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Bust-A-Move 2 Review

Publisher - Acclaim
Developer - Taito
Platform - N64
Type - Puzzle
Score - 6/10

If you've been around for any of the last 15 years you are bound to have bumped into Bub or Bob at some stage or other in one of their many adventures. They featured in many platformers, either in dragon or human form. There are few consoles that haven't been graced with Bub and bob's presence and now they have arrived for their N64 debut. Don't expect anything original though, renditions of Bust-a-Move has had recent appearances on Playstation, Saturn and PC.

Graphics: Prepare to be disappointed, if you are unfamiliar with the Bust-a-Move series. The graphics are identical to it's playstation counterpart. That is, the in-game graphics consist of 2D sprites, with well drawn photographic backgrounds including a Palm Beach, the China wall etc. However, just because the graphics are 2D does not mean the graphics are inadequate. Granted, they hardly utilize the full power of the N64, but they're clean and colorful despite the lack of texture mapped, gouraud shaded polygons. The beginning of the game features a 3D intro, featuring a rendered Bub walking along with intermittent demos of the game. And that's it! There's no purpose, and it's completely irrelevant. It looks to me as if it was created, purely for PR and so that they could show it on the back of the box. Other than that, there is some nice text effects, 2D sequences and boss characters. It would have been nice if they rendered the whole lot in 3D while retaining a 2D look, ala Mortal Kombat 4.

Music/Sound: There are a handful of appropriate tunes that play during your bubble-shooting exploits. They sound suitable for this kind of game, though a few more frantic tunes would have been appreciated. Nothing can beat the old Bomberman multiplayer tune that played on the original SNES bomberman. Bust-a-Moves music is adequate. The voices are very japanese in style and haven't been changed for the English release. From the Taito Fanfare at the beginning of the game, to the odd exclamation you hear once you've completed the levels, they don't do anything for me. Though after a while a level doesn't feel complete until you hear the child's voice go "Hoiya!" The range of sound effects is limited to the sound of your bubble launcher clicking and the sound of the bubbles bursting with the addition of a few rings and bongs.

Game play: First the story. The story is shown in the form of a 2D sequence. There's no text, so here's my interpretation. Bub is walking along on day, when Beluga (a pink, puffy, unfriendly ghost, who features in the original Bubble Bobble) appears and takes all the stars in the sky. Bub must get the stars back by bursting bubbles (Of course! Why didn't we think of that sooner) and defeating the bosses. The gameplay follows the Puzzlers for Dummies Golden Rule. It must be: Easy to learn, perplexing to master. And that is exactly what Bust-a-Move 2 is. The basic 1-player game involves you, Bub the dragon, taking on a CPU opponent (ranging from a clockwork Cat, to a Chun-Li look-a-like). You meet in a split-screen environment. Each of you start with a cluster of bubbles on the ceiling of the rooms. You have a bubble launch that launches bubbles up onto the ceiling. You must launch bubbles so at least 3 bubbles of the same color are touching. The bubbles then disappear aswell as any bubbles that were depnding on them for support. If you match more than 3 bubbles any additional bubbles get passed on to your opponents screen which means he'll have to get rid of them. Every so often the screen will shake and an additional layer of bubbles will appear on the ceiling. The first person who lets the bubbles get down to them, loses. It's slightly similar to Tetris on the gameboy, yet it seems infinitly more fun. Even more fun, however, is when you play against a friend. It feels great when you match 8 bubbles together, throwing 5 additional bubbles onto his side of the screen, just as he was about to match a bunch of bubbles. It can get very frantic. You'll be amazed at how many time's you'll keeping asking for a re-match. It would have tripled the fun, if the had included a 4 player mode. Let's hope Bust-a-Move 3 (which has been conformed for the N64) will have a 4 player mode. the screen could have been vertically split and it would be perfectly playable on a 21" screen or higher. Variations on the game include Puzzle mode, which involves you playing on a single screen, trying to remove every bubble. Instead of an extra line of bubbles, every so often, a hydraulic lift pushes the ceiling closer to you. You lose if the bubbles touch you. There is also a self explanatory Time Attack. It's not as simple as just shotting bubbles and hoping they match. Alot of the time, you'll have to bounce the bubbles off the walls, to get to it's destination aswell as planning head. In the first level and any level you die in, you get a guide on your bubble launch. This is a dotted line that shows you exactly where your bubble will hit. It's helpful when it comes to teaching you how to bounce the bubbles off of walls accurately. The Gameplay has been finely tuned since the original incarnation of the game. In one version of Bust-a-Move, I used to pause the game to plan out my next move. I tried that in the N64 version, but when you press pause, all the bubbles disappear from the screen and you can only see the background. Sneaky! Also, the computer AI has been tuned to be fair. Sometimes he loses all by himself without you sending any bubbles to his side.

Overall: This is the most prominent example of gameplay triumphing over Graphics and sound. Even on a 64-bit system, Bust-a-Move can still cut it. It's likely that you'll be able to pick this one up cheaply, because of it's small Cart size. I would recommend this game to anyone who can look past the slightly retro graphics and is looking for some frantic multiplayer fun, other than GoldenEye. Undoubtedly, there are those who dislike puzzlers, but even those people should check this title out because I was never a fan of Tetris!