Middle Aged Gamer's Collection #9

davyK's picture

#9-#15 Bust-a-Move games
Bust-a-Move 2 : Arcade Edition (N64)
Bust-a-Move 3DX (N64)
Bust-a-Move 4 (Dreamcast)
Super Bust-a-Move 2 (PS2)
Super Bust-a-Move All Stars (Gamecube)
Bust-a-Move (Wii)
Bust-a-Move Plus (WiiWare)

I’m big into puzzle games. Like millions of others I was bitten by the Tetris bug around 1990 when the genre was born and I have always picked puzzle games up ever since. I find it hard not to enjoy these – even those games that have garnered criticism such as Tetrisphere.

If I find a particular game enjoyable I will keep on buying different versions across platforms and will follow a series. The Puzzle Bobble or Bust-a-move series is a case in point – it being one of the most addictive. It has that great balance of luck and skill that makes the puzzle video game so great. I'm not going to insult readers with the description of the basic play features but I will cover how these versions differ.

The first game I played in this series was the Nintendo 64 version of Bust-a-Move 2 : Arcade Edition so I came a tiny bit late to this party. I played it for hundreds of hours back in the day - though I have to say that I’m more into the single player puzzle mode than the popular 2 player battle mode. This particular version of the game has a very good additional 2 player time trial mode that is very addictive and a nice alternative to the traditional battle mode – it is one of the few video games that my wife plays - in fact it was a bit of an obsession at our house for quite a while. In this mode, two players are presented with the same bubble layout in a split screen set up and its a straight race to clear the screen - there's no garbage sent between players as in the battle mode. Best times are kept and there are well over 100 levels in this mode. Its fun when you know certain levels that can be cleared straight off in less than a second and when these pop up its great waiting for the GO signal.

I have the 3rd iteration for the N64 as well and it features a 4 player mode with straight race and battle options - however the graphics are tiny and you would need a really big screen to play this - which would have been a rare and expensive thing back when this was published. Version 3 also introduces a single player trial mode that ranks you for skill, speed, accuracy etc. after playing a set of special rounds. There's also an edit mode which allows you to create your own levels. This version also changes the gameplay slightly in that bubbles hitting the top of the screen will bounce back and off the screen instead of sticking there which makes things easier as you can just keep bouncing bubbles off the top of the screen until you get the colour you want when you get close to clearing a level. I would have thought that there should be some sort of penalty for doing that such as forcing the bubbles down toward the goal line for example.

Bust-a-move 4 introduces two much maligned features - the pulley levels and chain reactions. The pulley levels have 2 bunches of bubbles suspended from either side of a pulley - when one side outweighs the other it will drop lower down the screen. Some saw this as polluting the purity of the game but its alright as a variation. Chain reactions will happen when after successfully disposing of bubbles, they will automatically fly back up into the level if they can form a group of 3 which will dispose of more bubbles. In my opinion this decreases the skill factor in this game. The Dreamcast port of this runs on Windows CE which means there are plenty of loading screens - although they are short - but believe it or not - the chain reaction feature can actually make the Dreamcast stutter a bit when things get busy - something that would not have been a problem had it not been a lazy Windows CE port... Thankfully these features can be deselected in the options so purists can stay happy.

Super Bust-a-Move 2 for PS2 and All Stars (aka Bust-a-Move 3000) for the Gamecube are pretty similar. The art style has changed with a move to a type of cell shaded look which I'm not sure I'm a fan of. Gameplay-wise its more of the same which is no bad thing but there does seem to be a bit less overall content than earlier games. The Gamecube port does not support 60Hz in PAL which is a bit lazy but the borders are very small and this type of game doesn't really benefit from a higher frame rate - still worth noting though.

The Wii has two versions of this game - the WiiWare version is pretty bare bones. I have no idea why it is called Bust-a-Move Plus - its more Bust-a-Move Minus. There's a 2 player or vs CPU battle mode which is pretty tough and there's also the traditional puzzle/story mode. There is some downloadable content if you shell out more Wii points but it's a bit of a swizz as this content is just the levels from bust-a-move 2 and 3 which may be OK for younger gamers but not for the likes of me. Its cheap enough though - only a couple of hundred points or so - and the game plays just as well as it ever did.

The disc borne version of Bust-a-Move for Wii boasts 8 player simultaneous play - gone is the split screen battle mode and instead there is a mayhem inducing setup with up to 8 bubble launchers working on full screen layouts. Even with the 3 or 4 players its all a bit too manic for me - initially its fun but it feels like all of the skill has been watered down due to the general chaos that ensues.

The single player puzzle mode remains though and the control scheme uses the remote's tilt technology which actually makes it feel more like a game of skill as its very accurate but I'm not sure it makes for extended play. You can use the classic controller though.

This version feels a bit rushed - the artwork is OK but the music is pretty repetitive (even for this series!) and the menus are pretty basic and the overall presentation was probably sacrificed in order to get it published on time as this was released pretty early in the Wii's life. Overall though this version is pretty good and it also introduces a new shooting style of game which I'm just too old to keep up with but it adds a bit of variety. Wii owners looking for a traditional Bust-a-Move game should go the WiiWare route or get the Gamecube title.

This series hasn't really progressed too much over the years but that's probably for the better to be honest. I've shelled out quite a bit on this series over the years but its a family favourite and is easy to pick up and play. I haven't experienced a truly bad version apart from Bust-a-Move 4 for the PS1 which was crippled with load times and was returned to the shop - avoid that one. Taito have got away with releasing this game over and over again more or less unchanged due to the simple enjoyable gameplay and as long as hardware manufacturers keep creating new platforms then Taito will keep making money porting this game to them.


Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
Just as bad

I am just as bad as you are when it comes to versions of puzzle bobble aka bust a move. I have that in many iterations ranging from handhelds to consoles and even a windows 95 version.

Love the game. That and bejeweled.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
Me, too. Though I usually

Me, too. Though I usually prefer the puzzles games spun around a small story, such as the Dream Chronicles games. I also greatly enjoyed Safecracker.

I've played Bust-a-Move some, mostly because of the connection to one of my favorite games, Bubble Bobble. It never really hooked me, though I don't mind firing it up occasionally for the two-player mode.

Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Joined: 09/04/2006
I enjoy Puzzle Bobble!

I think these games are quite addictive, and I've always enjoyed them. I'm not GREAT at them, but it's a very fun action/puzzle game!

What I don't really like about the Puzzle Bobble series is the slowness of the gameplay/controls. After getting spoiled by the quick, mouse-driven response of the shareware variant called "Snood," the original joystick-controlled arcade version seems quite sluggish in comparison, even though it is a much more polished game audio-visually.

Joined: 07/21/2006
Puyo Puyo

If you enjoy these, look for any game in the Puyo-Puyo series. Puyo Pop Fever is a pretty good version.

Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is the same as the original Puyo Puyo, with different characters.

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