Thank you Natsume for sending us this game to review!
Bust-A-Move 4 was released in Japan in 1998 as Puzzle Bobble 4. Outside of Japan, the popular series is known as Bust-A-Move. The premise is simple: you must shoot bubbles into similarly colored ones. Once three colors are matched, they will disappear. If too many bubbles fill up the level, you will lose. Fortunately the PSN release lets you continue infinitely and after the first attempt, you get a guide to show you where the bubble you shoot will land.
New to Bust-A-Move 4 is the pulley system. In these levels there are one or more pulleys that will adjust based on their load. If the pulleys dip below the threshold, you will lose. The multiplayer modes feature a chain reaction system that causes bubbles to move across the board, possibly causing more chain reactions.
The single-player campaign features over one hundred tarot card themed levels. The story goes as follows. The mischievous Cleon has stolen planet Bubbleluna's light source. Madame Luna takes this light source and splits it into seven pieces and it's up to Bub and Bob to retrieve them if they want to see the light of day again. After completing five levels in an area, that particular tarot card is sealed.
I like the infinite continues and the ability to save my progress. Finding the option to load my save took some digging into the complex menu system. To load a save you have to go to to "Option", Memory Card, and finally data load. I guess I am spoiled by how most games give you the option to load from the main menu.
Besides the single-player campaign, there are two multplayer modes, a puzzle mode, a challenge mode, and lastly, a level editor. Player versus Player does not work on the Vita, but I imagine it is a blast on the PS3. The player versus computer mode offers multiple difficulties (Practice, Normal, Expert). The chain reactions causing bubbles to go into each other's board adds quite a challenge!
In challenge mode you have to clear five rounds at a time and afterwards get ranked on how fast you were able to complete the levels and if you managed to clear them all. Time is critical in this game. You only have a few seconds to shoot the bubble or it will shoot automatically. Some levels let you bounce a bubble out of the level without using it, but other levels have anti-bouncing surfaces.
Besides the colored bubbles there are two unique kinds. Rainbow bubbles will turn to the color of successfully matched bubbles it was adjacent to. Star bubbles will eliminate all of the like colored bubbles it gets hit with. (Very handy!)
The level editor is fun and it lets you design your own levels with any kind of bubble you wish. You can put the anti-bounce blocks in for an added challenge. While you cannot send your levels to others, you can share them on your device for people nearby to enjoy. Building and testing your levels is easy to do.
My kids enjoyed playing and designing levels for Bust-A-Move 4. Other than the tarot card usage, this game is perfectly clean.
The colorful graphics are dated, but still look good. The cartoon characters are anime like and cute. The animations and sound effects are very Japanese. When you clear multiple bubbles at a time there is a very happy Japanese phrase made that I have no idea what it means. The rest of the sound effects are universal. The background music is good, but more variety would have been nice.
With all of the possible game modes there are over 600 levels to enjoy. Many consider this to be the best in the series with the addition of pulleys and chain reactions. The asking price of $5.99 is well worth the entry fee. Linux and Mac users can enjoy a free clone (without pulleys) called Frozen Bubble.