Review: Pop Plus: Solo (DSiWare)

Who would have thought that popping bubbles could be so much fun?

For the uninitiated, Pop Plus: Solo is an enhanced remake of the original game, Pop, released on the WiiWare service last year. The game garnered a reasonable amount of popularity and was widely praised for its simple yet addictive and eloquently executed gameplay. Over a year later the game has been rereleased on DSiWare with new additions and of course touch screen control.

Fans of the original will know that the game has a pretty simple goal – pop all of the bubbles on screen in order to increase the time limit and progress to the next “wave” of bubbles. It sounds quite simple however there are various ways in which the player can increase their score and up their time limit. By popping bubbles of the same colour without missing any the player gains more time and multipliers to increase their score. There are also various “special bubbles“: popping bubbles with a radioactive symbol pops any bubbles of the same colour in its vicinity; popping bubbles with the target symbol allows you to pop more bubbles at once and finally popping bubbles with the swirl symbol slows the flow of time and gives the player a chance to make more accurate hits. That’s not all however as there are bubbles with negative effects – the skull symbol bubble deducts time from the player’s time limit and indeed missing a bubble has the same effect, as well as breaking chains.

The DSiWare version of the game packs by far the most content with eight different modes of play including training, normal, advanced, chill, timed, bonus, adventure and challenge modes. Training introduces the player to the game and explains the basic premise of the game. Normal is a case of simple progression through different waves of bubbles, sixteen waves in all. Advanced mode challenges the player to achieve a high score in a set amount of time; this mode relies on the player’s strategic use of chains and special bubbles. Chill gets rid of the game timer and high scores and allows the player to well, chill. Timed mode is pretty self-explanatory and gives the player a limited amount of time to achieve target scores. Bonus mode features four different mini-games; defend, detonate, machinegun and focus. These games focus on different elements of strategic gameplay, for instance defend challenges the player to stop any bubbles moving from the bottom screen to the top screen in a set amount of time.

Adventure mode is by far the biggest addition to the DSiWare version of the game and adds four boss battles to the game at regular intervals. These battles are pretty tricky and require a steady hand so as not to incur any misses and deplete the game timer! Adventure mode also adds mines, jets and goldfish to the game. Tapping adds special effects such as increasing the player’s score and popping multiple bubbles in the item’s vicinity. Challenge mode is also an interesting addition to the game as the player can construct their own challenges with different sets of rules by setting things such as the time limit and target score.

In order to progress through the game and unlock all it has to offer the player has to collect badges of which the DSiWare version has over eighty. Badges are awarded for all sorts of different things such as beating a wave in a certain mode and creating a custom challenge. Many of the badges are pretty easy to get and really only require that the player play the game to it’s fullest, some however are really quite challenging! The game has high-score tables which record all of the player’s scores in the different modes of gameplay and as much of the game is concerned with achieving high-scores these are a welcome feature.

The presentation in Pop Plus Solo really is top notch, everything from the menus to the different waves are animated beautifully and the effects are of really high quality, there are no cut corners here. The music and sound effects by Beat Therapy are also of really high quality and the game contains some of the best game music in recent years, everything fits together perfectly.

It’s somewhat unfortunate that the game doesn’t feature the multiplayer gameplay of its WiiWare counterpart, as this would really add to an already fantastic game. Given the low cost it is hard to begrudge this however, it’s jam packed with content and different things to do and furthermore it’s wrapped very nicely in a professional, polished, truly lovely package.

Conclusion

It goes without saying that Pop Plus: Solo is a highly recommended purchase, there are very few other games on the DSiWare service that come close to matching the extremely high quality of this title. There are heaps of game modes to try your hand at and you’ll find yourself coming back time and time again to better your previous high-scores. DSi owners should feel privileged that they have received what is arguably the best version of Nnooo’s addictive bubble popper to date. For the reasonable asking price of 500 Nintendo points you can’t go wrong here.