So, Puzzle Bobble – if that’s your real name (you’ve been known to travel under the alias of Bust-a-Move) - you stand accused of starting a sub-genre, then abandoning it to be raised by the lesser lights of the games industry.
We’re calling you to account for failing to see through what you started. What have you got to say for yourself? "Not guilty," you say? "New Puzzle Bobble," you say?
Okay, we’ll take a look at this new evidence. But I warn you, if this is the same old thing with one or two gimmicks tacked on, this trial will not end well for you.
New and improved
"Take advantage of in-game gimmicks and burst all bubbles," says the pre-level advice. As self-incriminating evidence goes, this is not a good start.
Still, the game’s many embellishments manage to spruce up the familiar inverted match-three gameplay. You still have to match three or more like-coloured bubbles to make them disappear before you run out of time and space, but Taito has thrown in a bunch of new modes and features.
Starting a new game sets you off on a colourful world map, which steadily fills with new levels as you progress. Some are classic Puzzle Bobble fare, while others throw in a bubble-spewing Monsta or a neat Space Invaders tribute.
There are also boss levels, which require you to mix standard bubble-popping play with using your bubble launcher as an offensive weapon.
Make like Michael Jordan
This new sense of variety doesn’t end with the level design. For one thing, there’s a whole new addition to the control system that subtly alters the way you play.
By touching and holding on the screen, you can initiate a jump shot. This sends out a fast-moving target in a straight line from your bubble launcher. Releasing the screen launches a lofted bubble right onto the area covered by the target, bypassing any bubbles in the way and allowing for game-ending strikes if you’re quick (or lucky) enough.
It’s a welcome new feature, but it’s not always terribly accurate, and the number of times your bubble fails to land where you want it to prevents you from attempting truly precise shots. It's the same peculiar problem of old Puzzle Bobble: alternating overly precise and overly vague controls.
Still, New Puzzle Bobble makes a noted attempt to spruce up its well-worn core gameplay and the added freshness brought to the franchise as a result has prompted a stay of execution. Court dismissed.