Publisher: Ubi Soft
Release Date: 09/2002
The Bust-A-Move series of aim-and-shoot puzzle games has had its fair share of success over the years ever since its initial arcade release in 1995. In terms of pick-up-and-play appeal its only real competition is Tetris, but despite Super Bust-A-Move 2’s strong foundation and avid fan-base the latest game in the series doesn’t offer much innovation or originality over its predecessors. For some that may be just fine, but those going into this new game with expectations that it’ll redefine the series will almost definitely be disappointed. There are a few new additions to spice things up though, not the least of which is the new chain reaction mode that actually substantially enhances the experience, and a pretty entertaining story mode. So if you have yet to pick up a Bust-A-Move title, now is the time to do so lest you be damned to an eternity of block building.
Fans of Bust-A-Move will be the first to tell you that the series can be a huge amount of fun, especially when you get more than one person in on the action. But they’ll also tell you that every release the game has seen in its many embodiments have all been strikingly similar in almost every respect. But, hey, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right? That seems to be the attitude Taito is taking with Super Bust-A-Move 2, and quite frankly, who can blame them? I mean, it is a highly addictive game with simple-yet-hard dynamics that no other puzzle game has been able to replicate successfully. (Except perhaps Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.)
If, by some bewildering stroke of chance, someone out there is reading this review and isn’t familiar with the dynamics of the Bust-A-Move titles I’ll briefly explain how it works. Basically, the screen is filled with different colored capsules, you win by destroying them all before they come crashing down on you. The way to destroy them is with your trusty capsule cannon that shoots different colored capsules. With precise aiming (via the left and right arrows on the D-pad) you must align three or more capsules of the same color, which will destroy all capsules that share the same shade and are touching either vertically or horizontally. To put a spin on things there are also special capsules that have unique properties. Like the fire orb that simply destroys a section of capsules, a flashing capsule that changes the color of the orbs it comes in contact with, and a rainbow capsule that can only be disposed of by getting rid of the capsules it is connected to.
The action is disturbingly addictive despite its simple premise and you’ll find that the latter stages of the puzzle mode are more challenging than initially meets the eye. You’ll need to attempt these stages multiple times – some of them took me well over 30 tries to pass – but you’ll still aim and tap away, blissfully content knowing that the challenge won’t ever graduate to full on frustration. And that is really what makes this game so great.
Aside from the standard battle mode that simply pits you against the game’s eight crazy, toontastic characters in a head-to-head battle, the developers also threw in a slew of other game modes to extend its lasting appeal. Like the story mode where you first choose the character you wish to play as and then watch between-round cinemas that unfold one cut-scene at a time. Or the puzzle mode where you play through a multitude of different rounds, each one more complex than the one before it. Chain reaction mode adds a particularly distinctive spin on the Bust-A-Move dynamics in that it allows you to chain together capsules when more than two colors of the same color of a dropped capsule are connected. There is even an edit mode that allows you to create your own puzzles, talk about lasting appeal.
No matter how you spin it Super Bust-A-Move 2 is undeniably fun, but even so it is hard to justify a full-blown recommendation when the game has been making the rounds on every imaginable console since the SNES. Taito definitely subscribes to the age-old philosophy of “you can never have enough of a good thing.” That theory certainly holds true with this game; it pimps tons of stages and must be played through a multitude of times before you are able to try your hand at all the available puzzles. The single player experience is as fleshed-out as you could possibly expect. On top of which, the 2-player modes are endlessly fun and give the game a potentially eternal lifespan.
Visually, SBAM2 is fully decked out in colorful duds with a plethora of fluid animations to back them up. The eight unique characters that you can choose to play as are all equally unique and thought-out with their own little stories that are told via simple pre-rendered cut-scenes in the story mode. There isn’t a whole lot of action per se’ in any given mode of play since you are pretty much restricted to a static screen full of circles, but the developers managed to impress on the animation front with their puzzle fighter-esque portrayal of the on-screen characters. The music is your standard-issue happy-go-lucky tunes, perhaps sounding a bit RPG-ey (but maybe that’s just me). The sound effects, as few as they are, come off as perfectly suitable and don’t harsh your buzz when your giving your full Zen-like concentration to making sure you don’t screw up. In fact, the sound effects are actually quite useful in regards to aiming, to the point where you can let off multiple quick shots and know exactly where they will land just by listening to the clicks that your cannon emits as you aim it from left to right.
Overall, you can expect a healthy (if not stout) dose of puzzle gaming goodness that few similarly structured titles on the market can offer. The been-there-done-that factor is prevalent if you’ve been addicted to Bust-A-Move games in the past, but there is also enough new stuff thrown in to make you rekindle your love for the series all over again. Had I went into this game without any foreknowledge of the series I might have deemed Super Bust-A-Move 2 the best game ever created, but as it sits I’ll have to close things up with a simple, but heartfelt, recommendation.