Review: This game has more things to pop than on a teenager's face.
When you ask someone to list the notable titles of the puzzle video game genre, the phrase ?Tetris? will no doubt be the first uttered. This is hardly unexpected since the Russian tetromino laying game essentially began the genre. As with any success, a number of clones arrived on the scene in an attempt to leech off the game's popularity. As one would expect many of these were shadows of Tetris' quality. Nevertheless, a few stood out such as Dr. Mario. Another is Majesco's Bust-A-Move series. Since its inception in 1994, an incarnation of Bust-A-Move has appeared on almost every major console. It is arguably more popular than the Bubble Bobble games that inspired it. In following tradition, Majesco has decided to satiate puzzle hungry Wii owners with Bust-A-Move Bash.
Bust-A-Move Bash follows the familiar series' formula. The top half of the gameplay screen is filled with various colored bubbles. The game randomly gives the player bubbles to launch from the bottom of the screen with their bubble launcher. When the player matches three bubbles of any like color they are eliminated. There is a degree of strategy in this, for often the player must aim the launcher at precise angles to make a combination. Often this involves ricocheting the bubbles off the walls to achieve a desired position. If the bubbles reach the bottom of the screen, it's game over.
The game possesses three modes: puzzle, endless and shooter. In Puzzle the goal is to eliminate all the bubbles on the screen to progress to the next level. The game features hundreds of levels for you bubble spewing delight. In Endless mode an infinite amount of bubbles creep down the screen. Much like a sixteen-year old getting a lap dance, the object is to simply hold out as long as you can. Those who love the series will be happy, since all of this will be readily familiar. However that is also the game's curse. There is nothing in these two modes that is particularly new. To Majesco's credit, they did try to add some variety with UFOs the player can shoot to gain power-ups. These UFOs are both a blessing and a curse as they can also block shots.
One notable new element is the Shooter mode. As the title suggest, it is more of a light-gun mini-game. In it players must use the Wii-mote like a gun to shoot bubbles flying in from all directions. To eliminate the bubbles the player must switch to the appropriate color with the D-pad or +/- buttons. This new mode is extremely lackluster. It feels added in at the last second as a desperate grasp at increasing the replay value. Even as a mini-game if fails since switching between colors is not nearly as swift as it could be. Despite all this, it is nice to see Majesco trying to think outside the box (bubble?).
The Wii controller's capabilities heavily factor into gameplay. There are two control options: gun and baton. In gun the player holds the Wii-mote in the normal remote fashion. Tilting it left or right moves the aiming arrow in that direction. The baton option is similar, but instead you hold the Wii-mote vertically. In either case A or B launches bubbles. The control generally works well. It seemed at times however to be either overly sensitive or not responsive enough. This caused for some ill-placed shots that in later levels can be a death sentence.
The game also features a multiplayer mode. In past Bust-A-Move games, each player competed on his or her own playing field. Bust-A-Move Bash changes this by allowing up to eight players to compete in a giant shared screen. The object is simple: the highest score at the end of time wins. This new mode is decent enough, but many players will quickly become nostalgic for the old style. There are a number of issues with it. For one, the more players you add, the harder it is to see the action. Combine this with the sheer amount of activity going on and you're guaranteed an epileptic attack. There is also too much of an emphasis placed on simply getting power-ups (which are supplied liberally) rather than real skill in forming combos.
Graphically the game has colorful 2-D backgrounds and characters. Nothing groundbreaking, but the graphics compliment the gameplay well. The sound is the bleeps and bloops you would expect from a puzzle game. Somewhat annoying is the warning sound the game plays every time you are in danger of losing. The music is sadly repetitive and lacks variety. My advice: turn down the audio and pop in a Depeche Mode CD. Bubbles + Violator = nirvana.