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Super Bubble Pop Review

Developer: Runecraft Publisher: Jaleco
Release Date: December 17, 2002 Available On: GCN and Xbox

Music doesn’t make a game great. Sure, some games have musical numbers that are instantly recognizable throughout the world of gaming, but those numbers were within games that were already great. When great music mixes with mediocre gameplay, however, you are left with a game that feels incomplete, and you wonder why more effort couldn’t have gone into making the game itself great. That is the feeling that I get with Super Bubble Pop. Don’t get the idea that I’m railing on the game just because I dislike puzzle games, for I most certainly do not dislike puzzle games. Indeed, I own most of the puzzle games that have been released for GCN. I love puzzle games, but Super Bubble Pop just doesn’t cut it for me for a variety of reasons.

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Let’s start with the graphics. They’re actually not that bad, although they remind me of a 1970’s disco movie. Actually, I think that’s the graphical style that Jaleco was aiming for with this game. The graphics are far from the best, however, showing very little detail. I also occasionally had trouble determining what color some of the bubbles were, but that didn’t happen too often. Overall, the graphics aren’t particularly bad, but they’re far from good.

So far as the sound goes, this is sadly the high point of the game. Although there are few if any sound effects to be had, the music is done very well, and is very addictive. I cannot do justice to the catchiness of the music with mere words. Of course, a couple of the musical numbers aren’t quite that good, and the lack of sound effects also will drop the sound score a bit, but overall, the predominance of great music in this game makes the game a treat to listen to, even if not to play.

However, this game is not nearly as fun to play as it is to listen to. The basic concept is this. You have a 9 by 9 grid of squares, some of which will have stacks of bubbles up to 6 high on them. The objective of the game is to eliminate enough bubbles to pass on to the next level, and so until some of the bubbles reach the bottom of the grid where your character is, causing you to lose. You eliminate bubbles by getting three in a row or stack of the same color. Depending on the skill level you play at, there will be anywhere from two to five colors of bubbles to worry about.

When you fire a bubble in a column, it will always travel until either it hits the back wall or it gets to a column of bubbles, at which point it will place itself at the bottom of that column. This means that it is easier to get three bubbles in a row in stacks than it is horizontally in rows since the rows will often be uneven. On top of that, there will occasionally be obstacles that can only be destroyed by shooting many bubbles at them. You also will occasionally get powerups that can be used to help you eliminate the bubbles and each character also has a super-move that, once enough bubbles are eliminated, can be done in an emergency.

Sounds easy, right? It isn’t. As I said, the stacks of bubbles are usually uneven, so you have to stack three of a color to eliminate anything. This being long work, you will often find yourself with many stacks of bubbles bearing down on you, even at the easiest skill level. Also, as I mentioned, it is sometimes difficult to tell the different colors of bubbles apart, a fact which can really hurt, especially when the bubble you misidentify is the one you’re shooting.

Of course, the difficulty telling colors apart in the side column particularly is a side effect of the disco-style background graphic which is too close in color to the colors of some of the bubbles. However, powerups are common in this game, probably to combat that problem, although they often don’t do enough to help, and you have to wait for them to get to you to get them at all. If they fall in a different column than the one you’re in, you don’t get them.

Overall, Super Bubble Pop is an easy-to-understand but hard-to-play puzzle game. Those people who can come to play it fairly well will enjoy it, but if you are only a casual fan of puzzle games, this game might discourage you from the genre. The music is great, but the gameplay suffers, so this is not a puzzle game that I’d go out of my way too much to buy. If you find it inexpensive though, give it a try, if only for its music.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 5
Creativity: 4
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 5.5
Written by Martin Review Guide