Currently scheduled for release early next year, Bust-A-Move DS is a new take on a classic franchise. For years, the Bust-A-Move games have offered bubble-popping puzzle action hosted by Taito's lovable dinosaurs, Bub, Bob, and Devillun, and an array of slightly less familiar characters. We got the opportunity to see Bust-A-Move DS firsthand and try our hand at incorporating touch screen functionality into the mix.
For the uninitiated, Bust-A-Move is a puzzle game that tasks you, as many other puzzle games do, to dispose of onscreen clutter (in this case, bubbles) as it makes it way slowly to the bottom of the screen. Should any of the bubbles dip below the line near the bottom, it's game over. The way to prevent this from happening is to line up and connect three same-colored bubbles, which will cause them to pop and disappear. Thanks to the game's mechanics (and gravity), if any other bubbles had been suspended by the now-defunct three-bubble set, they will drop off the screen as well. Ammunition is loaded into a cannon of sorts at the bottom of the screen (by your otherwise fairly useless avatar), and you have an approximately 90-degree range of angles in which to shoot the bubble up the screen. You can bounce the bubbles off the side walls to reach more places on the board, but if your projectile comes in contact with anything on the playing field, it sticks to it. There are three traditional modes of Bust-A-Move. In story mode, you must clear a number of static levels as quickly as possible without dying. Endless mode means that the bubbles keep coming down from the top of the screen, and your job is to stay alive on that one level for as long as possible. Versus mode tasks you to clear your screen faster than CPU or human opponents, and ideally, create enough combos to send clutter over to their screens.
All three of these modes are in the DS version, and the rules are exactly the same. In fact, there's only one notable difference to the DS version that makes it stick out from other Bust-A-Move games. Instead of using the directional pad to point the cannon and a button to launch the bubbles, you'll do everything with the touch screen. The top screen displays the bubble layout, and the bottom screen consists of your avatar and cannon setup. Using the stylus, you'll draw back on the bubble, catapult style, directly the opposite of the direction you want to go. So if you want to aim it to the left, you'll pull it down and to the right so that when you let go, it will fly up to the left. It takes a little getting used to, especially since you have to keep an eye on your stylus to ensure that you're creating the proper angle, but it does revamp old game mechanics in a new and interesting manner. It also means that you're going to be significantly less precise than you can be with the tried and true directional arrows. And if you try playing without the guideline, well, just forget about it. Of course, once you get accustomed to the feel of the catapult, you'll be much more adept with it; during our short time with the game, we found it got much easier with practice. We missed the ability to fine-tune our shots perfectly, but enjoyed the challenge that the new mechanic presented.
We played through most of the modes and found them to all be fairly similar to pervious incarnations. What we didn't get the opportunity to check out was the five-player Wi-Fi mode--but we did go up against four CPU players, and found that having four competitors at one time can definitely be a bit of a challenge. Though Bust-A-Move DS looks quite a bit like other games in the franchise, it sets itself apart with the unique touch screen mechanic. We'll bring you more information on Bust-A-Move as it is made available to us.