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CONSOLE: Neo-Geo Pocket Color DEVELOPER: Ukiyotei PUBLISHER: SNK
RELEASE DATE (NA): April 30, 1999 GENRE: Puzzle
// review by SoyBomb

Busting an extremely small move.

There are a ton of Bust-A-Move games. I'm guessing there are at least 20 of them, and they all pretty much draw from the same gameplay, albeit on different systems. As of this writing, I haven't reviewed ANY of them yet, so let me take this opportunity to "break it down" for you. Bust-A-Move (also known in Japan as Puzzle Bobble) is a puzzle game where a series of levels are presented to you involving a large cluster of coloured bubbles in a specific pattern or design. You, as the green dinosaur Bub from Bubble Bobble, have the duty of shooting coloured balls up into the playing field to connect with matching ones. If you match three or more of the same bubble together, they will pop and disappear. If there were any bubbles hanging from the disappearing bunch, they will fall off the screen as well. Your goal is to pop all the bubbles to progress to the next stage. After a certain number of shots, the ceiling will drop a level, so you need to aim as accurately as you can, or else bubbles will start piling up! Naturally, points are awarded for doing well. Typically, games will also feature a two-player mode where you can go head-to-head with another player or against the computer.

That's how every Bust-A-Move game seems to be. I'm sure that, with regard to the more recent iterations, they have added new and extra features. So, does Bust-A-Move Pocket rise above the rest in any way? In short, no. It's basically a shrunken down version of your standard Puzzle Bobble experience, which means you'll be squinting more than you should, as the Neo-Geo Pocket Color's screen isn't exactly enormous. There's nothing new that Bust-A-Move Pocket offers. For that bubbler on the go, however, this game can give you some level of portable satisfaction.


We're poppin' bubbles like we OWN the place!

Bust-A-Move Pocket offers three different modes of play... for your pocket! There is Puzzle Mode, where clearing the playing field of all the bubbles allows you to move ahead to the next stage (and there are 99 puzzles in all). There is VS-CPU Mode, where you take on eight different computer-controlled characters from the Bubble Bobble universe in a heated battle to see who can outlast whom (or what, rather)! Sadly, even though the Neo-Geo Pocket Color supported a linking cable for multiplayer capabilities, Bust-A-Move Pocket does not use this feature, so you can't play with a friend. That's quite an oversight if you ask me. And I'm assuming that's what you just did. Last is Survivor Mode, which is basically an endless game of Bust-A-Move until you fill the field past the bottom boundary line, at which point your game is over.

The graphics work. That's the best way to describe them: they are functional. The most detail you'll find is in the little dancing characters at the bottom of the screen, but otherwise, the scenery is pretty bland. At least the bubbles are colourful. Music is extremely limited as well: I only encountered three distinct songs during my entire session of play. The Puzzle and Survivor modes use the song that most classic Bust-A-Move games use, while the VS-CPU Mode employs a different tune. And, of course, there's the title theme. I suppose if you're focusing more on popping bubbles, you'll forget there's even music playing. Or you may want to jam to your favourite Def Leppard album instead.

The bottom line is that if you like Bust-A-Move (and you actually own a Neo-Geo Pocket Color), it's a decent investment, provided you don't mind the obvious downgrade in visuals, audio, and to an extent, gameplay, given the smaller screen. It's not terribly inaccurate, however; I found that it played true to its more grandiose big-screen counterparts, so it's at least faithful. There are indeed more attractive portable Bust-A-Move options at your fingertips, but if the Neo-Geo Pocket Color is your only option, then go ahead and bust that move.


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