Majesco, for Taito
Review Score: 8/10
May 27, 2006
In the annals of videogames, the words "budget title" are the equivalent to the Hollywood B-picture: cheap, low-grade, instantly disposable. Well, kids, there are times when it's wiser to ignore popular sentiment, and this is one of them.
Goodness knows Bust-a-Move has been played to death on every conceivable platform, and bears responsibility for spawning a whole sub-genre of cheap kick-the-jewel puzzle games that have made video arcades (what few are still left in the West) unbearable. It's one of those no-brainer games, something that's cheap and probably sells just enough to warrant another knock-off somewhere down the line. All that matters is that this was probably the last novel puzzler to appear until Q Entertainment finally revived the genre last year with Meteos and Lumines.
So imagine, despite all my misgivings, not only grabbing Bust-a-Move DS, but enjoying the hell out of it. Really digging it. Go figure that one out, kids.
If the DS touch screen isn't the best thing to happen to puzzle games since Tetris, I don't know what is. It's just that simple change, that instant and fluid control that the ancient d-pad cannot provide. Meteos became a modern classic because of the touch screen; Zoo Keeper - a damned freeware game, of all things - achieved a new level of addiction (at least until "Quest Mode" destroyed everything); now Bust-a-Move sweeps in, and is transformed.
There's a world of difference between pressing left or right to aim a cannon just right; it's another thing entirely to stretch and drag with the stylus. It's all a matter of control, of having it. This is a game that is dependent on achieving different kinds of trick shots, a little like billiards, a little like marbles. For the first time, I actually feel empowered. I feel as if I actually can make that impossible shot.
The game's structure is different, focused largely on solving set puzzle patterns, in sets of ten. There are 25 levels to plough through, and then another 25 after that. They do become more challenging, but I've never felt overwhelmed. If anything, the levels are structured so that one especially tough board - where you literally have to shoot your way through a screenful of marbles - is sandwiched by a couple boards that can be brought down with a single skilled shot. Some boards emphasize speed, others dexterity; here's where having a stylus in hand makes a whole world of difference.
In addition to the main puzzle mode, an endless mode is available, which works if you need your arcade kicks and just want to see how long you can hold out against the inevitable. Five players can compete against one another with a single game card, which really makes the game cheap. Get everyone to shell out four bucks, and you're set. You've got yourselves one heckuva drinking game on your hands.
So what else is there to recommend? The graphics are bright and colorful, and the music is catchy as hell. There's a high score table somewhere, but it's dribbled out, line by line, during the attract mode. Apparantly for a decent score table, you'd have to pay full price. Fair enough.