Posted by Stephen Witkowski
'Once you pop, you just can't stop' is proved to be true in this excellent WiiWare launch title.
Pop, as the title suggests, is a game where you pop bubbles. But don’t be fooled by the deceptive simplicity of this idea; there’s more to it than might be apparent at first glance. First of all, Pop has a timer that counts down; if you don't pop bubbles, the game will end. Create chains of the same coloured bubbles fast enough and you’ll quickly become a master at keeping the timer up. The game doesn’t end there though.
There are several types of bubbles and game mechanics to consider in Pop, besides the obvious ones. Take the power ups for example. Pop the bubble with the radioactive symbol and it expands, taking out all the same coloured bubbles in its path. Pop the target-like symbol and your cursor grows larger, enabling you to pop more bubbles at once. Pop the bubble with the swirl symbol to temporarily slow time. You can even grab onto a bubble and pump it up by shaking the Wii remote up and down. After it pops, it will serve the same function as the radioactive bubble. There are things that don’t favour the player though. If you pop a bubble with a skull symbol on it, time will be deducted from the counter. Missing bubbles also costs you time.
Play the game with more people and a few more types of bubbles appear. Pop the electric bubble and touch other players’ cursors to disable them. The same happens when you pop the bubble that slows down time, while the flashlight bubble blackens the screen, save for a circle of light around your cursor. Not everybody is going to like these multiplayer bubbles, because while they do facilitate competitive play, some may find that they need to work together to keep the timer from running out.
The gameplay modes are straightforward. “Training” mode is self-explanatory. It shows players the basics of popping. “Normal” mode allows you to play through 16 levels called “waves”. While most of the waves are similar in nature, they do have their own nuances. In some, you may find that the bubbles move faster or that it’s best to avoid a certain kind of bubble. After a certain number of waves, the game rewards you with a bonus round in which you pop as many bubbles as possible with no penalty for missing. After all 16 waves, the game loops back to the first wave. “Advanced” mode will challenge players with a new goal – to see how long it takes to get 9,999,999 points! The only real difference in this mode is that it’s the time that matters in the end and not so much the points. Lastly, there is “chill” mode. Easily the simplest of the whole lot, it has no rules, no points, and no timer. Just pop bubbles to your heart’s content.
Outside of the actual gameplay, there other things that merit mentioning. The interface, for example, is very nicely done. There isn’t a whole lot to see, but everything stands out well against the bubbly background. The in-game graphics pretty much consist of bubbles, but they do catch your eye as they are always moving. You may find the music catching your attention as well. Composed by Game Audio Australia, which has done some high profile work with games like Tekken: Dark Resurrection and SOCOM 3, it serves as an example of the diverse compositions the company can produce, considering the music is very relaxing. The sound design is strong as well, although possibly not as strong as the music. While creating chains enables the player to hear more layers of the music (very cool), there are few sound effects, and your ears may grow tired of them after awhile. There are also badges to be earned by completing certain objectives, like lasting for 30 minutes, and there are worldwide high scoreboards via Wi-Fi. While these additions are small, they serve as motivation to give Pop more of your gameplay time.
The bottom line is that this game is certainly well worth the 700 wii point asking price, particularly if you have other people to play with. Developer Nnooo has certainly balanced the title well and while it's unlikely to withstand prolonged play, it offers enough depth and enjoyment to keep you coming back for short bursts. All in all, this is a very positive start for Nnooo and singles out this Aussie developer as one to watch in the future.