| paleface [sys=PS1; cat=Platformer; loc=North_America] |
|Three, three, THREE games in one! Contains ports of Buster Bros, Super Buster Bros, and Buster Buddies; or Pang, Super Pang and Pang 3 as they were known in Japan. In these simple action puzzlers you play a little fellow running back and forth along the bottom of the screen, which doesn't scroll, firing spiked ropes upward to break giant bouncing balls that seek to crush you.|
Now, you could ask some existential questions about this sitation, or you could just bust bubbles like there's no tomorrow. Should you opt for the latter option, you'll find a lot here to keep you entertained as each of the three titles supposedly has about 100 levels.
Buster Bros (didn't check this in the others yet) has a nice Save/Continue method: the levels are arranged in groups of four or five into map locations, if you lose your lives you can continue from the first level at the current map location, and you can save there too. Super Buster Bros adds a "Panic Mode" to the mix, in which the game just keeps dropping bubbles faster and faster, sort of like how Tetris ramps up in difficulty. Pang 3 changes from the previous two identically-playing brother ropers to four different characters, each with a particular ability.
If you're taking too long to complete a stage the games start throwing encouragement at you in the form of various nasty animals who may bite your leg to slow you down, swoop down and stun you, eat your bubbles, etc. Bubbles, of course drop various powerups when popped, as to some of the destructible obstacles.
While the concepts get more complex and varied as the series goes on, the earliest game remains my favorite: its basic mechanics give it a tight, direct feel that the later games begin to lose track of, and the graphics have a brilliant, sharp Hudson-esque power. The backgrounds in the later games tried to take advantage or more powerful arcade hardware by using photo-realistic backgrounds, but these tend to obscure the action and introduce distracting dithering patterns more than anything else. The third has a plot about rescuing art treasures, so each world has a different famous work of art as a background (I wonder if they got permission from the owners--doubt it ;). That's the end of the laudible artistic design, however, as the designers opted to use horrible-looking, squealing pre-rendered "3d" sprite characters rather than the silent, bold cartoon sprites of the previous titles. Bleargh. It's interesting to play with the different characters' abilities, however, even if they're ugly and noisy as sin.
Anyway, even though the later titles may lose some of the first's inspiration, you can't argue with a budget collection of three fine 2d arcade games. Now where's a collection with Pang Pom's and Mighty Pang!?