Anyone used to scrolling through the recent reviews section of Nintendo Life should be familiar with the name Bigben Interactive. Best of Arcade Games - Bubble Buster is the latest in a series of puzzlers, card games and arcade greats to be released by the developer, in an attempt to give these classics a "definitive" version on the 3DS. However, is Bubble Buster really an experience crying out for a further rendition, and can it truly be worthy of its "Best of" moniker?
Bubble Buster is a match up puzzler, requiring you to shoot "bubbles" (which are in fact volleyballs) into a grid of prearranged "bubbles". Being based on Taito's Puzzle Bobble (Bust-a-Move) series of games, the gameplay should be familiar to almost everyone, as it is a puzzle experience that has seen countless clones and renditions in the years since it first broke onto the scene in the mid-nineties. The objective is to match three of the same colour; once three or more are matched, they are removed from the board, with the stage being completed once the entire screen has been cleared. Bubble Buster is about as straightforward as video games come.
There are a total of fifty puzzles in Adventure mode for the player to complete, and there is also the ability to re-play any level you want in Free mode (should you choose to stick with Bubble Buster). As is the case with the other titles in the "Best of Arcade Games" series, you can purchase upgrades before each stage using the "money" accumulated from previous levels. These include such power-ups as "magical bubbles" that can be matched with any variety, the ability to make your "bubbles" smaller and therefore easier to squeeze between holes or adding a "precise aiming" targeting system, giving you a dotted trajectory in order to more accurately place your shots. The stages do become trickier over time as impositions and challenges are gradually introduced, however these upgrades only serve to dilute the difficulty and are far too cheap, meaning that they can be purchased and utilised time and time again - essentially killing any of the challenge.
Once again, Bigben Interactive have put together an extremely systematic experience, and there can be no complaints about the way Bubble Buster plays - as the controls are extremely responsive and intuitive. From a visual perspective, Bubble Buster isn't offensive for a simple puzzle game, but it is extremely bland and generic. As previously mentioned, the "Bubbles" alluded to in the game's title are in fact beach Volleyballs, presumably as a means of distinguishing itself from the hundreds of other Bust-a-Move clones. In fact, Bubble Buster uses a beach theme throughout. Each stage is set against an ocean backdrop, with the puzzle's border being decorated with gaudy sunglasses, parasols and a rather gormless crab who will grin back at you from the side. This is accompanied by extremely generic Saxophone backing music that will leave you wanting to bury your head in the computer generated sand rather than listen to a minute more.
Unfortunately, Bubble Buster never really sets out to be anything more than an acceptable version of a classic formula, and although Bigben clearly wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel when developing its version of such a recurrent puzzler, it would be pleasing to have seen preconceptions being broken instead of merely being met. Taking an extremely tolerant point of view; despite being extremely unoriginal, Bubble Buster is an acceptable puzzle game. However, Bubble Buster becomes a whole lot less acceptable when one considers the rather absurd asking price. Like the majority of Bigben's other numerous "Best of" titles, Bubble Buster feels more like a free-to-play experience as opposed to a meaty game worthy of an £8.99/€9.99 asking price (at launch). Players may recall similar experiences bundled into their phones, set-top boxes, and other devices - usually at no expense, and there are simply better options out there. Simply adding stereoscopic 3D visuals onto what should be a discount title certainly does not excuse such a high fee, a lesson that Bigben is yet to learn.
For what it is, Bubble Buster does a decent job of catering to an (admittedly small) market on the 3DS eShop. Despite the bland presentation and uninspired gameplay, it succeeds in being a competent 3DS iteration of the timeless formula. However, instead of offering 3DS owners what could have been a nice little discount puzzler for their systems, Bubble Buster is an inexcusably extortionate title that does little to warrant its asking price, and even less to warrant a purchase. For a title being touted as yet another "Best of" experience, Best of Arcade Games - Bubble Buster miserably fails to be the best, and instead simply ends up being adequacy at a premium price.