It goes without saying that Facebook has become an international platform, and to that end we welcome another recently added application from across the sea. This time the title is Pubbles, a puzzle game from Ateam Inc. of Nagoya, Japan.
The title is your typical match-three type of game with a great deal of inspiration obviously stemming from PopCap’s Bejeweled franchise. This game, however, doesn’t have players swapping gems, but rather popping bubbles whose neighbors are of the same color. This is done with a mere click, and is similar in respect to casual games such as Collapse! Essentially, Pubbles is a marriage of these two titles.
The basic game is simple enough. Players are presented with a single mode dubbed “Relax” and attempt to score as many points as possible (until no moves are left), proceeding to new stages as a required number of points are reached. Should players pop six or more bubbles, a blast of lightening takes out every thing in a vertical and horizontal line around the click, and should 10 or more be popped, a hexagonal bolt is released.
Each lighting-destroyed orb (or orbs that are removed when you complete a stage) produces a number of gold and silver coins to appear and fall, and the user can mouse over them in an attempt to collect them for even more points. Well, at least that’s what the game’s rules state. Frankly, they fall so fast and so many numbers are cluttering the screen with the explosion of points, that its hard to tell if you managed to pick any up or not. Moreover, for a mode called Relax, the sudden implementation of a highly twitch-based mechanic is a bit jarring.
Beyond these score boosting elements, Pubbles also comes with your standard combo multipliers as new bubbles fall into place, and even becomes moderately more challenge with the introduction of rocks that can only be destroyed with lightening bursts.
Of course, when it is all said and done, this colorful application is a game we’ve all seen before, and contains elements that can probably be found in over a dozen similar, match-three titles. Nevertheless, the developer does have an admirable promotion running for the launch of the application.
Having started May 19th, the game actually rewards players with a sort of raffle ticket for logging in each day and two bonus tickets for scoring over 1 million points. Each Wednesday, the developers hold a drawing dubbed the “Weekly $222 Charity Donation Campaign” where the winner will be able to decide what charity they would like Pubbles to donate $222 to.
It is also worth noting, that Pubbles is not intended to stand alone as a Facebook game. Like Bejeweled Blitz, it is an app that supports a fully fledged PC title that costs about $10. In this version, players are said to get some rather impressive looking wallpapers, two more game modes (Expert and Speed Pop), as well as significantly improved resolution and visuals.
Actually, this does lead to a very important point. Stylistically, Pubbles is not bad at all (though its sound effects of a “cute” child’s voice playing when you do well actually comes off as a little creepy sometimes), but the Facebook version looks terrible by comparison. The backgrounds are okay, but the puzzle board itself looks low res and almost as if they bubbles were poorly cut out in Photoshop. In contrast, images for the PC version look very crisp and clean. Frankly, the difference is a bit of a turn off and can lead many users to expecting the $10 version to look the same, not necessarily better.
Socially, the game is pretty basic. Typical of most puzzle apps, the only social outlet is competition. The means that all you can really do is invite your Facebook friends to play and compare each others’ high score based on a simple leaderboard system.
In the end, Pubbles, is amusing and good for killing a few minutes, but it’s a game that’s been done before, and doesn’t bring a whole lot of new elements to the table. That said, it does have some admirable promotions with the charity rewards, and as a means to promote its paid PC version, it’s on the right track. Of course, the execution of the ladder doesn’t feel all that effective with the downgraded graphics and simple social features, but it is an advertising method that more and more game makers (and other media makers, for that matter) are utilizing. It will be interesting to see who does so next.