Bubble Gum Popper is about as basic as a match-three puzzler can get, and unfortunately this doesn't work in the its favour. Puzzle games don't necessarily have to be groundbreaking to be worthwhile, but it certainly helps if they're at least engaging; this lacklustre effort is barely even worth the low price thanks to its complete and utter blandness.
As a general philosophy of game design, it isn't a good thing if a player has no idea what he or she is to be doing when presented with a game screen (this is especially true for puzzlers). This is what can be said of our experience booting up Bubble Gum Popper for the first time. With a bubble gum dispenser in the background, the main menu screen has navigation arrows similar to those of a half-baked web page. When we selected Level 1, our screen quickly began filling up with gumballs of a single colour. With no indication or direction, we really didn't know what to do, so we just started tapping everywhere on the screen.
Eventually we had an "aha" moment and realized that this was a match three puzzler, but no sooner had we discerned this than the screen froze and we thought we might have done something wrong. Nope, turns out we cleared the level (and this screen-hanging happens when every level is cleared). Moving onto the new level we'd just unlocked, we tried to make sense of the confusing, bare bones display to figure out exactly what the overall objective was. We soon realized that clearing three or more gumballs fills a meter at the bottom of the screen. There are no display labels, no indication of points, and no real indication of what was going on at all. The whole visual experience of Bubble Gum Popper is so obtuse, and so bland, that it's frankly difficult for the game to keep one's attention when such exciting alternatives as dozing off and staring blankly into the ceiling exist.
There are 100 levels in Bubble Gum Popper, but that's about all there is. Players unlock levels one at a time, with each new level adding a new colour of gumball to the mix (that is until about a quarter of the way through the game when the new gumballs just become repeats with minutely different effects); there's also a timer that slowly increases. Having more types of gumballs seems like it would be a good thing, but it really just makes actually finding a match of three a nuisance considering how many types look nearly identical. The huge, satisfying multi-piece clearances that one would expect from a puzzler like this aren't really here, and most of the time we just furiously tapped all over the GamePad screen due to that being faster than actually looking for matches. Once players clear the game's 100 boring, repetitive levels, there's nothing else to do. Playing through the levels on offer felt like a chore, which is a rather unique sensation for a puzzle game.
The ragtime theme that haunts the entire experience is the same throughout, and even now the sound of popping bubbles fills us with a sense of traumatic dread. The crowd cheers when you finally clear enough gum to earn a temporary reprieve from the tedium, and we can only assume they do so because they are as sick of the experience as we are. This is a minor complaint, but there's also the fact that the gumballs themselves look more like marbles than anything edible.
The only thing that can be said for Bubble Gum Popper is that it is a game which technically works. When three of a particular kind of gumball are adjacent, touching them does indeed clear them from the board and award some sort of points. And that's about it. The mechanics are boring at best, and the entire presentation is dripping with dullness; even at $1.99 we find it difficult to recommend a game as soulless and insipid as this. Players are better off using that two bucks to buy some actual gum. Watching candy spin down the machine dispenser chute is about as fun as Bubble Gum Popper.