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Bust-A-Move Bash! (Wii) artwork

Bust-A-Move Bash! (Wii) review

"Rather than press ‘left’ or ‘right’ on the d-pad, you hold the controller toward the screen like a wand and turn it toward the left or right. This causes the launch mechanism at the bottom center of the television screen to shift accordingly. It’s truly a satisfying improvement that brings a new dimension to the game… when it works. The problem is that sometimes things go haywire."

Bust-A-Move has existed for quite awhile now, on nearly as many platforms as Tetris. It’s had its fair share of clones, too. Some fairly credit the franchise with the lofty accomplishment of keeping Taito in business after the 16-bit generation. One might even go so far as to call it the king of casual games. Is it any surprise, then, that a version is already available for the Wii?

With any Bust-A-Move title, the goal is the same: you must burst bubbles before they lower themselves to the bottom portion of the screen. You do that by launching some of your own. As the bubbly ceiling lowers, you toss more orbs into the mix and hope that three or more touch so that they can all evaporate. It’s a simple concept with immediate appeal that has entertained people for years. Given the obvious appeal of the core product, there’s only one thing left to address when it comes time to examine the Wii version: the quality of the port.

First, there’s the good news. It turns out that the Wii Remote is the perfect way to control Bust-A-Move Bash! the majority of the time. Rather than press ‘left’ or ‘right’ on the d-pad, you hold the controller toward the screen like a wand and turn it toward the left or right. This causes the launch mechanism at the bottom center of the television screen to shift accordingly. It’s truly a satisfying improvement that brings a new dimension to the game… when it works. The problem is that sometimes things go haywire.

Imagine that you’re struggling to keep a game going. You got careless and now the bubbles have drifted to the bottom of the screen. Red lettering lets you know that the end is imminent, yet your score is starting to look sensational. If you can keep things going for a little while longer, you’ll beat your previous record! You carefully tilt the Wii Remote to the side and suddenly the little meter that lets you know where your shot will go jumps to the far left. You only wanted a small nudge. Frustrated, you ease it back to the right, only everything falls apart and now the arrow is drifting all over the place, just about everywhere but where you want it. It’s sort of like driving a car around a sharp corner and suddenly losing control on a sheet of ice you couldn’t have possibly anticipated.

The problem isn’t sensitive controls. Gamers could easily adjust to those. Instead, inconsistency is at fault. Most of the time, you’ll really feel like you’re in control. Gentle twists of the wrist make everything happen just as you plan. It feels perfect, but loss of control at even one critical juncture can turn smiles to frowns. When things are going poorly, you’ll be afraid to move the Wii Remote at all for fear of worsening your predicament. Sometimes a shaky hand can cause your aim to adjust itself at the very moment you press the button to fire a bubble. The results can be disastrous.

Aside from that one quirk, though, Bust-A-Move Bash! is everything you might hope for. It has four modes, too. First there’s the ‘Endless’ one, which keeps going until you succumb to a bubbly grave. Then there’s ‘Puzzle’ mode, where you unlock new stages. These start you with specific bubble formations that begin to droop the moment you start playing. When you complete each set of 50 stages, you unlock themes that become selectable in ‘Endless’ mode. Every 10th stage, you also get to play a bonus round. Within such areas, you use the Wii remote to aim crosshairs and burst a chain of bubbles that glide in from all sides of the screen. That’s an interesting diversion that serves as a handy yardstick to measure your success. If you’re so inclined, you can even select it from the main menu by hovering over the ‘Shooting’ option. Oddly, each time a round ends you’re taken back to the main menu, rather than a menu that lets you try again. That’s a frustrating and prophetic bit of game design: one round is all most people will want to play!

The multi-player mode fares significantly better. Up to eight players can gather around your Wii at once. It can be quite the spectacle, and it’s even depicted on the back of the box. However, that photo gives the impression that you have to hold the Wii Remote outward like a pistol. That’s not true at all. If you try it for more than 2 or 3 minutes, you’ll get arm cramps like crazy. Just ask my wife.

The problem with ‘Versus’ mode--which lets you bring in some computer-controlled buddies if you find yourself with a shortage of friends--is the fact that button mashing sometimes proves as effective a strategy as thoughtful play. My wife won our first few matches simply by mashing the ‘A’ button with no rhyme or reason as she swung her Wii Remote erratically. Bubbles skitter along the surface until they find a match, so that the quest for a combo-laced high score replaces any realistic concern that the bubbles will reach the bottom of the screen. I turned the tables on my wife in our fourth match by successfully employing her strategy, but my victory felt hollow. A game like this really should come down to skill, not random luck. Still, get a few casual gamers together in the same room and they won’t know the difference.

That’s really who Bust-A-Move Bash! was designed for, anyway. Certainly it’s not trying to stand up against Halo or The Legend of Zelda. It exists merely to provide some innocent fun that can appeal to anyone. Thanks to tried and true design, coupled with a mostly enjoyable control scheme made possible by the Wii, Bust-A-Move Bash! is everything its title implies. Go in with reasonable expectations and you’ll like what you find. Casual games need loving, too!

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Staff review by Jason Venter (May 18, 2007)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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