Bust-A-Move 2, 3, 4, and... 99? Well, first of all, understand you haven't missed 95 incarnations of the game, but rather, Acclaim has decided to rename the series by year, not version, with Bust-A-Move 99. With that said, the progressive leap over Bust-A-Move 2 basically exists in the variety offered in Bust-A-Move 99 that didn't exist in the previous Acclaim game. Namely, the collection mode. The play and modes available are very much like those in Natsume's Bust-A-Move 3 for the Saturn. The pulley function appearing in Natsume's Bust-A-Move 4 (PlayStation) by Taito is unfortunately missing.
Essentially, Bust-A-Move 99 offers not a lot that's new and not as much as what's been introduced to the series in the last year. There are five modes of play in all. Arcade mode is the arcade conversion, with a puzzle option, in which a single player works through the levels without an opponent, human or CPU. There is also a player vs. computer mode, and a player vs. player mode for two-player challenges. The challenge mode is a single-player match with about 25 puzzles you solvefor which you'll be evaluated at the end. The win contest mode is another player vs. CPU game. The collection mode is basically what you saw (or might have seen) in Natsume's Bust-A-Move 3. A bunch of people of no discernable age made puzzles for Taito, and more than one thousand of these ended up in the final game. These puzzles usually take just seconds each to get through, and a good handful of them require little more than one to four shots (or turns) to complete. The ones that take longer than that seem nearly impossible, poorly constructed, and are likely the craftwork of some mean, disturbed little child with a vengeance. The good thing is, you don't have to complete one collection puzzle to move on to the next. You can sample them all and simply skip the ones you don't like.
The last option is the edit mode. The puzzle-building components aren't exactly complex, but it can be quite addictive. You select from a handful of primary and secondary colors, and throw in clear bubbles, star, block bubbles and so on.The screen can be adjusted for wide screen or regular play, and you can save about 25 of your puzzles to a memory card to progressively work through. The interface for constructing puzzles is basic and intuitive, and it is actually pretty fun to try to determine what makes for a good puzzle - easy or difficult. The problem is, it's just as easy toconstruct a simple puzzle that brings bubbles smashing down in two moves as it is to build an extremely difficult puzzle by alternating colors, and never grouping two together - which can be disappointing.
On the A/V side, Bust-A-Move 99 is not a game to note for its graphics, although the colors are typical puzzle-bright madness. However, some of the game space backgrounds in multiplayer are so congested and colorful that it's difficult actually to see your bubbles and note what color certain bubbles are - a must for success with this game. The music for BAM 99 is crazy. It's typical puzzle-game fare, with excitable notes and high-pitched squeals from the game's characters with a touch of marching band-esque rhythm and beat. It doesn't take long to drive you mad, but fortunately, the gameplay is mesmerizing, so you're likely to become numb to the music fairly quickly. Bubbloon, the quickly identifiable little green dragon with a hook tooth, is easily the strongest character in the game. He maintains his typical prodding and nervous gesturing throughout the game, and it's always an attraction - if an unnerving one at times.
Overall, Bust-A-Move 99 is neither a revolutionary take on puzzle games nor a unique take on its own series. Yet it is an OK game that will likely satisfy fans of the arcade game or puzzle games in general. If you already own Bust-A-Move 2, 3, or 4, you probably don't need the PlayStation version of this game. But if you want to jump on the Bust-A-Move bandwagon, and you aren't extremely familiar with the series, you probably won't be totally disappointed. Natsume's Bust-A-Move 4 is still, however, probably your best buy out of the PlayStation versions available. Acclaim also has an N64 version of Bust-A-Move 99 with four-player capability, if you're looking for a new Bust-A-Move flavor.