Yes, it’s another game about bubbles. But, to be fair, it’s a game about bubbles which has a few ideas of its own.
A game of match-3 at heart, the game tasks you with launching bubbles at a larger collection of bubbles in an attempt to clear the screen. So far, so normal. The perspective is slightly unusual, but not unheard of: rather than launching bubbles from the bottom to the top of the screen as popularised by Puzzle Bobble, or from the centre towards an outside track à la Puzz Loop. Instead, this game has the target bubbles clustered towards the centre of the screen, while your launcher rotates around the outside.
The bubbles are removed in an unusual manner too. The game is called Bubblebreak, rather than bubbleburst, for a reason: instead of simply exploding, matched bubbles break free of the cluster. If they collide with any other bubbles they are destroyed, but if they come into contact with your launcher they pick up a new colour and are launched back into the centre – which can help or hinder you, depending on your aim.
And rather than aiming to directly remove all the bubbles, your target are the magnets that hold them in place. A direct shot from a bubble will destroy the magnet, and release any bubbles attached to it. Moreover, destroying the magnet will not stop your shot, so it’s possible to destroy multiple magnets in a row with a well placed shot.
And then there’s the launcher itself. Rather than being a set shape and size, with a selection of bubbles waiting to be fired off screen, your launcher is the bubbles you fire – meaning that the more you fire, the smaller your launcher, making it harder to return bubbles (or collect the occasional power-up). It also, as that suggests, means you have a strictly limited amount of shots – run out of bubbles and it’s game over: meaning that the aim isn’t so much to get high scores on individual levels, but to pass as many levels as you can without failing.
But there’s more to it than that. You see, rather than being a collection of bubbles in a pre-set colour pattern, the colour of your launcher is constantly shifting. You can manually change it by dragging a colour slider at the far-right of the screen, allowing you to pick the colours you need to launch, but making sure you have the right colour for rebounds is far more challenging. Rebounded bubbles take on the colour of the part of the launcher they come into contact with, so not only do you have to consider the angles when redirecting them, but you have to quickly shift colours to make sure you don’t just end up cluttering the central mass with more mis-matched bubbles.
Unfortunately, the colour slider is positioned right next to the track that your launcher is based on, making it all too easy to accidentally drag your launcher out of position when you rush to change colours – or to accidentally change colour when you intended to move the launcher into a new position. You learn to account for this, but mistakes will happen, and losing precious points (or even the game) because of such an error remains a maddening occurrence.
There are a couple of other flaws – the power-ups are hard to read from a distance, and also a little scattershot – the ability that launches a ton of bubbles from outside the screen can be particularly troublesome. And then there’s the music. It’s, er, not very good. A staccato rhythm of acoustic guitar, it actually manages to distract from the game thanks to its constant ebbing and flowing. A good soundtrack captures the feel of the gameplay, helps get you into the mood for the game, and fades into the background: this does none of the above. At least you can turn it off, so it’s not of serious detriment to the game.
Otherwise, this is a solid, interesting take on a tried and tested formula. At 99p it won’t break the bank, and for puzzle fans it’s a worthy release. Just turn off the music if you value your ears. A solid little breaktime puzzler.
Bubblebreak Gameplay Video
Version Under Review : 188.8.131.52
There is a trial version limited to two levels, and the full version is available for $1.29.
Our Rating for Bubblebreak