Release Date: April 4, 2006
A Bust-A-Move game usually features the dinosaurs from Bubble Bobble, Bub and Bob, in a prominent role, so they're usually a good bet if you're looking for a game that your non-gaming female relations or significant others will be into. Something about the pastel-colored bipedal cartoon dinosaurs just draws 'em in like flies.
Beyond that, Bust-A-Move Deluxe is one of the few PSP titles out there that actually gets it right: it's a simple-to-learn, difficult-to-master puzzle game that's uniquely well-suited to little microbursts of gaming on the go. Most PSP games seem content to combine the thrills of portability with the experience of playing a PS2-quality game on a broken controller, but Bust-A-Move Deluxe actually plays like it's meant to be on the PSP.
I will issue one caveat, though. If you, like me, happen to be slightly red-green color-blind, this is not your game. It involves differentiating between small colored bubbles in a hurry, which means it's easy to make game-ending mistakes if you, like me, can't tell the difference between two of the colors that the bubbles come in. Then you, like me, might cry like a schoolgirl.
That said, let's move on, quickly, and forget the end of the last paragraph.
Bust-A-Move Deluxe is a falling-block puzzle game, sort of. At the start of a given round, you'll be confronted with a large assemblage of multicolored bubbles. You must make these bubbles disappear by firing other colored bubbles at them from a contraption at the bottom of the screen; if you line up three or more bubbles of the same color, they'll all burst and disappear. As you take shots, the existing bubbles on the field will slowly lower, increment by increment. When all destructible bubbles on the field have been destroyed, you win; when the bubbles get below a certain point, you lose.
The faster you can do this, the more of a bonus score you'll get; further, you get a lot more points for quickly clearing the screen than you do for anything else. If you want a high score, you need to be able to solve a given puzzle within a minute or less. As a result, this means that many of the details of the gameplay that you'd think would be sort of irrelevant, like how slowly the launcher moves, are suddenly of vital importance.
That's Classic Mode, which features 300 bubble puzzles for you to sort through. In Deluxe, you can also choose from a variety of new Challenge and Game modes, such as Ghost Mode (bubbles will only stick together if you bounce them off the walls first), See-Saw Puzzle (you must balance both sides of the puzzle, much like a seesaw), Blind Puzzle (you cannot see the colors of existing bubbles unless one of your bubbles is stuck to them), Count Puzzle (a head-to-head game where the number of bubbles you drop off the screen counts for more than the ones you erase), and Color Puzzle (compete against the computer or a friend to clear the targeted color of bubbles, with a mistake being punished by your opponent getting a free turn).
There are also four unique new Challenge Modes for Deluxe: Running Launcher Puzzle (the bubble launcher is constantly moving), Mix 'Em Up Puzzle (the bubbles are constantly changing color), Shot Puzzle (you have one shot in which to clear the entire level), or Time Warp Puzzle (the bubbles you launch travel at varying speeds). Most of these puzzles and challenges can, as usual, be played head-to-head against friends via ad-hoc multiplayer.
All of this, really, is just sort of window dressing; the multiple game modes and unbelievably cute cartoon characters mostly deserve to disguise a game with a high addiction factor and challenge level. Bust-A-Move Deluxe, once you get past the first few levels, is actually surprisingly difficult, particularly if you're aiming for a high score. Even little mistakes can cost you, especially on puzzles where the game doesn't give you a handy indicator to show you the bounce path that a bubble will take.
Because of that high challenge factor, Bust-A-Move Deluxe is pretty much a game for the hardcore puzzle fans. I can imagine a lot of casual players getting really angry at it, really quickly, before going right back to Lumines for their PSP puzzle fix. If you can handle it, though, this will provide you with hours of entertainment, and probably a couple of hours of beating your head against the wall.
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