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  Puzzle Bobble/Bust A Move - ©Taito 1994 (Review 2)

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Game Stats
1 or 2 player

Puzzle Game

32 Megs
Japanese Name:

Puzzle Bobble

Released On:


Reviewed By:
Top Reviews By This Author:
- Puzzle Bobble/Bust A Move (Neo Geo)
- Windjammers (Neo Geo)

Review Introduction:

It is quite possible that there is no factor more influential in the strengthening and/or damaging of my marriage than that of Bust-A-Move (Puzzle Bobble in Japan). The saccharine visuals lull you into the belief that this will be a casual game to slowly plod through with someone whose company you enjoy. Do not fall prey to this ruse. Make no mistake; Taito has made a war game on par with the frantic, heart-racing action of any Call of Duty or Battlefield title. My wife and I have weekly “Bust-A-Move House Champion” competitions and they get heated. Though I’ll be touching upon the game as a whole, my main focus for this title will be the 2-player versus mode. Lock yourself in and prepare to fight with a loved one, it’s the Bust-A-Move review.

Bust-A-Move: “Quit sending all those damn bubbles over here!”


Some of the best puzzle games in the world are the simplest to operate and Bust-A-Move is no different. Different colored bubbles are at the top of the screen while your character representatives are down at the bottom. They are operating a little “arrow” that shoots an individual bubble up to join the bubbles at top. You have no control over which color bubble you receive. The object is to shoot your bubble upward as form connections of 3 or more. When your bubble connects with three or more of the same color at the top of the screen, they “bust.” If you don’t, that bubble just stays where it landed. Bust all of the bubble to win. At timed intervals, the top of the screen will drop lower, forcing the bubbles closer. If a bubble reaches your characters at the bottom, you lose.

Now, there are a couple of features here that make the game more exciting and add a bit of strategy.

First of all, the bubbles function as if they are hanging from the top of the screen. Now, picture that you have two red bubbles at the very top, with a lot of other colors descending from those. You can pop the red ones and the other ones, since they have no connection to the top, will “fall” and disappear at the bottom. It is extremely satisfying to watch a large cluster of bubbles fall harmlessly to the ground. This is also your main objective in two-player versus (more on that later…).

Secondly, you can bounce the bubbles you shoot off the walls. This allows for the chance to pull of some shots and burst some bubbles at which you otherwise wouldn’t be able to hit. Notice I wrote chance here, as it can very difficult to try and delve where you are actually aiming and where the bubble will end up. The game is unforgivingly accurate to your aim; there are no “freebees” here. If you miss, you know that it is on you.

Finally, even though you cannot choose what bubbles you are provided with to shoot upwards, you can see one bubble in advance. This allows a touch of strategy in its own right, and is maybe the most important factor in two-player mode.


I have no reservations in calling Bust-A-Move the most accessible game on the Neo Geo platform; in fact, it belongs in the Pantheon of Game Accessibility. There is a reason that Bust-A-Move has at least one title on almost every platform since the original Neo Geo arcade release and that reason is that anyone can pick it up and play it immediately. You just shoot bubbles into other groups of bubbles and make groups of 3 or more. If that is as deep as someone wants to go with it, throwing strategy and planning aside, they will still have a load of fun with this title. It can be a simple or as complicated as you wish.

The whole game is operated with only the joystick to direct the arrow that shoots the bubbles and the “A” button to actually shoot the bubble. THE END.


Everything in Bust-A-Move has a nice, delightful feel to it. The little dinosaurs that shoot the bubbles for you are excited to be there. There are lots of pretty colors to the bubbles and the backgrounds are simple patterns that really just blend together after a while. I won’t go as far as to say it’s relaxing, as the gameplay can get frantic and fast, but the game doesn’t build false tension with any crazy displays or graphics. This game wants you to feel at ease while playing and relies on the gameplay for any tension.


There aren’t any “show stopping” 3D visuals in Bust-A-Move. It is not an ugly game by any means; there is just really no need for anything more than the simple graphics displayed. It’s all about gameplay with Bust-A-Move. Later titles go for more advanced graphics, such as 3D bubbles and more animated characters to shoot the bubbles, but I feel that these “advancements” actually rob the franchise of a bit of its character. This is Bust-A-Move in its most raw and unfiltered glory. No flashy visuals or graphics to drop your jaw, just solid, fun, and sometimes frantic gameplay to keep that jaw locked tight.


Sound is probably the largest area in which Bust-A-Move is lacking, and it mostly comes from the music. When you play two-player versus, the games are often very quick. As such, you usually end up playing a lot of them in succession. In my house, we play “first to ten wins, must win by two.” This means that my wife and I, equally skilled, usually go at least 18 separate matches. The same little tune plays EVERY TIME. After a while it really starts to grate on your nerves. Beyond that, the sound effects themselves are nice. The bubbles make a satisfying “popping” sound and the arrow “ploops” when it shoots a bubble. There is also one odd bit of sound to mention. When a second player joins a game, the little dinosaurs scream...and, as my wife pointed out, it sounds like they are exclaiming “COCAINE!” Now I cannot unhear it!

