For years, each new generation of computer games was about better graphics. Then someone decided they’d pushed that particular envelop far enough and punched up the physics instead. When that happened, the fun factor in games skyrocketed. Even casual offerings like BreakQuest made great use of realistic object interaction. Bottle Buster from Gamezilla sets out to do the same.
The title of the game is a misnomer since you don’t break any bottles. All of your efforts are, however, concentrated on knocking them down. You’ll topple thousands of them, in fact, over the course of 40 levels divided between ten 3D worlds. Like a first-person carnival game, Bottle Buster gives you a ball in your right hand and a scene full of differently colored bottles to knock over before time runs out.
You won’t find any static displays in Bottle Buster, though. Rather, each level contains unique interactive objects that can be used to knock over large numbers of bottles. In the first episode, for example, you can hit the legs out from under a shelf to drop everything it holds. The same level challenges you to knock down a glass barrier that’s blocking access to several bottles.
Later, you can overturn several bottles at once by glancing your ball off the side of a mountain and knocking a large ice cube off a ledge, which in turn lands on the end of a board balanced on a fulcrum. When the other side of the board tips up, several bottles go tumbling. Setting these Incredible Machine-style contraptions in motion can be fun, especially if they take you a few minutes to work out.
As you progress, the toughness of the obstacles increases. By the fourth episode, for example, you’ll be trying to throw your ball past the broad base of a rocket that spins when you hit it and tends to repel the ball before it can reach the bottles situated behind it. That alone is challenging enough without factoring in the long distance your ball has to travel before reaching its target, which makes timing your toss difficult.
Physics come into play when throwing your ball as well. When aiming, for example, you have to point your cursor above the bottle you want to hit, as the ball will begin yielding to gravity soon after you throw it. The further away the bottle, the higher you’ll have to aim. Although this mechanic is pretty intuitive, you also have to adjust your throws for wind velocity and direction, which can change several times during a single level. It can be very gratifying to watch the ball curve, dip and hit a bottle right on the neck at the end of a long toss.
To provide a change of pace, the last stage of each episode consists of a special challenge that doesn’t involve breaking bottles. In one, you have to hit polar bears as they cross the screen to keep them from reaching penguins on the other side. Another has you knocking down mummies that pop up at varying distances, like a 3D Whack-a-Mole with baseballs. Sometimes, these mini-games are over before you figure out how to play them, but most are simple enough.
Once you complete an episode, you’re awarded a certain number of points with which you can upgrade the size or mass of your ball, the speed with which you throw it and the amount of time you have for completing a level. While these changes do impact the gameplay, you can’t return your points and spend them on something else if things didn’t work out the way you expected them to. Once you increase the mass of your ball, for example, you’re locked in, even if you decide what you really needed was more time on the clock.
Finally, you can earn various trophies for reaching certain milestones and prizes for your performance during individual levels. Since there’s no single-player storyline to complete, the trophies, prizes and high scores list are the only incentives to playing through Bottle Buster.
Getting to the end, however, will require a lot of patience. At first, it’s easy to get sucked into the gimmick behind Bottle Buster. Playing with the physics and watching bottles tumble as a result is great fun. As the game progresses, though, tedium can set in. You’ll find yourself making lots of small incremental changes to your throw in order to hit bottles near the back of the screen, and then drearily hitting the bottles placed closer to you.
And while the physics puzzles are generally cool, they sometimes get in the way of your enjoyment. A good example is the level with the spinning rocket mentioned earlier in this review. As the clock ticked down, I tried my best to hit the bottle located behind the missile. When I failed, I not only lost the game, as there are no retries or extra lives, I had to start over at the beginning of the episode. Since I was already tired of knocking over bottles, I quit and did something else for awhile.
If you have the staying power to endure what can be a repetitive process, then Bottle Buster will reward you with colorful 3D levels, some fun objects with which to interact (the airplane suspended from the ceiling in the fourth episode is cool) and the satisfaction of beating a game with some intense challenges.