Considering everyone seems to hate maths, it's strange it's the basis of so many successful puzzle games. Current fad Sudoku is about number-crunching, and even Tetris revolves around logic and geometry.
The tasks in Bust-A-Move DS are a little simpler. All you need to be able to do is recognise colours and count to three. Granted you have to be able to do both at the same time, but even that should be within the scope of the average tweenager.
Of course, if Bust-A-Move DS was really that easy, no one would be interested. Originally designed as an arcade game - and so designed to mix instant appeal with a fiendish ability to siphon off every last coin of your pocket money - plenty of strategy is needed before you become a real expert.
Starting out, it seems simple enough. On your top screen are a load of randomly distributed coloured bubbles. On the bottom, there's a catapult, into which a single coloured bubble appears. Using your stylus to pull back and aim, the goal is to fire the bubble up to create a chain of three or more bubbles of the same colour. If successful, they'll pop, dropping any other bubbles hanging off them. These will then be automatically fired back up to pop their fellows.
If not, the bubble you fired will just stick wherever it hits and another coloured bubble will appear in your catapult. The rub, however, is that the top bubbles are also slowly moving down the screen. When they reach the bottom, it's game over.
And so the basic dilemma of Bust-A-Move is laid out. The quickest way to clear a screen is to create risky structures with lots of hanging bubbles that you can then calmly dispatch by creating a well-timed chain higher up. But often you don't get the colour bubble you want in your catapult, resulting in frantic firefighting as you try to halt the inexorable downward movement.
Making things easier are the occasional power-ups. The most obvious remove all bubbles of the same colour on-screen or change the colour of the bubbles they hit. More crude is the metal bubble, which destroys everything in its path.
Perhaps the best outcome of all this variety is that the game's never over until you see the words 'Game Over'. You might think the situation is hopeless, then suddenly the perfect bubble will provide the opportunity to create a huge combo that clears the entire screen. If nothing else Bust-A-Move DS demonstrates the fine line between success and failure.
The DS version isn't without its problems, though. The most serious is the colour scheme of the bubbles - especially orange and red - which, because of the technical specifications of the DS' two screens change tone as they move from the bottom screen to the top one. After a couple of hours play you do get used to it, but initially it's extremely frustrating when you perfectly place what you think is a red bubble into a red chain, only to see an orange bubble appear. There's a similar issue with the black and grey bubbles, and the result is sufficiently annoying for us to have to dock the game's overall score by at least one mark.
The other issue is the lack of extras. To some degree, when you have a game as good as Bust-A-Move, you don't want to spoilt it with silly gimmicks. But with the DS version only featuring a challenge mode, a puzzle mode and multiplayer for up to five DSs from the same game cartridge, it would have been a more compelling proposition released at a budget price.
You see? As we said at the start, it all boils down to mathematics...Bust-A-Move DS is out now – click here to buy.