Competitive puzzle games rarely get more enjoyable than Puzzle Bobble so here's an improved sequel to a super-fun puzzler.
Considering I reviewed ACA NeoGeo: Puzzle Bobble less than a couple weeks ago, I won't get into the basics in-depth here and instead, I'll primarily focus on the differences between the two games. For starters, Puzzle Bobble 2 (which is often referred to as Bust-A-Move Again in the west) has the same basic gameplay where you try and match similarly coloured bubbles in order to make them pop. This time around, there are a few complexities. To make things trickier, new stone blocks cannot be destroyed while obstructive bubbles can only be dropped. However, a couple of nifty power-ups can help alleviate some of the challenge: metal bubbles pop all bubbles in their path and star bubbles remove all of whichever colour you hit with them. Although minimal, these additions are definitely welcome.
Unlike in the original Bust-A-Move, this sequel allows you to play against the computer in a special stage-based versus mode. Whether you're playing the versus mode against the AI or a friend, it plays identically to the first game. That being said, there are selectable modes this time around such as normal and hard difficulty settings as well as a practice mode that's much shorter but displays the aiming marker at all times. While playing against a local chum, you can choose Variety mode to play within stages that have tricky bubble layouts, too. Like I said in my review of the original, multiplayer is the best way to experience Bust-A-Move and it's handled very well here.
Of course, Bust-A-Move Again's single player mode is an enjoyable way to play if you're looking for a solo challenge. Here, you can actually choose your path through the main arcade mode upon completing a level via lettered nodes that compose the campaign structure. Because of this, you can have a completely different set of stages each time you play which allows for a substantial amount of replay value. Speaking of stages, the backgrounds are quite lovely and usually feature some sort of scenery as opposed to just patterns like in the first game. The music features a bit more variety, too, and you'll hear many delightful and catchy melodies as you play. However, the music speed no longer changes which is kind of disappointing seeing as it acted as a cool audio cue in the original.
Puzzle Bobble 2 may be a better game than its predecessor but it's still not the best game in the franchise. I'd love to see a console version of Bust-A-Move that features every mode, character, and gameplay mechanic that's been introduced since its inception because there have been many awesome innovations over the years. Revisiting these arcade ports is fun but there are so many superior console adaptations that it's hard not to miss aspects such as actually being able to select a character which is something that's sadly absent here. Heck, I'd be happy if they simply ported Bust-A-Move '99 or one of the Super Bust-A-Move games.
Although Puzzle Bobble 2 is definitely a step up from the barebones original, it isn't much of an improvement. Obviously, that doesn't mean that it isn't fun because it surely is, especially if you have a local chum to enjoy it with.
- + Same classic addictive puzzle gameplay with cute visuals and catchy music
- + Campaign now features path choices
- + More modes and options than the original
- - Isn't nearly as fully featured as its future console counterparts
- - Gameplay additions are very minimal
- - Still no selectable characters