Burble provides a solid single-player word game, but has some technical issues holding it back

Burble‘s developer, Charlie Dog Games, describes Burble as Scrabble meets Zuma. The game’s design is representative of that concept, but comparing a game to one of the legendary word games and to PopCap’s ball-shooting hit leads to some high expectations. Like the great word games, Burble provides its fair share of challenges. Unfortunately, there’s some extra challenge that doesn’t come from the concept of the game. You also need to overcome randomness, inferior control, and poorly-placed ads.

I strongly enjoy word games. There’s a good chance I enjoy a round of Scrabble more than I do any videogame (except Super Mario World), and I feel a little weird thinking that. So when I noticed Burble being compared to Scrabble and Zuma, I was instantly intrigued. Right when you start the game, the comparisons are obvious. There’s a curvy Zuma-like trail set up around the screen where letters are being pushed from one end to the other. If they reach the other side, you lose. To prevent that from happening, you can swap any two letters at a time in order to rearrange them and form words. Forming words causes those letters to disappear, nets you points, and fills your completion gauge for that stage.

Burble provides a fair amount of challenge from this approach. Each of the game’s nine stages (more are available for purchase via Google Play) give three different modes: Classic, expert, and continuous challenge. All three modes play with the same concept, with expert mode being harder than classic, and continuous not ending until you lose or you quit.

At this point it may sound easy enough to make a ton of short words and advance the levels that way. That is a possibility, but the game will punish you if you make too many words of five letters or less. After a few of these instances, a letter will turn into a “spawner” and routinely create new letters next to it. You can stop this by forming a word with the spawner letter, although my luck often resulted in a trail full of J’s, V’s, and X’s so that spawner letter was typically hard to remove.

Burble encourages you to dig deep in your vocabulary and form long words. You get bonus points and spawn multipliers if you do. This gets you a better score, a better star rating, and a chance to unlock the bonus level. Making these long words can be an issue, though. Much of my experience found a lack of vowels to go along with my multitude of hard-to-use consonants. So, unless LIXJVMZN is actually a word, the game gave me a hard time trying to play it the way it intended. Fortunately, there’s an option to give some assistance in tough situations. With the press of a button, every letter on the trail will be changed, as well as a few added. This often opens the board to better opportunities, though you need to watch out if the trail is nearly filled before you use it.

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Burble‘s biggest flaw is in correctly identifying what you’re trying to do. To swap letters, you simply drag your finger from one letter to another, and those two are supposed to switch places. Sadly, Burble does a poor job at recognizing which letters you’re trying to move, and you’ll likely run into a handful of situations where the wrong letter is moved. This isn’t a huge hassle unless you’re trying to build up your score, as this can affect your multiplier.

The other issue Burble suffers is with advertisements. Ads are expected in free titles, but their placement in this game is unfortunate. The first time I played the game, I was greeted with an ad right across the top of the screen, covering a large number of letters. Exiting and restarting the game removed the ad, but it came back the next time I played. I was hoping the options menu would help out, but the only options are to change volume levels and trail speed.

These flaws are a shame, because Burble is an otherwise solid title. It certainly won’t win any awards, and you likely won’t want to go back for more once you’re done. But if you like checking out new word games, it’s worth giving a shot simply because it’s free. It will never replace a game like Words with Friends, and it fails to live up to the comparisons of Scrabble and Zuma. However, Charlie Dog Games has a respectable outing in its initial Android endeavor.

My biggest disappointment is that I got stuck with a spawner letter when I played the word PUPPY. Who hates a puppy?