Soul Bubbles DS
Soul Bubbles is a simple game with a simple premise. All you’ve got to do is move bubbles from one end of a maze to the other, keeping the souls safe inside as you venture through. In principle it’s a game that could have existed on many platforms over the course of the last few years, but it also just happens to be a game that is perfectly suited to the DS, and one that has been cleverly developed to take advantage of the system’s unique attributes.
If you have ever played some form of Lemmings game before you should already have some idea of what to expect, as the herding nature of that DMA great is certainly still alive in Soul Bubbles. In the game there are of course obstacles that must be avoided, objects that must not be touched, and gaps that get smaller and smaller as you go on. However, it should be noted that the herding in Soul Bubbles is handled in a different but still very interesting way.
It all starts of with you taking control of a cool looking little guy (who is supposedly a young shaman apprentice), with the uncanny ability to create bubbles without robbing his mom’s washing-up liquid. At the outset of each level you press up on the d-pad, and using the stylus and drawing a circle around the souls to contain them within a bubble. You then start to move the bubble through the level by drawing lines on screen in the direction you want the bubble to move.
As you move through levels things start to change. You could come up against a gap that is too small to fit the bubble through. You can then choose to shrink your bubble hitting down on the d-pad and tapping on the bubble(s) you want shrink down. Another command – holding left and drawing a line though the bubble – lets you slice it up into smaller bubbles. There is even a mode available for lefties, which just swaps the d-pad inputs listed above for the face button’s, so it seems everything has been thought of. All of these techniques are also accompanied by your shaman-esque avatar performing cute listen animations to entertaining you, which is a nice touch.
Once you’ve learned these techniques the game starts throwing different scenarios at you. Some levels will have gas vents with light and heavy gas spouting out of them, which makes traversing areas harder, meaning you’ll have to take great care with you shepherding. Other locations has toads and sticky vines which can grab your bubbles and pull then in the wrong directions. These irritations can thankfully be sorted out by slicing them with the stylus, which remains satisfying throughout the levels. There are a few times during the game when you’ll have to create water bubbles to solve certain puzzles, but these never get too complicated to become annoying. In fact, the game never gets mind-bogglingly hard, but puts up a nice challenge the further you get to the end.
There are a few problems though, with the most obvious being that the game does take a while to get into its stride. In fact, it arguably takes venturing through half of the game’s levels before it stops teaching you, and starts letting you do you own thing. Then there is another niggle which is in part an extension of the first, as once you’ve stopped learning you wish there was more game to play with your newly acquired skills. With only 40 levels on show, around 6 hours of solid gameplay, you’ll always want that little bit more action once the game has reached its all too soon conclusion.
Apart from that though there is not much criticise. The look of the game is certainly unique, with a cartoony hand drawn approach. You could argue that such a style may not be to everyone liking, but it would be a stretch to say it would turn anyone off the game. One other slight criticism could be that some of the levels are a bit short. However, on the other hand you could agree the short and snappy nature of the levels is exactly right format for a handheld game.
So, there you have it. Soul Bubbles is undoubtedly an interesting game, but I have to admit it was hard to express and portray the appeal of the game in words. In a way it is kind of similar to last year’s release Portal, and you could argue both games are of similar ilk. In truth, it’s almost silly to try and explain the fun you can have by trying to create and blow bubbles around a maze, but regardless Soul Bubbles still ends up being a very impressive game. Sure, it’s not the absolute tip of the DS pile of excellence, but it is currently one of the more interesting titles available.