- Platforms: Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, 3DO, Super Nintendo, Game Gear
- Suggested Platform: Neo Geo
- Developer: Taito Corporation
- Genre: Puzzle
- Release Date: 12/94 (JP)
- Why Play It?: Addicting puzzle game, especially with friends
- Why Skip It?: If you don’t have a few friends to play with
Bust-a-Move, also known as Puzzle Bobble in Japan, is a simple puzzle game spin off of Bubble Bobble, Taito’s NES title, although you don’t need to know anything about Bubble Bobble to enjoy Bust-a-Move. Bust-a-Move is such a liked concept that it spawned seemingly countless remakes, sequels and spin offs. Don’t believe me? Check out the Wikipedia page.
The concept is simple: Your play area is a rectangle with your bubble launcher (pointer) at the bottom, and your objective is to remove all of the colored bubbles by aiming, shooting, and sticking 3 or more of the same color together. You’ll receive seemingly random
colored bubbles (but never a color that isn’t in your play area) to shoot up at the others (or bounce off the walls) to match them. When you do, those bubbles disappear, and any bubbles that are not stuck to another bubble or the top of the play area fall, giving you even more points than the initial match. After every few shots, the ceiling will drop slightly, and if any bubbles touch the line at the bottom of the play area, it’s game over. Clear the play area, clear the stage. As your bubbles get closer and closer to reaching the bottom of the play area (and thus, game over), the happy, bubbly (see what I did there?) music becomes increasingly more frantic. The music is very fitting; I’ve spent many hours creating my own lyrics as I pop bubbles.
The single player mode is plenty of fun, but the real reason it deserves to be on the “Best Games Ever” list is the 2-player mode. The rules are the same, except, instead of the ceiling moving down, new bubbles are spawned at the top of the screen every few shots. When one player pops 4 or more bubbles at once or drops bubbles off of their screen, more bubbles will fly up from the bottom of the other player’s screen. This means that as one player performs better, things get tougher for the other.
This can make for some intense, addicting gameplay. Since each side is given the same play area and bubbles, as players improve their skills, they’ll need to play even faster to beat their opponent. As time goes on and matches are played, you can see how many matches each side has won in total. This is definitely best with a small group of friends; whoever loses passes their controller. One night, my friends and I even filled the win counter past 99 (which it then starts over at 00) as we played for hours on end. The music stays at the same pace in this mode, but is not the same theme as the single player mode. Instead, it’s a more frantic tune that fits very well as each player tries to hurry and screw the other player over.
I stated above in the Quick Facts section that the preferred platform is the Neo Geo. I know not everyone has one of those, but I only say that because the controller matches the arcade-like gameplay. It just seems more fun to aim and shoot with a joystick and big, arcade style buttons than with a direction pad. That being said, you’re not missing out on much if you play any of the other versions. Also important to note is that some of the later titles become too busy and gimmicky, so if you want a good, simple introduction to the world of Bust-a-Move, try to get your hands on this one, the original.
I tend to enjoy puzzle games, but I usually don’t like them enough to count them as a “Best Game Ever”. That being said, Bust-a-Move‘s fun music, addicting gameplay, cute presentation, and awesome 2-player mode always has me popping (I did it again!) it in for more.