Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Bubble Town 2

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            For a handheld format aiming to bridge the gap between those already involved with videogaming and users completely new to the hobby, Windows Phone 7’s Xbox LIVE enabled catalogue is surprisingly limited in terms of the Puzzle games currently available. The obvious release of Tetris from Electronic Arts and a handful of card and logic games in Microsoft Game Studios’ Game Chest series are the only genuine Puzzle games available aside from I-play’s Bubble Town 2, a successful Facebook game that has been refreshed and expanded for this Windows Phone 7 outing.

            Playing as a different take on the traditional Match-3 Puzzle game, players have a field of differently coloured ‘Borbs’ to remove from play, increasing in number and difficulty as the player progresses. To remove these Borbs, the player must shoot new Borbs onto the field from their cannon position in the below centre of the screen. Borbs launched onto the field will stick to theElectronic Theatre Image first they come into of any colour, but can be rebounded off walls to reach trickier positions. From all this experienced gamers would surely be able to discern that Bubble Town 2 is effectively a take on Taito’s hugely addictive Puzzle Bobble (aka Bust-a-Move) series. For the most part it’s successful at replicating that formula, but it does lose some traction through a handful of minor irritations.

            The power-ups that Bubble Town 2 present are pleasant tactical game-changers, from Hotfoot’s straight line of destruction to Sureshot’s guiding line, but it’s annoying that obtaining one will override another rather than stack them – or better yet, give you the option of which to use. Even more irritating is the imprecise nature of some shots; a pointer may tell you that the Borb is going to rebound of a wall at a certain point, but if it’s a path that’s cut-fine against a Borb already in the field, you simply can’t rely on it travelling as the indictors suggest. Though this can be easily overlooked by many, it’s a potential game-breaker for long-time Puzzle Bobble addicts.

            While the basic gameplay mode offers in excess of forty levels, with a superfluous and particularly irritating story of Borbs and Lumps, new modes can only be unlocked with story mode. Boss Fights and all sorts of different level variation is present in the basic mode, which when completed will offer further variations as one-of levels. Realistically however, unless you’re a high score gamer, Bubble Town 2 will be finished as soon as the final boss encounter in the basic mode has been completed.

            Visually, Bubble Town 2 isn’t exactly pushing the envelope for the Windows Phone 7 format, but then again it has very few blemishes. Obviously lacking in the charm of its inspiration, I-play has created a pleasantly colourful world, if not a particularly memorable one. The sound quality is a major bugbear however, failing to live up to the standard of its completely free desktop versions.

            While Bubble Town 2 isn’t without it flaws and is actually inferior to even the earliest Puzzle Bobble release, here in Windows Phone 7’s Xbox LIVE enabled catalogue it stands alone. An action-puzzler with little by way of competition, Bubble Town 2 is likely to do very well with it’s incredibly low price-tag, but once that line-up starts putting on a bit more weight this position is likely to change dramatically, and Bubble Town 2 is unlikely to have what it takes to go up against the bigger titles offering the same brain-and-thumb teasing thrills.

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