Hero Interactive's Bubble Series
Perhaps the most comprehensive range of bubble games to be created by a single developer is Hero Interactive's Bubble Tank Series which now spans six games. Their main Bubble Blaster games feature a simple bubble like tank that is enhanced by defeating enemy tanks and collecting their residual bubbles in a bubble arena. The series is well know amoungst online gaming circles and has amassed a very large and loyal following.
Full Collection of Bubble Tank Games
Puzzle Bobble is a game which was originally developed in Japan in the mid 1990's by Taito Corporation and has undergone transition to become a seriously successful game in the world market since its conception.
The original game title was "Bust-A-Move" and indeed it can still be found under that title at times - if you look at Square Enix's latest Nintendo DS space themed version they have stuck with the original title - Space Busta Move. It is quite an addictive game as many arcade games from that era have proved.
Simple Idea, Plenty of Replay Value
The game consists of a number of coloured bobbles (or bubbles) which are on the screen. Basic sounds come with the game. The object is to have your bobble strike ones of similar color to clear those from the screen. There needs to be a minimum of three of the same colored bobbles for them to drop and they take any other colors hanging from them with them as they disappear. This does make the game more interesting to play than more simple ones such as shooter which only clear the target bubbles.
As the Puzzle Bobble progresses the top of the screen gradually becomes lower making play harder. This "ceiling" drop is influenced in time by a combination of number of shots fired, actual time lapsed, and the colors of the bobbles on the screen.
You are able to use the sides of the field of play to rebound your bobble to reach those harder bobbles of the color you desire. However you cannot use the top of the field of play for rebounding, once a bobble hits the top it stays there. You use the arrow keys to position the arrow and space bar to shoot your bobble or you can use a joystick.
The characters in Puzzle Bubble seen on screen are numerous and while quite basic are indeed also cute little images. The bobble's colors each have their own enemy names; Red is "Super Socket', Yellow is called "Hullabaloon", Green is "Willy Whistle", Blue is "Bubble Buster", Purple is "Beluga", Orange is "Coiley", Black is "Incendo" and finally White is "Stoner". A number of them also have aliases.
The player's knowledge of the names doesn't affect the actual play of the basic game. The game consists of a number of rounds, in the usual increasing difficulty to play them.
The Scoring System
The scoring is slightly more complex than many games of similar design - the bobbles of a different color cleared at the same time as the target color are worth quite a lot of points and this is one of the main shots experienced players look for. The greater the number of these odd colored bobbles cleared the higher the score gained.
Bobbles of the same color as the one used to shoot them are worth 10 points each, regardless of the number cleared at any one time. Another thing affecting score is the actual time taken to clear the screen. The optimum time is 5 seconds which will attract the maximum 50,000 point time bonus.
This bonus reduces directly by time taken and anything over one minute does not attract any time points. Bobbles which are presented to target the screen appear to be random in color, although doubtless once you play the game regularly and become an expert then the colors will be more predictable. Extremely high scores are possible, a theme which was perhaps originally derived from the old pinball machines, but which seems to work well with experienced gamers and novices alike. Indeed a very experienced player could attract a score of upwards of 30 million points in one game.
There are 30 rounds to complete in Puzzle Bobble, so this game adequately meets even the most experienced player's requirements. As with most classic games there are a few secret tips to earn extra points on various levels. The task is to maintain speed and accuracy at the same time, much easier said than done.
There is also a two player version of the game which does not have rounds but consists of dual screens, both of which start off identical. But when a player clears four or more bobbles from his screen the "hanging" ones are transferred to the opponent's screen.
In Bust-A-Move '99 one of the attractions of the game is it's flexibility and despite looking fairly basic some quite complex code writing was done which means no two games are ever the same, this, in itself, presents the experienced user with more than the usual level of difficulty. This means that it is impossible to memorize moves in earlier rounds played for the next time as there will be a completely new game and new rounds to challenge the player. There are also four different skill levels and five different modes, so a great combination of possible games.
A viral version of the game was released online some time ago and can be played here.