Taito's classic Bust-A-Move series of puzzlers is now available for modern consoles so let's revisit the origins of the franchise.
Back in 1994, Taito released an arcade puzzle game known as Puzzle Bobble that starred the adorable chums from their 1986 arcade classic Bubble Bobble and when it released in North America, they renamed it to Bust-A-Move for whatever reason. I'm a huge Taito fan and love their classic arcade games so when I saw that the original Puzzle Bobble was available as an ACA NeoGeo release, I had to buy it. Sure, I have over a dozen Bust-A-Move games as well as Puzzle Bobble 2 on Taito Legends 2 but I've never actually played the first game in the franchise. For the unfamiliar, you basically move an arrow at the bottom of the screen left and right in order to aim then tap a button to launch a coloured bubble. Once three of the same colour match, they pop. It's simple stuff but supremely addictive.
Although I am a huge Taito and Bust-A-Move fan, I must admit that I'm a little disappointed with this game for the simple fact that it's an extremely basic representation of the series. I know, it's the first one so what do I expect? However, it is 2019 and there have been loads of incredible Puzzle Bobble games released over the years so if you own a PS2, GameCube, DS, or even an original Xbox then you can easily find much more fleshed out Bust-A-Move experiences. For starters, there are only 2 basic modes: a single player campaign where all you do is try and beat stage after stage and a multiplayer mode where you can battle a friend. There are no in-game options besides the standard ACA NeoGeo configurations and you can't even select a character as only Bub and Bob are available to play as. On the plus side, there are Hi Score and Caravan modes as usual but those don't add much replay value.
Of course, I don't mean to complain because Bust-A-Move is a delightful game in both its gameplay and presentational aspects. Speaking of which, the graphics are lovely with colourful and vibrant stages complete with the adorable Bub and Bob who operate the launching mechanism at the bottom of the playfield. The music isn't as catchy as the Bubble Bobble theme but it'll still get stuck in your head for days. I love how it speeds up and slows down depending on how well you're doing and the sound effects are both super-cute and satisfying. Playing it makes me miss the days when such pitch-perfect presentations were the norm.
Playing through the single player campaign is fairly enjoyable even though it's linear and predefined. However, where ACA NeoGeo: Puzzle Bobble shines brightest is in its multiplayer mode. The added element of being able to send bubbles to your opponent's side whenever you make a cluster of bubbles fall instead of pop makes for a highly competitive puzzle formula. That being said, it definitely isn't as elaborate of a system as the ones in later Bust-A-Move games but it remains highly enjoyable nonetheless.
If you're a fan of competitive puzzlers then ACA NeoGeo: Puzzle Bobble is a fun albeit simplistic old-school entry in the genre. Because it's the first game in the series, don't expect to see many bells and whistles after giving it a download.
- + Classic addictive Bust-A-Move gameplay
- + Charming visuals and catchy music
- + Playing against a friend is a lot of fun
- - Considering this is the first in the series, it's very basic compared to later games
- - Barebones modes and options
- - No characters to choose from