Sunday 12 December 2021

Puzzle Bobble VS (Nokia N-Gage review)

Developer: Taito
Publisher: Jack Of All Games, Nokia
Released: 2003

Puzzle Bobble VS is an Arcade colour-matching puzzle game that's also known as Bust-a-Move.

There's two modes (Story and VS) and the aim is to fire bubbles upward and group three or more of the same colour together in order to make them pop. Right from the start, it's clear that the transition to handheld has not been a good one, as the gameplay is sluggish and it takes an absolute age to move your cursor from side-to-side. Also, your cursor is so tiny that it's extremely difficult to gauge the exact direction it's facing, meaning you have to place the N-Gage closer to your face at times to get a better look! In my opinion, it would have been better to include a Solo mode where your playfield takes up the entire screen, rather than here where a portrait LCD is split in two for yourself and your opponent. Additionally, it's likely that you will strain your eyes trying to decipher which colour you currently possess, as (for example) greens, blacks and purples can all look alike due to the zoomed-out nature of the action. Story mode sounds like it could offer something fairly in-depth, but in actuality it only consists of six matches that can be beaten in around 20 minutes total. The cut-scenes displaying your opponent are excellent, but with no dialogue they lack personality and do nothing to advance the narrative. There are some voice clips, but the iconic: "Ready, GO!" phrase at the start of each round is only shown as text. VS mode is slightly more interesting, as you can play with a friend over Bluetooth; however, the same problems above persist. Overall, there's a distinct lack of presentational flair and instead you're greeted with several text-only menus when booting up the game and zero sound until the first battle commences.

Puzzle Bobble VS is technically incompetent and unless you're keenly focused on head-to-head battles with a friend there's really nothing here that will hold your interest for more than an hour. Do yourself a huge favour and stick to the far superior Bust-a-Move Pocket (1999, Neo Geo Pocket Color) version instead.

Random trivia: Taito Memories, a compilation of previous Taito games was in development for the N-Gage before ultimately being cancelled.

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