Replay Factor/2-Player Appeal:

Ahh! The “bread and butter” of Bust-A-Move as a game! Let’s go ahead and get the single player replay value out of the way upfront. You try to beat your score every time. That’s pretty much but I’m not trying to disparage the single player Bust-A-Move experience. It’s still fun if you are going the single player route and you will get hours of enjoyment out of the title. However, if you have a second person to play with and more than one slot in your Neo Geo, you will never see this cart again; it will just live in your arcade cab forever. There have been some hectic battles between two players with this game and two evenly matched players can go on forever without one pulling away in wins. The bubbles will shoot upwards like a machine guns spitting out rounds (though admittedly with more of a “plop” than a “bang”). Then, some matches will slow down, each player waiting for the inevitable bombardment of bubble from the other side, sometimes filling screens in an instant.

The core gameplay doesn’t change when the addition of a second player, but your desired goal does. Instead of just wanting to pop all of the bubbles on your side, you want to drop as many bubbles from the top as possible. Remember how I mentioned that you could pop bubble at the top of the screen and those attached to the bottom would fall all the way down? Well, instead of just disappearing as no threat like they do in single player mode, these fallen bubbles are now transferred to your opponent’s side of the screen. This where paying attention to things, such as the next bubble, really comes into play. For example, say you have a bubble that really doesn't have a place to productively go, but you have a cluster that the next bubble in like will pop. Shoot that useless bubble under the cluster and then pop the cluster with the next bubble. That one will fall and be transferred to your opponent to have to deal with. One bubble doesn't sound like much but it can make all the difference.

This is the title to which my wife and I always come back. No two matches are ever the same and it’s such an easy game to pick up that you already have someone to play with in your life; you just need to convince them to play with you. In my opinion, this is the principle of competitive multiplayer gameplay on the Neo Geo.

Fun Details / Special Mention:

  • I mentioned it earlier, but it deserves mentioning again. When Player 2 joins the game, the little dinosaurs yell “cocaine!” at you.

  • The controls are very tight and if you miss a shot, it’s all on you. It makes pulling over that sweet wall shot to put a bubble in the perfect place one of the most satisfying experiences in gaming.

  • In multiplayer matches between skilled opponents, one misfired bubble can cost you the game.

  • My wife and I hip-check each other away from the controls if one of us is losing badly.

  • Price vs. Experience:

    This is a very common game, and as such, the price isn’t very bad at all. You really cannot go wrong picking this up at the average price, even if you don’t have anyone to play with. The enjoyment of this title so far exceeds the price of admission that all Neo Geo owners should have a copy of this multiplayer beast in their collection.

    Final Thoughts:

    There are a number of great puzzle games on the Neo Geo that stand shoulder to shoulder with Bust-A-Move, but none that I can convince myself to put above it. This is a great time for anyone who picks it up. Your grandmother could play this game and have a load of fun. The simple controls and exciting gameplay will keep you coming back for round after round. The pursuit of a high score is nice motivation, but the puzzles don’t change in the single player mode. The first levels are beyond simple, and as such, can get tiring after a while. That is why I can’t give the single player mode a higher score. However, the multiplayer is some of the most fun that you will have with another person in a video game. This is enhanced by visuals and sounds that masterfully keep the competition friendly. I’ve never lost and gotten angry or frustrated while playing Bust-A-Move. Either it was my fault or my opponent outplayed me. Get a group of people together to play this and you will hear more, “Man, credit where it’s due. Good game, you beat me” than with any other game. This is truly a video game experience that all gamers should enjoy.

    Now, if you play against your hyper competitive spouse, you might have a slightly different experience…

    Overall Single Player Rating: 8.5/10

    Overall Multiplayer Rating: 9.5/10 (that dang music…)


    Author Profile:

    Dillon Tripp graduated from the Master of Fine Arts program at Old Dominion University and is the Director of the Writing Center at Jackson State Community College in Jackson, TN. Tripp is an avid Neo Geo fan and specializes in MVS and the Neo Geo Pocket Color, as well as game/arcade modification and restoration. He lives in Jackson with his Russian wife (who is better than him at Bust-A-Move) and two cats (who aren’t very good at Bust-A-Move). If you are looking for a writer or just want to say “hey,” please contact me via personal message. Thanks for reading!

    Outside Links:
    Related Reviews:

    Reviews @

    - Review by Bobak

    - Review by Mouse Master

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    Puzzle Bobble 2
    The great sequel!

    Back to Neo Geo Reviews -->

    #1 | priest on July 21 2015 09:11
    Another great review, thanksSmile
    #2 | MiniGoat_King on July 22 2015 03:54
    No sir, thank you for the read! Feel free to accost strangers and make them read and comment.

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