The bubble burst.
The original Bust-a-Move came out in 1994. Bust-a-Move Bash is a remake of that game without any new worthwhile features except for a new control scheme that makes use of the Wii remote. This implementation, while successful, isn’t enough to warrant a forty-dollar price tag.
The shortcomings would have been easier to tolerate, had Bust-a-Move been a fantastic puzzle game to begin with. Sadly, the basic gameplay mechanics are starting to show their age. As always, you must shoot bubbles from the bottom of the screen to similarly colored bubbles at the top. Once three or more bubbles with the same color are grouped, they burst, and once all bubbles disappear, you proceed to the next level. If a bubble reaches the bottom of the playing field, you lose. Those are the basic rules. As with any puzzle game, this high degree of simplicity is a double-edged sword. The fact that the game is so easy to understand and only requires very basic perception, reaction, and aiming skills means that even inexperienced gamers can immediately jump into the game. On the other hand, Bust-a-Move isn’t nearly as deep or strategically demanding as, say, Tetris, Tetris Attack, or Lumines, and, as a result, it doesn’t come close to matching the longevity and satisfaction levels provided by those games. Boredom ensues more quickly in Bust-a-Move.
In Bash, a bunch of interesting new content would have helped, but there’s little to find. Apart from the standard Puzzle and Endless modes, you just get Shooting and Versus, both of which contain serious flaws.
Shooting doesn’t really have anything to do with the core concept of Bust-a-Move. Akin to Duck Hunt, you use the Wii remote as a gun in order to shoot down bubbles. As a twist, you have to switch the color of your reticule so that it matches the color of the bubble you want to shoot. Still, this mode is extremely simple and doesn’t do anything creative with either the Wii remote or the core Bust-a-Move gameplay mechanics.
The Versus mode sounds great on paper, as it supports up to eight players simultaneously. Four of them can use the Wii remote, and the other four use either classic or nunchuk controllers attached to the other players’ Wii remotes. Furthermore, bots can be used to replace human players if needed. The whole setup is both unique and commendable. Unfortunately, Bash lends itself very poorly to matches with more than three players. The onscreen action then develops into a confusing mess, in which crazy power-up-carrying UFO’s zoom by, bubble-shattering bomb-bubbles get triggered incessantly, and entirely new bubbles suddenly appear without warning. It’s like watching a colorful firework of shiny bubbles constantly exploding and spawning. You’ll often notice that, from the moment you launch your bubble to the moment it reaches its destination, the playing field has been altered so dramatically and unpredictably, that you might as well rely on quick accidental shots instead. Any sense of skill goes largely unrewarded, while mindlessly shooting out as many bubbles as possible is bound to set off something that is point-generating. There is no serious punishment for employing this cheap tactic, as you can’t die from not hitting your targets.
What prevents Bash from complete failure are the controls, which make great use of the Wii remote. You can choose to hold it upright – baton-style – and then tilt it to aim. However, this method is neither precise nor quick enough in intense situations. Instead, aiming your Wii remote like a gun is preferable. You get a reticule that moves fully in line with your movements, and it’s fast and responsive, making you feel completely in control. This fact becomes particularly apparent when comparing these aiming controls to the classic or nunchuk controls. While the classic controller works predictably decently, the nunchuk only supports the inferior baton style. Support for these two controllers is only available in multiplayer, where they provide a slightly unfair disadvantage to the players wielding them.
All in all, the $40 price point of Bust-a-Move Bash boggles the mind. Based on a thirteen-year-old puzzle game, Bash lacks depth, has very little content, and presents a seriously flawed multiplayer mode. When adding to that a bland presentation and extremely repetitive music, you get a package certainly not worth investing in. Not even great controls can save the game. They can only soften its fall.