No offense to any developers of games in this genre, but personally I find the Whack-A-Mole concept fairly boring. Until now, the one game that broke that rule was Hammer Heads from Astraware. Now there’s a contender in the form of Bubble Pets on the iPhone. What the game lacks in power ups and gnome bashing goodness it makes up for with quirky visuals, cool music and the need to smack a giant gorilla’s behind. The last one is just a matter of preference though, I suppose.
Just like any other whack-a-mole type game you’ll have levels full of creatures that have nothing better to do than pop out of various places, and it’s your job to whack them. Why this is so imperative I have no idea, but without it there’d be absolutely no point to the game. What’s cool – and also adds to the difficulty – is that on each level there is an animal that is off limits. For each correct animal you tap without missing any or hitting the “bad” one you’ll build up a combo. Once you do something lame the combo starts over again. My highest combo so far is in the mid 40s somewhere, almost like my age.
Each level gives you a certain amount of time to whack critters. You can keep going until you lose all your lives. You start out with 5 hearts, and each time you tap a taboo critter you lose a heart. I think you can also lose hearts by missing a good animal, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case and I haven’t really confirmed it yet. Thankfully there are also ways to gain hearts, so don’t think you’ll be left out in the cold on that department. Occasionally items will float by on balloons. To actually get the items you have to tap on them – if you just pop the balloons you won’t get the item the balloon was carrying.
What I really like about the game is that it doesn’t use boring stereotypical landscapes that most whack-a-mole type games use. Level one is a park, level two is an airplane, and level 3 takes you all the way to the moon. This is just a sampling of what you can expect. Beyond the constant location changes, however, are the obstacles that come with each level. On the airplane level you actually have clouds passing by that obscure your view. In levels 3 and 4 there are bosses that you must tap multiple times to defeat (recall the gorilla comment from the intro). I imagine the trend continues past level 4, but I’ve only managed to get there once and I don’t remember what it was like.
Once a level you get the chance to go into fever mode if you can tap the star that floats by on one of the balloons. This mode makes the animals come out faster and gives you more points, but it stops when you miss an animal or hit the taboo animal. After every couple of rounds you play a bonus stage where you simply tap all of the bubbles that float onto the screen. The round ends when the time is up or you a bubble floats off the screen. There’s even a special stage you can unlock called 199x mode, but in this mode you only get one heart, and it personally challenges me too much (read – I stink at it).
The graphics look like they came straight off an EGA screen, back in the days when the Commodore 64 reigned supreme (or at least existed). If you understood that last sentence, then thank you. What it boils down to is that the visuals have a great old school look to them, but probably won’t appeal to those who think 2D as a whole is ancient history. There’s a Christmas theme that adds snow into the mix, which as a general rule I like but I this case can make things hard to see. I also find the fever mode very taxing on my eyes with all the flashing. Overall I do like the visual style, though.
I think the sound effects are there mainly for the sake of having sound effects. That’s all right, because the music more than makes up for it. To relate to some of the “newer” older gamers, the score sounds like it was ripped from the NES. The main theme is lots of fun, the Christmas theme is a nice twist on a classic song, and the bonus levels have their own music as well.
Bubble Pets is a wonderful casual game. The graphics are great in their old school glory, the music has a charm to it that can’t be captured with full blown orchestras, and the game play is simple, frantic and addictive. You won’t find a lot of flash here, but you will get plenty of entertainment for your money.
Quick Looks link: [All About Quick Looks]