| paleface [sys=NGPC; cat=Puzzle; loc=JPN] |
|Excellent handheld version of Taito's classic puzzle game in which a cute little dinosaur shoots colored bubbles up at an overhanging mass of bubbles, clearing them out by connecting three or more of the same color together.|
While it doesn't have the elaborate story-type modes or huge character roster of, say, Bust-A-Move 4 on DC (see entry 755), the NGPC version has all the graphical style of Taito's old 2D classics. Unlike many other portable versions, this one has a nice soothing black background behind the bubbles. There's even less slowdown than in the DC version! The bubbles look sort of like striped pool balls, which is a little odd, and certain bubble colors can be tricky to distinguish even in good lighting (light blue vs blue and yellow vs orange spring to mind), but once you learn to watch out for that it's pretty good stuff. Some of the eight or so multiplayer characters look a little flat, like they didn't survive the transition to the NGPC's four-color sprites very well, but at least they animate pretty nicely as they boogie around at the bottom of the screen in Vs modes.
The main Puzzle mode offers 99 screens of puzzle action, and the best part is that it saves your progress, and even the top finish time (and three-character player name) for each table. So even if you beat them all on the highest difficulty (I'm still on the lowest, and some of them are kind of tough), you can always replay them to try to improve your times.
Vs-CPU mode pits you against any one of the eight (or more, too lazy to check at the moment) CPU opponents, in best-of-three (or more, you can change it in the options screen) split-screen battles. Nothing too fancy, but if you knock off a big bunch of bubbles, your opponent gets extra bubbles stacked above him--and vice-versa, so watch out!
The game supports link Vs play, apparently, though I haven't tried this.
Then there's Survival mode, which just sends endless bubbles after you and you try to last as long as possible. I think it tracks your highest rank (sort of like a level) and score, but I'm not sure because my batteries died as I was playing it (I was pretty far, too! dang).
The gameplay is pretty simple, rather similar to Bust-A-Move 4 for the most part but without pulleys or color-changing bubbles, and there are no combo chains in Vs mode. But there are all-clear bubbles, big transparent bubbles that can't be matched, and of course you can bounce your shots off the side walls. If you fail a table and have to retry, the game gives you an aim guide to make it a bit easier for you.
I was afraid that it might be hard to aim accurately on the small screen but actually I find it a bit easier than on the DC version--maybe because of the lower resolution? Or higher framerate? Anyway, it controls very nicely indeed, and it's easy to get into that smooth bubble-zapping zen state where you just play on and on as the world goes by around you. Whee!
When played on a NGPC system set to English, the game is entirely in English.
Oh, and the music is nice, very classic-sounding, simple and upbeat without getting old.