I can't imagine a console without a Bust-A-Move game, so it wasn't much of surprise when 505 Games announced that Wii owners were going to get their own incarnation. With added Wii-mote functionality, you'd think this marriage would be a match made in bubble bursting heaven, but sadly that's just not the case. Bust-A-Move on Wii suffers from spotty controls and a reworked multiplayer mode that's borderline useless. With no online support either - as if that's much of a surprise - it does little to push the series forward, despite the core gameplay elements remaining as addictive as ever.
As simplistic as any puzzle game can get, Bust-A-Move is a series that will test your aim more so than anything else, and while it's not as meaty and engaging as puzzlers like Tetris, or Dr. Mario for that matter, its simplicity proves to be the series' greatest asset and translates into one heck of an addictive puzzler.
For the one or two of you out there who haven't played Bust-A-Move in some fashion, the game has you launching spheres at coloured balls positioned at the top of the screen. The idea is to prevent the screen from filling up with bubbles by shooting your own sphere and lining up clusters of three or more balls of the same colour; do so, and those orbs shatter, freeing up additional space. The bulk of the strategy here revolves around precision aiming as you'll often have to ricochet your spheres off the wall in order to break most clusters, with the later levels (of which there are 500) requiring you to make seemingly impossible shots to progress forward.
As far as game modes are concerned, this Wii game features three, two of which will have veteran puzzle players feeling right at home, for better or for worse. On one hand, 505 hasn't really added anything new to the mix, and the puzzle and endless modes - the former is the meat of the game where you eliminate bubbles to move from stage-to-stage, the latter has you competing against an endless wave of balls - remain true to their original form. On the other hand, the new shooter mode was designed specifically with the Wii-mote in mind, and has players shooting at bubbles that zip by the screen in various directions.
Here's the catch: In order to shoot the bubbles, you must change the colour of your own sphere by pressing the d-pad or using the +/- buttons. Sadly, the entire process isn't particularly intuitive, and the mode, like a number of games featuring motion-sensing functionality these days, feels rushed and tacked on rather than being used effectively to enhance the overall experience. It's a mild diversion to be sure, but I would have much rather preferred a more refined control scheme.
There are two ways to play Bust-A-Move: using the Wii-mote as a gun, where you point at the screen and tilt the controller left and right to move the launcher, or baton mode, where the Wii-mote is positioned vertically. Of the two play styles, gun mode works the best, but that's not saying a whole lot. Both are erratic at times and are either too sensitive, or not sensitive enough, lacking any sort of middle ground. For example, the gun mode, especially early in the game, works wonders, but due to its extreme sensitivity, the later levels, where the bubbles descend at a much more pressing pace, can be an exercise of extreme frustration as you consistently over and under shoot targets. On the other end of the spectrum, the baton mode isn't fast enough to keep up with your movements.
Cumbersome or not, I could have been more forgiving had the game's multiplayer mode not taken a drastic turn for the worst. In past games, players would be given their own screen to compete on, but in this Wii version up to eight players have to compete on the same play field. With only two players it's not so much of a problem, but as additional players join, the amount of action on the screen can be dizzying. Further to that, the game liberally supplies players with an endless number of power ups to work with, meaning most will divert their attention to getting the latest power up rather than trying to fashion the best combos.
Even if you do fancy some eight-player action - though finding seven friends willing to play could be the real challenge - you need a combination of four Wii-motes and four Nunchuks or four Wii-motes and four Classic controllers. Even stranger is the fact that the game only supports the Classic controller during multiplayer sessions. Had the option been available for single-player, the Wii-mote's shortcomings could have easily been overlooked.
Just a few days ago I was in my local video store and noticed that about two shelves to the right of Bust-A-Move on Wii was the superior GameCube version, for about half the price. Considering Nintendo's system is backwards compatible, you have to wonder why anyone would spend full price on such a flawed piece of software over a cheaper, not to mention more enjoyable, alternative. With a shoddy set of controls, an uninspiring multiplayer mode, and visuals that rival the SNES, you're better off scanning bargain bins and online auctions to get your Bust-A-Move fix.