle Bobble 2). Now, without further or due, let me begin the review of its more traditional review catagories:
Nothing too spectacular. Lots of bright colors, cute characters (you have to love the animated dinosaurs), and clearly defined targets. Some of the later backgrounds get interesting, but the gameplay gets intense enough by that time that you're not likely to pay them much attention.
There are very few songs, but they fit the game perfectly. You can listen to the cutesy tunes for hours without getting sick of them. However they will get stuck in your head. The SFX are equally efficient. There are two digital voices: When you begin a round, what sounds like a crowd yells "Ready... GO!" and a sort of unintelligible exclamation when you loose (some people claim their saying "Taito," so far its the best guess). Even though you can't really understand what one of them says, the both really get you motivated. Whoever did the sound editing on this game really deserves commendation because he/she really did their part (and probably helped keep the game to only 32 megs).
The control is, in a word, perfect. You can't have a good puzzle game (let alone form a legacy like Bust-a-Move's) without first nailing the control set-up. As I mentioned above, the layout is simple. Moving the joystick left or right adjusts the catapult aim, and the A button fires. That's it. The rest of the skill and talent comes from your brain. The game only offers 30 one-player puzzles (some of its sequels offer hundreds), so its real replay value is in the best 2/3 round Two-Player mode -which is a blast.
The game is a landmark video game and famous among video gamers everywhere, what more can I say? Then again, like many great series pioneers, this original Bust-A-Move has been improved with in its sequels. The one player mode is a little short, but the two player version still holds strong. Bust-A-Move also holds the distinction of being a game that just about anyone (male/female, gamer/non-gamer, thinker/non-thinker) can get into. Unfortunately, despite its tremendous success (you can still find it in arcades), Taito and SNK never released the game on home cart. Instead its home release was CD only (partly to encourage people to buy the new Neo CD with CD-exclusive software, being a small-meg title there are virtually no load-times). Still, the game can be found on both MVS and CD with some dedication and perseverance -but don't worry, its worth it!
Gameplay: 75% (one player), 90% (two player)
Wanna know more about the worlds of Bubble Bobble/Bust-a-Move? Check out:
Bobak!: created a real-life version of Bust-A-Move, but the LAPD, California Highway Patrol, and Federal Aviation Administration have forbid him from playing it again...