Bust A Move seems to have been around since the dawn of time, but the series is still going strong. The Nintendo DS is the latest console to receive a version of the game in the form of the ingeniously titled Bust A Move DS. While the game obviously makes use of the handheld's unique touch screen, the game as a whole is about the same as it's ever been.
If you've been living in a world without puzzle games, Bust A Move is a rather simple, but fiendishly addictive little game. The goal is to clear the screen of coloured bubbles. If you create a collection of three or more bubbles of the same colour they will be removed from the screen, clearing the way to bubbles above them and also removing any bubbles attached to them from below. It's about as simple as a puzzle game could get.
Traditionally you've had to control the direction you shoot the bubbles with a d-pad or something similar, but the DS allows you to use the touch screen. The entire lower screen is dedicated to the bubble firing, showing you what bubble is coming next and what alternative bubble you can fire (a bubble that you have set aside). The firing mechanism works like a catapult, and while it takes some getting used to, it gives you a level of precision that isn't possible with a d-pad. If you so wish you can choose to use the d-pad to aim, but unless you're playing while on the move, there's really no point.
Gameplay modes are sparse, but time consuming nonetheless. The core 'puzzle mode' includes 250 screens that must be cleared, and when you've done that another 250 are unlocked. Alternatively you've got the 'Classic mode' that simply challenges you to keep going until the bubbles push bellow the lower line. This is the mode that you'll come back to time and time again after you're done with Puzzle mode, and while you've probably played it before, the addiction is still as strong as ever.
Things aren't quite as simple as they first seem, mainly due to a number of special bubbles that appear in the game. Star bubbles are perhaps the most useful, clearing all bubbles of the same colour that they hit. Rainbow bubbles change the colour of the bubbles next to it to the colour of the fired bubble, metal bubbles cannot be popped and bomb bubbles take out any bubbles that they touch.
Multiplayer games can be played with up to four friends (even if there's only one game card between the lot of you) or against four CPU players. To win in a multiplayer game you must survive longer than the other players, but the game also lets you attack opposing players with rows of bubbles. By successfully popping bubbles on your screen you earn diamonds and these diamonds can be used to attack other players individually or as a group. As with all games of this nature, multiplayer games become rather intense, and a quick game can quickly spiral into a best-of-nine marathon.
It seems rather trivial talking about the game's visuals as they really don't matter. The game is bright and colourful, and your character on the lower screen looks nice, but it's really a very basic looking game. The tunes that are pumped out are nice enough, but unless you've got headphones on anyone nearby might become a little aggravated by the general happiness of it all.
The touch screen controls take some getting used to, but you'll end up finding it hard to switch back to the rather imprecise d-pad. There are plenty of puzzles to work through and the other game modes and multiplayer support will keep you coming back for short sessions. Even if you've played a previous game in the series to death, this DS version is an absolute blast to play.