Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey (PS4, PS5, PSVR, Oculus)

I freaking love Bubble Bobble.  And its spinoff puzzle games, Puzzle Bobble, is one of my top three favorite puzzle game series of all time alongside Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo and just plain ol’ Tetris.  Puzzle Bobble is also sometimes called Bust-A-Move, by the way.  Anyway, I was really curious when I found out there was a 3-D version of Puzzle Bobble coming out, and even more excited that I got to review it!  Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey has a VR component, too, so you can play it on PSVR or Oculus.  But you don’t HAVE to have VR to enjoy it either, so it’s also playable on regular current PlayStation consoles (reviewed on PS4 here).

Gameplay is very similar to the 2-D Puzzle Bobble games, in that you fire colored bubbles at a cluster of them, and if you match three of the same kind, they’ll disappear.  When you shoot a bubble at the cluster, the force will make the bubbles spin around so the cluster will be facing you from a different angle.  When you clear enough bubbles to reveal the core at the center, fire one last bubble when it starts glowing to complete the stage.  Your other dinosaur friend holds the next bubble to throw to you after you fire, but you can also switch out bubbles if you need that color instead.

There are three main modes of play.  In Story Mode, bubble dragons Bub and Bob have taken their girlfriends on a vacation, but the bad guy in these games traps them in bubbles so now Bub and Bob have to rescue them.  As if you need a story for an excuse to pop colored bubbles.  Anyway, here you’ll tackle 100 different levels, and earn stars and coins for completing them.  In some levels you must complete the stage with a certain number of bubbles, while in other stages you just have a time limit to finish.  Stages will also introduce new types of bubbles that have various effects when popped, some good, some bad.  Completed stages will earn you stars and coins, which you can use to buy power-ups like bombs to help you clear out bubbles.  But it takes an awful lot of coins to buy power-ups.

The other two modes include a two-player Duel mode, but you can only play it online.  I wish they would’ve implemented a split screen format so you can play it locally as well.  The last mode is Endless, where you must quickly clear out clusters of bubbles before they rise to the top and get sucked in by a vortex.  You can also play this game with VR, so it looks like you’re seeing what Bub sees.  Sounds like something that would be on my bucket list, but since I don’t have VR, I wasn’t able to try this out.

Aside from it taking too many coins to buy power-ups, and the difficulty imbalance in Story Mode, the only other problem I had with the game is it seems to focus more on gimmicks than actual gameplay.  In the 2-D games, you had to use strategy to ricochet bubbles off walls to get them in hard to reach spaces, but there’s none of that here.  I still liked the game, simply because I’m such a big fan of the series, but it’s not any better than the 2-D ones.  There is one minor detail that I did appreciate, though, and that’s the fact they are calling it Puzzle Bobble and not Bust-A-Move.  I never liked that name.  Puzzle Bobble just makes more sense!

Kid Factor:

Nothing violent or objectionable here.  There is a silly Easter egg type gag where you can fire the bubbles at Bob and hit him, and he’ll get mad and kick the bubble back at you (you even get a trophy for that), but that’s about as violent as it gets.  Reading skill is helpful for the text, but not necessary just to play.  Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is rated E for Everyone.

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