The upcoming Pop for the Nintendo Wii is perhaps the perfect example of what WiiWare is all about. Developed by the folks at Nnooo Software and soon to be released on the Wii, this modest little game is about popping bubbles. That's pretty much it; but thanks to a number of different modes, the developer is creating a game that looks to appeal to as wide an age range as possible.
In Pop, a cascading stream of bubbles fall downward from the top of the screen (and sometimes upward from the bottom). Your goal is to use your Wii Remote to point at and pop these bubbles by pressing the A button; each bubble you pop is worth points. The bubbles have different shapes and sizes and, if you pop bubbles of the same color sequentially, you'll build up chains that will earn you more points than usual. In most of the game's modes you'll have a timer that will limit how long a match lasts--if you miss while trying to pop a bubble, you'll receive a time penalty. Once time runs out, your match is over.
The modes in Pop include Normal, Advanced, and Chill, as well as a training mode that will teach you how to get around. While in Normal mode, the goal is to earn as many points as you can in the time allotted; in Advanced mode, you're trying to "flip" the score (earn 9,999,999 points) as quickly as possible. In both modes, you'll be able to post your high scores (or quick times) to compare to other people online, though you won't be able to compete against people online. Chill mode is bubble popping at its most basic--no timers, no scores, just you, perhaps a buddy or two, and lots of mindless button pressing.
While there's nothing stopping you from popping bubbles by yourself in Pop, the game really comes alive in multiplayer, thanks to a number of unique bubble types that come into play. In addition to score-multiplying bubbles, you'll occasionally see bubbles that have icons associated with them. These icons affect the gameplay, sometimes dramatically. There's the nuclear bubble, which sets off bubble explosions all around it, and a time warp, which slows down the bubbles as they fall (or rise) on the screen.
More interesting are the power-ups that you can use against your opponent, such as the flashlight, which darkens the entire screen except for a small circle controlled by your Wii Remote. There are also power-ups that shrink your opponent's aiming reticule (or enlarge your own), or shock your opponent so he or she can't pop bubbles temporarily. The power-up icons add a strategic element to Pop, and the game is better for it.
As you make your way through Pop's various levels, you'll earn a number of badges (think of them as the Pop equivalent to Xbox Live achievements) for doing things like popping a certain number of bubbles in a chain or beating certain levels in the game. The online score posting and competitive multiplayer modes in Pop should appeal to the core gaming fans, while little kids and casual folks will probably enjoy simply popping bubbles for a while. Though the game is finished, there's no firm release date for Pop; but it shouldn't be too much longer before we see it available on the WiiWare channel.