Puzzle Bobble VS Hands-On Impressions

We try out the N-Gage version of Taito's popular competitive puzzle game.

Puzzle Bobble, also known as Bust-A-Move, has been around for years and has made its way onto countless different platforms during that time. As such, it's no surprise that the Nokia N-Gage will get its own version of this addictive puzzle game, titled Puzzle Bobble Vs., just in time for the launch of the system in October. We've gone a few rounds with the game and are back with first impressions.

There's a good chance you're familiar with Puzzle Bobble's gameplay, which is a bit like Tetris in reverse. You control a device that launches multicolored bubbles toward the top of the screen. Match three or more like-colored bubbles in a row and the bubbles all pop, possibly causing attached bubbles to drop down. Often, a match will begin with a bunch of bubbles already collected on the screen, so you'll have to try to clear them out. You'll be doing so while competing against an opponent trying to do the same thing, and as the two of you keep bursting bubbles, you send bubbles flying onto the opponent's side of the screen. If your screen fills full of bubbles, you lose, and just to make things a little more hectic, the "ceiling" gradually drops down, effectively giving you and the opponent less room to work with. This gameplay is tried-and-true to say the least and combines the action-packed appeal of puzzle games like Tetris with the fun of aiming and shooting as in billiards. It definitely takes a keen eye and a steady hand to be a great Puzzle Bobble player.

With all that said, the N-Gage version of the game doesn't really stack up to some of the other versions available. Gameplay is noticeably sluggish and a little choppy, the audio is very limited, and perhaps most importantly, it can be quite difficult to distinguish between some of the darker-colored bubbles. So, given the choice, one probably wouldn't gravitate to this version of Puzzle Bobble.

On the other hand, the portability of the game is certainly a plus, and so is the two-player wireless multiplayer option via Bluetooth technology. The multiplayer mode is the obvious main attraction, but Puzzle Bobble for the N-Gage also features a "story mode" in which you take on one computer-controlled opponent after the next. The game uses the same sort of bright, colorful 2D graphics seen in other versions, but the story mode battles each begin with a brief 3D cutscene of your next opponent. These are kind of nifty but serve no real function other than to show off the N-Gage's 3D rendering capabilities.

Hopefully Puzzle Bobble Vs. will be polished up prior to its release alongside the N-Gage in October. The game is still a few months off and has plenty of time to get better. If it does, it will be a natural choice for early adopters of the system looking for some fast puzzle gaming on the go.

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