The puzzle genre in the gaming world doesn’t have a large selection of series. Most people can just name Tetris, and most pre-teens can’t even pull that classic out of the depths of their skulls. The Bust-a-Move series is the only other one to have a strong run that hasn’t lost any momentum due to the series’ hardcore fans. Although the series spans almost every system and handheld from the 16-bit days of SNES to even the new taco phone/handheld atrocity called the N-Gage (that title is Puzzle Bobble VS), I’m going to talk about its sole release on the Dreamcast.
To sum up the series, Bust-a-Move is a puzzle game where you must eliminate all of the colored bubbles before they reach the bottom of the screen, where your character is. To get rid of the jumble of bubbles, you must connect three or more of the same color using a launcher with a 180 degree radius and strategically aimed trick shots. If you ever played Snood, this game is very similar, except you don’t have an infinite amount of time to make a shot.
To change up the gameplay in Bust-a-Move 4, you are sometimes subjected to seesaw-type puzzles. The idea of these puzzles is to eliminate the bubbles as usual but keep each side balanced, so one of the sides doesn’t sink too low. I think this is a great variation to the puzzles, but it tends to piss me off. Attempt these at your own risk!
When it comes to the story, don’t even worry about it. I think you can make more sense out of a run-of-the-mill fighting game. Here’s a quick rundown: you’re a cute li’l character summoned by Cronoa, Governess of the Future (you don’t say!) to help her seal the Arcana (a.k.a. tarot cards) and bring balance to the world. I know this overused plot device sucks; you know, the “help me get this crap and you’ll save the world” one, but don’t worry about it. Remember that you are playing this for the puzzles.
The one mode that shines through the most is the versus mode. I find that playing the computer and playing one of your best friends always ends in a heated battle. It’s like other versus modes in puzzle games: clear an ass-load of pieces at once and send them to your buddy. Each character in the versus mode sends different patterns of bubbles over to your friend; it ends up being deadly when you know your friend’s weakness.
Another honorable mode is the edit mode. You get to design, save, and play your creation. It’s very user-friendly and fun to goof around with. I’m very pleased with its accessibility.
There’s not much to say about the graphics. The sprites (2D characters) are done well and unbelievably cuddly-looking. The overall presentation is bright and clean, providing a nice, wholesome experience. But don’t forget the hidden messages of EVIL (just pulling your leg).
Bust-a-Move 4 has a strange contrast of sounds that either piss you off or make you smile. While the music is decent but repetitive, some of the characters have very annoying sound snippets. This can work in your favor if you know someone who’s easily irritated (muahahaha).
This game is great if you want to kill some time, whether it’s by yourself or with your friend. If you don’t have a Dreamcast, make an effort to get at least one of the Bust-a-Move titles in your collection—you’ll never be disappointed with your experience.