Puzzle Bobble Universe
| Puzzle Bobble Universe

The Puzzle Bobble bubble is one that has well and truly burst. For over 15 years, we've been playing the same concept over and over again, with the bare minimum in innovative gameplay alterations.

Puzzle Bobble Universe (also known as Bust-A-Move Universe) on the Nintendo 3DS attempts to spice up the tired formula by injecting stereoscopic 3D visuals. While these fail to excite, it's undeniable that Puzzle Bobble is still an enjoyable experience.

However, this is a very barebones release, with only a couple of game modes and some rather mediocre special abilities. Compared to pass Puzzle Bobble releases, Universe feels rather rushed.

Pop 'n' drop

The premise remains the same as it always has been, as you fire bubbles up the screen to pop clusters above.

If a bubble sticks to a cluster of similar-coloured bubbles, with three or more touching, then they'll explode, causing any other attached bubbles to fall away. Your task on each stage is to clear the screen of all bubbles.

You aim via the Circle Pad or D-pad, with slight adjustments made with the shoulder buttons. It's simple to use, and slotting the bubbles exactly where you want them is a breeze.

Of course, as the bubbles pile up the action becomes more frantic - if they reach the bottom, it's Game Vver. The balance between carefully placing your pieces and rapidly trying to cut the mass down to size makes for some fairly entertaining play.

Busting makes me feel good

Puzzle Bobble Universe comes with two modes - Puzzle and Challenge. Puzzle is your standard story mode, with 88 levels to pop your way through, boss battles to overcome, and creatures to save.

It gradually builds up the difficulty, so that eventually the going is really tough. Along the way you'll also need to grab keys to unlock cages and save your friends.

Challenge mode is less meaty. You can play either a 100-second game, a 300-second game, or non-stop. Essentially, it's a timed version of the Puzzle mode.

Interesting special powers are thrown in to mix the action up a little, but the appeal of Challenge doesn't last much beyond half an hour.

Pop goes the weasel

Unfortunately, this is all Puzzle Bobble Universe has to offer. You'll easily blast through everything in a couple of hours, with barely any replay value to keep you coming back.

We've seen plenty of other exciting modes in past Puzzle Bobble games, and we're left wondering why these weren't incorporated into this latest release.

We would have assumed that multiplayer came as standard. Versus Puzzle Bobble is always a blast, and so to leave it out completely is pretty poor show.

The stereoscopic 3D isn't all that interesting, either, as you may expect. Bubbles and environments are given an added depth, but there's not really much that can be done with that new perspective.

Puzzle Bobble Universe is fun for a couple of hours, but it's ultimately a wasted opportunity.

Puzzle Bobble Universe

Puzzle Bobble Universe offers familiar bubble popping gameplay, but with a distinct lack of game modes