Bubble Country review
Bubble Country is a new Facebook game from Aries Gaming Europe. The game claims it is in an “alpha” state right now but is freely available to the public and appears feature-complete. At the time of writing, it is the No. 19 fastest-growing Facebook title by DAU.
Bubble Country is, as the name suggests, yet another in the long line of bubble shooters and to be frank, that’s almost everything that needs to be said. The game plays it safe with very conventional bubble-popping gameplay — for the unfamiliar, this means that players control a cannon at the bottom of the screen which shoots colored bubbles and must clear various predefined arrangements by matching groups of three or more like-colored bubbles together. Any bubbles not connected to the top of the screen after a “pop” will fall and provide the player with bonus points.
In the case of Bubble Country, players have the option of either playing “adventure” mode, which presents them with a linear series of predefined levels, or the “level of the week,” which is a Blitz-style mode in which players have 60 seconds in which to score as many points as possible. In the latter mode, players may earn coins earned during Adventure mode to purchase various powerups with which to improve their point-scoring chances, but coins are earned at such a slow rate players are practically obliged to purchase soft currency if they ever want to make use of these special items.
This noticeably slow rate of progress also applies to the game’s “lives” system. It takes a total of 500 levels played between the player and their friends to earn a single free life — all but impossible for a single player to accomplish, and difficult even for those with several friends playing. If a player completely runs out of lives they may wait for a period of real time to replenish them (or purchase a new set), but earning bonus lives through play is out of reach for all but the most dedicated of social players.
The game is reasonably well-presented, with an unremarkable visual style virtually indistinguishable from many of the other “cute” puzzle games on Facebook and a main character who is equally conspicuously unremarkable. The background sound is of generally good quality, with some decent music during play, though it was somewhat surprising to hear the Windows 3.1 “tada” startup sound used as an in-game sound effect.
The problem with Bubble Country is, as with many other games of this type, that there’s absolutely nothing new here. The bubble popping genre is stagnant and it’s difficult to suggest how it can move forward — Bubble Country doesn’t do anything fundamentally wrong but therein lies the problem: it plays it so safe that those who have played any other recent game in the same genre have no reason whatsoever to check this one out.
Judging by the user figure charts, the fad for this type of game seems to have died down somewhat, too — in previous weeks, there were at least two or three bubble shooters in the Top Gainers charts, but Bubble Country is the only one in the top 20 this week. This suggests that it might be time for the development community as a whole to move on and find a new fad to saturate the market with — perhaps, if recent releases are anything to go by, Diamond Dash-inspired puzzlers.
Nothing new to see here. Could we be witnessing the tail end of the bubble shooting craze?