Previously released as Scrubbles to a lukewarm reception, re-engineered for mobile and Facebook where it became a cult classic, and now re-released as a download, Bubble Town is an expansion of marble popping classics like Bust-a-Move.
When a developer makes a game that actually tries to do something different, it’s nice when the attempt actually works out. Bubble Town is a a great example of what happens when almost everything goes right.
The premise is the same: shoot a colored ball and make chains of three or more. Extra balls hanging off the chain are dropped and add bonuses. Try to clear the whole board before the balls drop below the line at the bottom of the screen.
Fortunately, Bubble Town adds some wonderful originality on every front. The game features two levels modes: Straight-Up and Ball. Straight Up is as it sounds, a standard shaft-style board that lowers as it progresses. Ball, however, features a large yellow hexagon surrounding a clump of colored balls that rotate with each shot. Rather than a stage lowering, the hexagon shrinks. If there are any balls outside the hexagon, it’s game over.
Bubble Town offers two modes, Journey and Endless Endless mode is more of an arcade game, a series of stages for you to complete. The Journey mode, though, offers a bit of plotting. The Borbs (the colored balls) of Bubble Town are being invaded by space baddies called Lumps, and it’s up to you to clear them out by travelling all over the map of Bubble Town. The Lumps appear to interfere with you, as they are virtually unclearable obstacles, forcing you to manoeuver your Borbs around them.
There are no time limits in Bubble Town. So how can you lose? Beside your launcher at the bottom of the screen, there is a tube, which begins each round with eight total Borbs. The Dive Bar – the part of the screen that lowers, bringing your Borbs one increment closer to intergalactic doom – is lowered only when you use up all the Borbs in your tube, which is then refilled. You can gain extra Borbs for your tube by making Big Drops, removing extra hanging Borbs. Bonuses are awarded at the end of each level based on how many Borbs are left in your tube, and how little the Dive Bar… erm, dived.
Thankfully, Bubble Town offers some great help for players. If you leave the pointing still for a moment, a small V shape will appear along each wall, indicating the angle of ricochet. While it doesn’t give the entire trajectory away, considering the large number of banked shots you’ll have to make in later levels, it is a welcome tool.
There are a variety of Borbs. From the homemade armor-wearing nerdy Borb to the white makeup-wearing goth Borb to the sarcastic red and orange Borb, there is a nice characterization and personality to these otherwise bland staples of match three. Sometimes, though, they are asleep, and need to be woken up by being hit by the same color Borb in order to be cleared.
Also changing things up are a variety of power-ups. The Sure Shot shows the full trajectory of the next three shots you take. The Hot Foot sends a flaming Borb up through the board, eradicating all Borbs in its path. There are others, such as the Wild Borb (can be matched to any color) or Bomb Borb (which explodes and clears away any Borbs in the vicinity). For me, the most clever one was the Plunger, which allows you to grab any Borb from the board and have it be the next shot out of the launcher. If you remembered what I mentioned about the Lumps, you’ll know what to do with it.
After completing a number of stages, there are fun and creative boss battles. The first boss, The Overlump is a large Ball stage where you must clear away all the Borbs surrounding him so you can color match with the bombs nearby. The Overlump rotates unpredictably after each shot, and streams out new Borbs after a while.
The production values of Bubble Town are truly excellent. The rockin’, jazzin’, easy boppin’ soundtrack never gets old, and the graphics allow all the Borbs’ personalities to really shine. The bosses in particular are a lot of fun.
However, not all is perfect in Bubble Town. There is a large difficulty spike around level five of the game, and some of the Borb and item Borb colors don’t always seem to match the way you might think. Pink Borbs matched what looked to me like red item Borbs, but red and orande Borbs matched with orange item Borbs. It’s nothing game-breaking, but was a bit of a nuisance.
Also of particular note, Bubble Town was released previously as Scrubbles, and as such the games are virtually identical, save the absence of Scrubbles‘ toilet humor (some verging on very offensive) in Bubble Town. If you already purchased Scrubbles, there’s no need to download this game.
For those who haven’t, Bubble Town is an insanely addictive, wonderfully original match three that should not be overlooked. I must confess, I found myself playing the game after having played it enough for the review. It’s got pretty much everything going for it. So go pop some Borbs!