Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey review for PSVR, PS4

Platform: PlayStation VR
Also On: PS4, Oculus VR
Publisher: Taito
Developer: Survios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

Puzzle Bobble or Bust a Move as it’s known, is a cute puzzle game starring the dinosaurs from Bubble Bobble. In any of it’s many iterations, the main goal is always to clear the screen of bubbles by lining up 3 or more of the same color. It’s very simple and in most cases is fun to play. Puzzle Bobble 3D is yet another version of the bubble popping puzzler, and while it retains most of the series charm, it offers a mediocre fun factor.

Until now, all of the Puzzle Bobble games were played on a 2D plane. You fire a colored bubble up towards a larger bubble cluster and aim to hit the same color bubble. Depending on the cluster’s shape, this could be easy or extremely difficult. As you shoot bubbles, the room will get smaller and you will have less room to maneuver. If the ceiling pushes the cluster down too far, you lose. If you manage to completely clear the bubble cluster before it drops, you win and move to the next cluster.

Puzzle Bobble 3D is a bit different as there is no ceiling. When you shoot a bubble at the cluster you will spin the entire thing in a different direction and either ruin or set up future shots. In the center of the cluster is a core that needs to be activated by popping enough bubbles. Once the core is live, you can shoot any color bubble at it to complete the level. Since there is no ceiling to push the bubbles down, limits have been set for each cluster to hinder your advance. In some clusters you’ll be limited to 15 to 25 bubbles to shoot, in others you will have a time limit to hit the core, and in some clusters you have to hit the core before it floats up towards a portal and explodes.

While the other games did feature time limits (in the form of the ceiling collapsing) restricting the number of shots takes a while to get used to. Especially since your partner dino may not give you the correct bubble you need. You can switch the color for another one sometimes, but most of the time he’ll either give you another color you don’t need or the exact same color you had. The other games seemed to give you the bubbles you needed, while this one seems to pick the colors at random giving you a disadvantage especially in the later levels.

You can play the entire game as you would any other game, and while totally playable, the view is a bit skewed and it’s somewhat difficult to make certain shots given that the clusters are in 3D and look rather small. The best way to play this is in VR. In this mode, the perspective is fixed in front of you and it’s far easier to make even the more difficult shots. I managed to clear more stages in VR than in normal mode, and actually was having fun playing. I do believe that VR was the intended choice by the developers as it is a much better experience all around.
The graphics are very bright and colorful, with everything looking like a children’s story book. Even the more darker areas (like the desert) are littered with a sprinkling of cuteness to keep the overall charm. The classic tunes and sound effects from the original games are all here and remixed well. It may not exactly play like classic Puzzle Bobble but the sounds and visuals absolutely nailed the experience. Control is a little awkward, as it can be hard to line up shots in both modes, but with a little practice, it does become somewhat easier.

Puzzle Bobble 3D is a good attempt in recreating the classic puzzler, but falls a little flat when not played in VR. If you don’t have access to a PSVR, or an Oculus, then you can completely skip this release. For those with access to VR, you’ll find a decent puzzle game but not too much else. If you are a fan of popping bubbles, give this one a try, just don’t attempt to play it without VR.

Taito provided us with a Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: B-