The Puzzle Bobble series has been around for years, though the series usually comes to the US under the name Bust-A-Move. Nokia is using the original Japanese name for its N-Gage installment in the long-running series, but the basics of the game remain the same. However, sluggish gameplay and an inability to distinguish between some of the darker colors in the game render this version unplayable.
Puzzle Bobble uses many of the same characters from Taito's classic arcade game, Bubble Bobble, and it puts Bub, Bob, and some of the game's enemies into a color-matching-based puzzle game. The game's twist on the Tetris formula is that instead of dealing with falling objects, you fire colored balls out of a gun at the bottom of the screen. The balls attach themselves to other balls that stick to the ceiling of your pit, and matching balls of the same color causes them to disappear from the screen. You have control over your firing angle, so it's possible to bounce balls off the sides of the pit and stick them in strategic locations. If you can link up a bunch of balls that are the only thing holding up a group of balls, the entire lot will fall, thus giving you a larger number of points. Like the N-Gage's other launch puzzle game, Puyo Pop, Puzzle Bobble is a two-player game--even when you play it alone--where you'll face off against AI-controlled opponents in a series of increasingly difficult stages. You can also play two-player games using the system's built-in Bluetooth support.
While on paper, this is a run-of-the-mill version of Puzzle Bobble, the N-Gage version of the game has some pretty serious problems. The first thing you'll notice is the game's incredibly sluggish pace. Everything moves quite slowly, and the balls practically jump up the screen like an old LCD-display Game & Watch instead of smoothly flying from place to place. The second display problem is that it can be hard to tell a few of the darker-colored balls apart without seeing them next to one another. Unfortunately, by the time you see the balls next to one another, it's already too late. In a game where color is king, this is a pretty dramatic problem for Puzzle Bobble VS to have. Finally, though it doesn't surface immediately, the game takes away the guide dots, which show the trajectory of your current shot and help you aim properly, when you reach stage 3. This isn't any different from other versions of the game, but on the N-Gage's small screen, it's not always obvious which direction your launcher is pointing, so this leads to even more missed shots. When you add these problems together, this version of the game becomes highly undesirable.
Beyond the graphical problems, the game has a very generic look to it, going so far as to use the N-Gage's default menu look and feel for its front end. About the only graphically out-of-the-ordinary thing the game does is show your AI opponent walking onto the screen in a quick, little polygonal scene that appears before and after the match. Unfortunately, this hardly makes up for the game's serious graphical problems. In the sound department, the game re-creates the sounds used in other versions of the game and also features some of the same music. The music, however, loops frequently. Consequently, listening to the Puzzle Bobble theme, on repeat, for more than an hour is a surefire way to lose your mind completely.
There really isn't much to say about Puzzle Bobble VS other than that it is a complete and utter mess. Puzzle Bobble seems to be one of those games that would be incredibly difficult to mess up, but the N-Gage version of the game proves that even the simplest and most street-tested gameplay concept can be ruined by a few key oversights. These oversights make Puzzle Bobble VS an awful product that isn't worth your time or money.