Bumper Stars began life last year as a Flash game on various websites and social networks, but a new adaptation for the iPhone and iPod Touch may be the best version to date. Like PopCap's smash hit, Peggle
Bumper Stars mixes elements from a couple of disparate games — in this case, billiards and pinball — and intuitive touch controls and Facebook integration make it an ideal pick for a quick fix on the go.
Don't expect a high-concept back story or complex instructions — Bumper Stars is all about flicking a ball-shaped beaver around a game board in an effort to eat all the fruit within three shots. Each randomly generated stage includes several pinball-like bumpers to keep your busy beaver bouncing around in all directions (or block your path), so you'll need to carefully navigate the levels to make sure you nab all the fruit before you run out of shots. Bumpers come in two styles: gold ones are permanent and put a little more spring in your beaver's bounce, while purple ones disappear shortly after being touched, though you do get a score modifier for doing so. Controlling your avatar is simple as can be: simply touch it and drag it in the direction you'd like it to roll, and then release to fire.
Essentially, the goal in Bumper Stars is to continue playing and racking up your score for as long as possible, as using up all three shots in a stage without grabbing all the food means you'll have to start over on the first level. Though fruit and bumper placements appear to be uniquely generated for each new attempt, progressive levels offer more fruit and/or denser bumper arrangements, slightly ratcheting up the difficulty with each cleared stage. With levels taking as little as 10 to 15 seconds to complete, the average game of Bumper Stars may last just a couple minutes — but you'll likely want to play several times per sitting, as the game's accessibility and rewarding balance of skilled aiming and lucky bounces makes for a highly addictive portable experience.
Facebook integration allows you to sign in with your personal account and link activities and accumulated credits between both versions of the game. While linked up, you can send a challenge to any Facebook friend who plays the game, and credits are awarded for completing challenges, earning achievements, and simply playing the game. These credits can be used to access bonus goodies to customize your experience, such as different non-beaver avatars (including a rabbit, President Obama, and one modeled after Master Chief from the Halo shooter series), new bumper and arena designs, and different types of food to collect (including vegetables and desserts). These unlocked items are also shared between the iPhone and Facebook versions of the game.
I wouldn't put Bumper Stars quite on par with Peggle, as it lacks the defined stages and robust content that make that game such an intensely addicting challenge, but Bumper Stars undoubtedly taps into a similar type of genius. Immediate accessibility and a $0.99 price point make it a perfect fit for the iPhone.