Bubble Shooter is an engaging variant on the ‘Match 3’ genre popularized by such famous brands as Puzzle Quest and Bejeweled. However, instead of organizing static rows of symbols to make your matches, you’ll be engaging in open-targeted, precision aiming to match up your bubbles and clear the board.
Although some mild nuance has been put into its presentation, Bubble Shooter is a quintessential lightweight, low resource, gameplay-first web game. Its background and UI are both cleanly presented but a little too stark for a game with such a playful, colorful character. We did like the little graphical touches of shadow and light flare its artist bothered to work into the titular bubbles, however. Although they’re small additions, they’re featured on the central and most repetitive element of the game, and give it a sense of 3D space even while you’re playing within a strictly 2D plane. A particularly habdy option provided in the menu allows players to freely modify the color of the background, which helps a good bit for reducing glare on the eyes.
Sound is also very limited, but the developers did well with what they had. Simple public domain sounds serve to provide a little additional kick to meaningful game events like shooting your bubbles or winning a match. Unusually, there’s no music provided, but the repetition of the gameplay is a poor foundation for any kind of significant soundtrack, in any case.
Although the idea of involving manual aiming to ‘shoot’ your color matches has been done elsewhere, Bubble Shooter does an excellent job of taking the fusion of mechanics and playing them right. Controls for aiming are extremely clear and accurate, with no arbitrary falloff or difficult-to-measure gravitational effects. One particularly excellent quirk of the game is its ability to ricochet bubbles off the side of the field, which lets players make incredibly tricky shots and navigate their way into high scores on boards that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to perform well on. This simple addition adds a lot to Bubble Shooter’s sense of fairness, especially relative to other Match 3 games.
Other excellent addition in Bubble Shooter is its clearing mechanism. Although many Match 3 games limit board-clearing to the colors that are being matched, Bubble Shooter also allows you to clear any detached bubbles. This opens up a world of alternate strategies for players, who might want to take the longer, more arduous route of surrounding and then clipping off troublesome bubbles. Casual players who just want to see what Bubble Shooter has to offer can, of course, go for the simpler method of just directly connecting and popping bubbles as they’re easiest to access. Of course, like any good score attack game, Bubble Shooter rewards higher combos more than smaller ones, so players who put their work in will have a number to be proud of.
The number of colors for the bubbles in play was chosen well, as we never found ourselves at a point where we were completely ‘stuck’ and unable to progress. At the same time, you’ll experience enough variety that making the optimal move won’t always be an obvious play, and you may have to deal with temporary, non-ideal matches before finishing off the mess with a workaround combo.
Although some gamers might find the screen-lowering mechanic to be a little harsh or adding in frustration to what’s essentially a zen-like experience, it adds just the necessary dash of challenge to make Bubble Shooter more than a free win. In fact, you’ll need to think about your overall strategy more often than not if you don’t want to lose in the most inglorious way possible: by sending unmatched bubbles crashing to the bottom of the screen. Encouragingly enough, Bubble Shooter doesn’t punish you for failure, and even provides an applauding audience, a high score and an immediate replay option for those worst case scenarios. It’s a good tone for a Match 3 game to take, where failure can sometimes be the fault of RNG whimsy rather than outright incompetence from the player.
But despite that casual, feel-good tone, Bubble Shooter does provide a sense of progression, and even goes so far as to bar players from its higher difficulties until they’ve proven themselves worthy. We’re not sure if this was an ideal choice, since telling players how to experience their games, by default, will restrict how many people can enjoy the experience. However, individual matches aren’t excessively long, and the lowest difficulty isn’t so punishing that it will prevent any determined player from eventually making up their way up to the higher rungs.
Although Bubble Shooter doesn’t have anything that could even remotely be called a budget for its presentation, the underlying ideas on show here are engaging and enjoyable, snack-sized experiences. Once you’ve color-matched your way into any three of its top ten scoreboards, may just want to keep on coming back.