Title: Bust-A-Move 4
Publisher: Acclaim
Features: GameBoy / Color GameBoy
Available: Mega Multimedia
Tampines Mall
Tel: 788-7555
Fax: 788-2555
Reviewer: Heiss


Bust-A-Move 4 is the fourth incarnation of Taito's classic puzzle arcade game, known as Puzzle Bobble in Japan, of which many versions have been ported to popular gaming consoles through the years. This new version adds some interesting variations to the series in gameplay and strategy.

Game Play

Game play remains virtually unchanged: your object is to clear rows of colored bubbles stacked at the top of the screen by aiming a pointer and shooting bubbles. When three or more bubbles of the same color touch, they pop out and fall to the ground. You can choose any of 10 characters from various Taito games as your player, each with their own quirky

Hitting flashing bubbles cause random bubbles to pop out, while other bubbles are just solid obstacles that fall off once the other bubbles surrounding it are gone. A well-aimed shot can cause a chain reaction that results in a cascade of bubbles, often clearing most of the stack. And when the sides of the screen start flashing, it's time to work fast, as it means that the row of bubbles are about to descend--once they reach the bottom of the screen, you've lost the round.

A new feature in Bust-A-Move 4 is the pulley mechanism, where the bubbles are attached to pulleys that raise or lower depending on the number of bubbles. This time a bit more strategy is involved here than blindly popping bubbles at random, as you have to carefully pop the bubbles while keeping the pulleys balanced enough; popping too many bubbles on one pulley will make the other pulley with more bubbles come crashing down, ending the round quickly.

Three modes of play are present in Bust-A-Move 4: Puzzle, Player vs. CPU, and Challenge.

Puzzle mode is a series of stages labeled "A" to "Z". Each stage consists of five puzzle rounds, and successfully completing each stage enables you to progress to the higher stages. You can select three difficulty settings for this mode: Easy, Normal and Expert.

Player vs. CPU pits you against computerized opponents, and the more bubbles you clear results in more obstacles for your opponent. Occasionally you'll fight against hidden characters not available for playing in this mode.

Challenge mode consists of five numbered stages, with each stage being graded once you've cleared it. Don't worry about losing a round here, as you can still advance to the last stage even if you miss several puzzle rounds.

Color & Controls

Bust-A-Move 4's use of the GameBoy Color palette is somewhat disappointing. Patterns are used to differentiate some colors and because of this some colors like blue and violet are difficult to distinguish, and the tiny size of the bubbles doesn't really help much in this regard.

Music is just right and rarely annoying, with whimsical tunes providing a lighthearted mood for the game.

Controls are smooth and flawless: direction pad to aim the pointer then the A Button to shoot. Simple and sweet. Not moving the controls for a certain period of time will start a timer that automatically shoots a bubble.

Final Comments

With all the boosted hardware capabilities of the GameBoy Color, Bust-A-Move does not have a 2-player link mode, which is too bad, as playing head-to-head with another GameBoy player can significantly add to the fun and the challenge. Also, a save feature is missing, which seems to be a disappointing trend of the recent GBC games.

Overall, with its simple, easy to learn play mechanics combined with challenging gameplay, Bust-A-Move 4 is a game that everyone can play, from novice gamers to die-hard puzzle gamers. It's highly addictive too; the type of game that makes you play "just one more round" until you realize that you've already spent several hours playing the game.

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