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BubbleTown

Score: 87%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: I-play
Developer: I-play
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

After achieving a cult-like following on Facebook, Bubble Town recently made the jump to the iPhone where it looks to gain just as much notoriety.

The production values behind Bubble Town are great - especially for a mobile game. The soundtrack has a peppy, jazzy feel that matches the bright, bold visuals. In an attempt to inject some personality into the game, each of the balls has its own face and look. These include lava and ice monsters, as well as an armor-clad knight and chick decked out in black and white. Although the faces offer something different to look at besides balls, there isn't much personality behind them. However, this doesn't have much of an impact on the game, especially since the story is mainly around for theme purposes.


Gameplay:

Bubble Town sticks to the same basic play structure found in games like Bust-a-Move and Snood. Colored balls (or, in the case of Bubble Town, Faces) litter the play area. The goal is to shoot matching balls into the playfield, hopefully matching three and setting off a chain reaction of balls tumbling out of play.

Where Bubble Town differs from other games is that levels don't just shrink from the top, but also from the sides. Some levels feature a yellow hexagon that shrinks over time. If any balls are outside the hexagon when it shrinks, it's game over. It took some time to understand how the mode works (the in-game instructions aren't that great), but I quickly grew to love the change once I figured it out. It's a small change, but adds a completely different level of challenge - especially when you have to separate the Lumps (evil alien balls) from the Borbs (good balls).

Each group of stages is capped off with a boss battle. All revolve around the same "match three" play style, but use it in some really creative ways.


Difficulty:

Although the basics behind the gameplay are simple, Bubble Town can get tricky. Of the opening levels, the only one that poses much of a challenge is when you are first introduced to the shrinking hexagon. As previously stated, the main issue here is that the instructions aren't very clear.

After the opening salvo of levels, there's a noticeable spike in difficulty. New ball colors are introduced and the mechanics take on new wrinkles. Some balls are asleep and need to be slammed with a ball of the same color to "wake up." Once awake, you need to launch another like-colored ball to clear it. Some balls are covered with shrouds, which are knocked off by striking it with another ball. However, this can fill the play area with a lot of garbage. Neither of these mechanics create "no win" situations, though they can become nuisances if you're not careful.


Game Mechanics:

Bubble Town offers two control methods. Motion control uses the iPhone's built-in tilt sensor, allowing you to aim the cannon by tilting the iPhone to the left and right. The other, Touch, places a level at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to tilt the cannon by moving the level left and right. Both offer the same level of control, though I found the Touch method a little more responsive. However, this is a personal preference. A thin white targeting line that shows where the ball will go also aids aiming. Additionally, angle guides appear on the sides of walls, making trick shots easier.

Causing balls to fall will sometimes unlock power-ups to help clear the board quicker. One, the Sure Shot, gives you a "laser pointer" that shows exactly where the ball will go, while Bomb Borb clears out surrounding balls. Others allow you to choose which ball will be the next out of the launcher or blast through the board, taking out any balls it touches. No doubt, power-ups are a great help and the balance feels right. You don't see them in every level, so when they do come up, it feels special.

Bubble Town is a great fit for the iPhone. Games are easy to understand and take only a few minutes to complete, making them ideal when you don't have a lot of playtime.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Microsoft Xbox 360 The Maw Sony PlayStation 3 Lord of the Rings: Conquest

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated