Ahh, Puzzle Bobble. I don't think I've ever played you. Played plenty of 'homages' to you, a fair few rip-offs, and probably a few adult-themed variations of you, but I don't think I've ever played the original Puzzle Bobble.
Not that there's much difference in any of these games, though, bar the skin slapped on top of them, the sound effects coming out of them and the degree to which the developers have gone power-up mad - thankfully not the case with the original arcade game.
Let's just chill and pop some bubbles, shall we?
This looks easy, doesn't it? Move a giant arrow left and right to launch some balls up the screen, and when enough of the same colour stick together they pop and score you some points. If a ball isn't stuck to a wall, it's no longer your concern but part of your high score. So simple a child coul-
Yes, the joy of Puzzle Bobble comes from it being so damn simple to understand but so painfully annoying to get right. Want to know what the first colour ball I had was in that shot? Yeah, it was grey. Want to know where I wanted to put it? Yeah, not in the corner...
The worst thing you can do in this game is panic because it's often a one-way ticket to losing the round. Panicking means you don't line up your shots properly, or you time them badly. Sometimes, a shot you were absolutely sure you had goes awry, and, caught unawares, the follow-up shot you just shot is now blocked from reaching its intended target, and now the roof is descending and Bub and Bob are looking alarmed and you don't know what to do and there's another misplaced shot what are you doing?!
Puzzle Bobble can be like that. And it's great.
Single player, competitive multiplayer, whatever floats your boat, Puzzle Bobble will offer you some good times. The best games are the simple ones, the almost mindless ones that deceive players into thinking they are child's play.
Some of those games take on cartoony visuals and happy music in order to lull us into a false sense of security, before revealing themselves to be rock hard and nightmare inducing.
Puzzle Bobble, in contrast, just looks bright and cheery because nobody would be a bubble popping game that wasn't, and is hard not necessarily because of devious layouts or dodgy physics, but because it reveals us to be the impatient, overconfident arseholes that we are. That some of us are.
If you've not played it, or anything like it before, where have you been? Go track down aaaany instance of it, official or not, and have fun. Frustrating fun.
The US version, titled Bust a Move, included antidrug and antilittering messages. Obviously.
Puzzle Bobble, developed by Taito Corporation, first released in 1994.
Version played: Arcade, 1994, via emulation.
Multiple others, over the years