Creat Studios’ next mini after the nutty Alien Havoc is their take on the ‘match three’ theme. Basically, it’s a lot like Tetris, only with bubbles, and monkeys (but not Bubbles the monkey!). Instead of matching up colored blocks, the object of the game is to match different colored bubbles.
Each time two or more bubbles of the same color make contact, they expand, until they eventually pop, scoring points and clearing space inside the bubble tank. If you fail to clear enough bubbles before they touch the bubble dispenser at the top of the tank, then it’s Game Over.
To rotate the bubble clusters as they drop, simply press O or X, and use the directional buttons or the analog stick to guide the clusters. Press down on the directional buttons to drop them faster (especially useful in the timed challenges).
There are several different Power Bubbles that appear randomly and can be either a help or a hindrance, depending on their color. They don’t all appear in every level, with most of them featuring in the two most difficult levels.
The three difficulty levels (Easy, Medium and Hard), are represented by three different themed domains: jungle, desert and swamp, with each of them presided over by a cute cartoon character. The monkey rules the jungle, of course, where the yellow Popper Power Bubble that pops everything it touches is introduced.
In the Desert, a scorpion is your claw-clacking cheerleader, and it’s in this level that the light-blue Power Bubbles make their appearance, turning everything they touch to ice. On the hardest setting of all, a frog presides over a swampy water world, where blue Power Bubbles create water and red ones make it evaporate.
Other Power Bubbles that you can expect to see include black bubbles which never pop when they touch (so it’s best to keep them away from each other) and white bubbles which always pop each other immediately on contact.
For me, the Power Bubbles are what really make the game. They’re never introduced too soon in a level, so it feels like you’ve really earned them when they eventually appear, but when they do show up, its great to watch them clear the tank in an instant.
There are two different play modes in the game: Survival and Challenge. Survival is essentially where you learn the ropes. It’s all about lasting as long as possible and scoring as many points as you can before the bubbles touch the top of the tank.
In Challenge Mode, you have specific tasks to fulfill within a time limit, such as creating 50 bubbles in 3:00 minutes. There are eight challenges per difficulty setting, making a total of 24 in all, and the majority of them are fairly hard.
The overall impression, both in terms of graphics and sound, is of a very well-constructed game. The sound effects really add to the appeal, especially the satisfying ‘squish’ that the bubbles make when they touch each other and expand. It’s even better when they burst, almost as good as popping bubble wrap! Also the different musical themes for each world really add to the atmosphere.
The cartoon-style graphics are suitably vibrant and entertaining, the menus are well-presented and easy to follow, and the reactions of the cartoon characters to your successes and failures are very sweet, especially when they burst into tears when you lose! Also, the OTT fanfare and dancing, when you win a challenge, is really silly!
Most of what felt like gameplay flaws when I first started playing actually ceased to be an issue once I got more familiar with the game. If you’re used to playing a lot of Tetris or similar ‘match three’ puzzlers, the slow, floaty feeling of controlling the bubbles are initially a little strange, as is the way they jiggle and bounce around before coming to rest. It can be disconcerting, to begin with, if you’re used to the solid feel of Tetris blocks connecting with each other. Fortunately, the learning curve is fairly steady and well-paced, so you should soon feel that you’re making genuine headway.
The one part of the game that I personally found really annoying and that actually spoils Challenge mode for me is the way in which one minute from the end of every single challenge a Hurry Up! message appears onscreen, crazy music starts playing, the screen fills with water and the action speeds up to a ridiculous level so you can barely hear yourself think! I can understand that happening 10 seconds from the end of your time limit maybe, but not when there’s one whole minute left! Still, maybe that’s just me, it could be a subjective love or hate thing.
Another niggle is the fact that there’s no save game facility so all your achievements are wiped out when you turn off the game, which also means that there’s no leaderboard or running total of high scores. It doesn’t totally spoil your enjoyment of the game, but it’s a shame it couldn’t be included as who doesn’t love trying to beat their high score every time?
To sum up, Bubble Trubble is a well-executed fresh spin on a tried-and-tested formula. It’s ideally suited for picking up and playing in short bursts, pardon the pun, and the challenges add to the longevity, so it’s well worth throwing a couple of notes at if you’re a puzzle game fan.