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Bliss Island

In the wonderful world of Bliss Island, the aptly named ‘Zwoophs’ are taking a break from their heavy schedule of creating clouds to play some merry games. These cutesy creatures’ cloud making ability stems from their aptitude to use precision puffs of air, and it’s in this premise – if you could call it that – which sets the stage for a generous set of minigames, all refreshingly different from the last.

The first thing that stands out from Bliss Island is the vibrant visuals. Developers PomPom have done as good a job with the styling as they did with their great Mutant Storm series. Save an uninteresting title screen, the graphics are delightful; utterly drenched in colour and charm. Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn’t hold up as well, and the sound, while competent, is largely forgettable.

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There are seven minigames to indulge in, and each has three difficulty levels. Thankfully, each change in difficulty feels quite different, so while initially it may seem like there isn’t much to engage in, the game’s actually deeper than it looks.

The minigames all revolve around the act of puffing air, but they manage to be different enough to satisfy; there’s a lot of variation. One game has you flying through an obstacle course of numerous spikes and enemies (ironically the least bliss-like game of the seven), another has you racing around a top-down course with a bunch of bees. Arguably the best game is a take on pool with a twist, which has you hitting furry balls around a table in an attempt to clear everything by getting two matches so that they disappear. The games are all enjoyable in their own right, but unfortunately their shallowness shines through, and each game’s pacing is too long, so you’ll often be sick of what you’re doing after a while. This is extremely apparent in such games as ‘Fruit Smoothie’, where you have to direct balls into a monsters mouth. As the game expects you to do it for fifty balls, it feels more like a chore than a game.

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Luckily, there are trophies to be won, achievements to unlock, and leaderboards to shoot up, and this makes everything more meaningful. Motivation in this game, then, strangely makes up for pacing, and you’ll find the challenge of the later difficulties to be quite engaging, and especially rewarding. The final difficulty is extremely challenging however – maybe too much so – and as a result is awfully frustrating, and in this case a toning down would have been a huge improvement.

If you’re not up for going through the games in a progressive loop – a la adventure mode – then you can participate in the game’s challenge mode, which lets you play a game individually and at any difficulty you desire. This not only gives you more freedom of choice, but lets you focus on the scores and games that matter to you.

Multiplayer is underwhelming, and feels unnecessary, with three games that become stale after the first go. The most enjoyable of the three is football inspired, but even this won’t keep your attention for long. Players will be extremely hard to find, too, given how online kings like Call of Duty 4, and Halo 3 are just so much more fun.

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Apart from some cute tunes, sound in Bliss Island is cookie-cutter, and you’ll be better off listening to your own music. It’s not bad by any means, just average. The graphics are Bliss Island‘s redeeming feature, however, with blissfully bright colours and cartoony characters aplenty. If only the quality of the graphics carried to the main game.

Bliss Island is a good game holding some equally good minigames, however as a package it doesn’t fare as well as it should. It’s at times a blissful experience, and at times a total joy, but at others it’s frustrating, and shallow. With its pricing on Live Arcade at just 400 points however, it’s worthy of you money, and serves as a cute diversion for when those games of Halo beat you to a pulp.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @_Frey.

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