The Bust-A-Move series is regarded by many as the "Clerks" of video games - maybe you've heard about it, you probably heard it was good, but you just haven't had time to check it out yet. There are more "sleeper hits" than ever before in the video game industry, and so many are doing well that companies are starting to market their titles that way. Unlike a true sleeper though, Bust-A-Move 2 doesn't quite live up to the hype - rather it's the latest variation on a color matching puzzle game.
Bust-A-Move 2 works like many other puzzle games. Players find themselves in a "well" (it seems that every puzzle game these days revolves around a mysterious pit or well). But Bust-A-Move does have a gimmick: Instead of dropping pieces down into various configurations, players shoot balls upward matching three or more balls of like color to make them disappear. (Which leads us to the next puzzle game cliche - matching colors, matching shapes, blah blah blah. It's all the same.) At least in Tetris the shapes fit together, whereas Bust-A-Move's gem-like balls fit awkwardly, making the game a bit hard to play. And, of course, cliche number three, once the unmatched balls (or insert object here) pile up, you lose.
Bust-A-Move's graphics are nothing flashy, though they're acceptable considering this is a puzzle title. The music is an incessant drone of CD quality audio - think poppy fast Japanese Muzak (the likes of which haven't been seen since the days of the Turbo-Grafx 16). Gameplay, however, is this title's high point - the task of shooting projectile balls into the correct place makes for a challenging task, and the two-player mode spices things up a bit (where the balls are knocked out go to the other player's well). And when that gets boring (estimated time: about two hours), the puzzle mode offers more strategy-based gameplay (hit the right group of balls to clear a stage). In short, while the gameplay in Bust-A-Move 2 is fun, it gets old pretty quick.
Although not normally a consideration in a game review, it's worth noting that the game's marketing is somewhat misleading, and in fact downright oversells the title. Read the company line and decide for yourself if this is the stellar puzzle game they make it out to be. Now, take a look at the box cover: It's a somewhat grotesque-looking guy with his eyes toothpick-ed opened, as if to imply that the game can't be put down. Those familiar with A Clockwork Orange will undoubtedly have a somewhat different interpretation.
All in all, Bust-A-Move 2 is a really average title and nothing more. This is an OK game with a fair amount of gameplay - if you like puzzle games and are tired of Tetris for the Playstation (where, let's face it, there isn't much else). Those expecting a deep experience will come up a bit dry, though for a few hours at least it will deliver fun, mindless diversion.