Title  : Bust-a-move '99
Platforms  : Nintendo 64, Sony PlayStation
Publisher  : Acclaim
Game Rating  : 8.0
Review by  : Ken Gagne

If there's one puzzle game that's appeared on almost as many systems as Tetris, it's Bust-a-Move. Acclaim publishes Bust-a-Move '99, for Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation. [N64 version reviewed here] 

Strings and layers of colored bubbles advance from the top of the screen, with the player firing individual bubbles from the bottom. By joining three bubbles of the same color, they disappear and possibly cause other pieces, now disconnected from any surface, to fall. Should the advancing bubbles cross the bottom of the screen — the "deadline" — it's game over! 

Pieces can rebound off walls for trick shots. A new feature (in only certain modes) is the ability to bounce bubbles off the ceiling. This innovation creates many new strategies while remaining in the spirit of Bust-a-Move and without disrupting gameplay. 

A bounty of gameplay modes are available. There are time attacks, puzzles, survivals, and competitions against computer or human opponents. There are thousands of unique puzzles, plus a create/edit mode. 

For the first time ever, four players can compete simultaneously. The action can get furious, especially with the ability to choose a specific opponent to attack. There is no soundtrack to aide the atmosphere, but a more critical flaw is the screen layout, with all four players lined from one end to the next, instead of the standard screen division of quarters. With such small playing fields, it is hard to make out details and colors, severely crippling gameplay. 

The only graphical advancement in the graphics department is in the backgrounds. A variety of impressive real-life still photos wallpaper the screen, though they seldom receive attention. The rest of the graphics are the simple, colorful staple of the puzzle genre. 

The same can be said for the soundtrack. Music is appropriately bouncy. and repetitive, failing to stand out in any way. Digitized speech punctuate characters' emotions when in precarious positions, but are seldom intelligible to an English-speaking audience. 

Either the digital pad and analog stick can be used, but an analog device doesn't work well in this style of game. The digital pad, combined with the L and R buttons for precision movements, is more than adequate. 

The memory pak can save high scores and custom levels, but eats an impressive 64 pages of memory. The rumble pak is also supported, but is used indiscriminately and doesn't add much to the experience. 

Bust-a-Move is surprisingly addictive, original puzzle game — not just another Tetris clone. With tons of levels and modes and a few new gameplay features, it's a worthy addition to any gamer's library of puzzle titles. If there's ever a Bust-a-Move 2000, maybe they'll get the multiplayer mode right.


This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 12-Apr-99