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Bust-A-Move DS

There’s something strange lurking deep within the gaming industry. It does not conform to any other standards set by its contemporaries, nor does it share the same kind of fame as the countless RPGs, action, adventure, platformer, and fighting games that have flooded the market. There are hardly any characters involved, let alone a meaningful plot. There are no fancy cinematics to view or massive movesets to memorize. In fact, it possesses almost nothing that so many games constantly include. At first glance, it seems pathetic and almost insignificant when compared with the popularity and fame that so many others enjoy. There is one thing going for it, however: sheer, unbridled addictiveness, the kind of which can draw gamers into a state obsession and all but steal their very souls away. This mysterious threat is called the puzzle genre, and it has claimed countless hours of gamers’ lives around the world. With the release of Bust-A-Move DS, even more people will succumb to the almighty addictiveness of a tried and true franchise.

It takes me right back to my misspent youth.

Unlike so many other puzzle games out there, Bust-A-Move DS features some semblance (though extremely limited) of a background story. The game will allow you to choose among Bub, Bob, and a few other characters hailing from the classic Bubble Bobble series. Tragically, a sinister wizard has transformed some of the main characters in cute little dragons. Not only do they have to endure the humiliation of being transformed into seemingly helpless reptiles, but they’ll have to go on an epic quest to regain their humanity. Bub and the gang will have to traverse the varied landscape of the planet, sailing over oceans, climbing the highest mountains, wandering through massive flower fields, and plenty of other strange locales. Considering what’s at stake, these heroes don’t have the option of giving up. Thus the group’s epic journey begins, with nothing but hope driving them forth.

Endless Mode looks interesting.

Unfortunately, the gang will have to do more than walk around to regain their human bodies. Not only has the evil wizard messed with them, but he’s also placed hundreds of obstacles in their path. When the crew enters a level, they’ll be faced with a massive wall comprised entirely of bubbles. However, these things are a bit tougher than typical soapsuds. In order to pop these behemoths, Bub and his friends must stockpile their own arsenal of bubbles, load them onto a specially designed slingshot, and fire at will. Should three bubbles of the same color connect with each other, they’ll disappear and leave a big gap in the wall. The game makes excellent use of the DS’s Touch Screen, allowing you to aim the direction and angle of the shot. Sadly, you’ve only got a few seconds to decide where the bubble will be aimed; the slingshot will automatically empty after a brief countdown. Also, the huge mass of bubbles will descend every few seconds, forcing you to think fast lest the wall get too close to you and end the match. Should you manage to bust all of the bubbles in a timely and precise manner, you’ll have finished the puzzle. Don’t pat yourself on the back just yet, though; there are ten puzzles to each set, making for a total of five hundred challenges that need to be undertaken. Needless to say, you’ve got some work to do.

Yeah pick ‘Bub’, not to be confused with ‘Bub the Zombie’ in Day of the Dead.

But in case you don’t feel like taking on Bub and Bob’s quest for personal salvation, Bust-A-Move DS offers a few other features to keep you interested. There’s an Endless Mode that offers you an infinite number of puzzles and times your efforts accordingly. If you feel like taking on some actual competition, the VS CPU Mode pits you against up to four computer characters. While the AI in this game isn’t particularly difficult to dominate, the fast-paced gameplay and sheer amount of special items, power-ups, and potential bubble-popping combos make the battles interesting. If taking on substandard computer programs isn’t your thing, the game’s superb Multiplayer Mode. Using the DS’s Download of Wireless features, you’ll be able to have up to five players slugging it out for a glorious victory, complete with miniaturized screens and blazingly quick bubble blasting. Armed with nothing more than your stylus, you’ll be able to not only aim your shots, but pick up different powerups and summon a cascade of bubbles upon your most hated adversary. It’s a tough, brutal contest that leaves only the most skilled Move-Buster standing victorious over all.

Yes, it’s those balls again. You’ve got to pop them.

Sheer gameplay awesomeness aside, Bust-A-Move DS doesn’t look very impressive at first glance. The game is bright and cheerful, depicting sunny skies, huge rainbows, pastel color schemes, and anything else that will send many insecure male gamers running for the nearest gory FPS game. The characters remain true to their Bubble Bobble roots, complete with the typical adorable eyes, rosy cheeks, and cartoonish designs. The bubbles themselves come in all the colors of the rainbow, including a few tiny animations and symbols in case you somehow get your reds mixed with your oranges. Also, many of the areas have their own background designs, depicting the characters in outer space, swimming the oceans depths, riding hot air balloons, exploring the pyramids, and plenty of other strange locales. Also, the upbeat soundtrack will keep you focused and attentive throughout your struggle for Bust-A-Move supremacy. Of course, you’ll probably be too busy desperately searching for an appropriate colored bubble to notice the music, let alone the amount of hours you’ll spend completing every puzzle. Who would have thought that such a seemingly childish game could wield such an unprecedented amount of challenge and addictiveness?

Screenshots don’t really do this game justice, not really.

There’s no point in denying it; Bust-A-Move DS looks like some sort of kiddy incarnation of a puzzle game fit only for young children. But behind the cheery presentation and cartoonish graphics, there’s a quality puzzle game that is second to none in the DS’s game library. It has a total of five hundred story mode puzzles, an Endless Mode for people that enjoy a challenge on a masochistic scale, and Multiplayer Modes that can make the best of friends turn into the most bitter gaming rivals. It makes wonderful use of the DS’s Touch Screen capabilities, allowing for precise aiming and intense gameplay. On top of all that, this game is downright addictive; the vast multitude of puzzles will suck hours away from whatever used to be your free time. While Bust-A-Move DS will likely fall under the radar of most DS owners and into the dark shadow of Meteos’ popularity, this budget title should be in every puzzle enthusiast’s game collection.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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