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PSP  header logo

Bust-a-Move Ghost

For: PSP

The ancient puzzle title makes an expected apparition on PSP, but can it recapture the spirit of its predecessors?

Product: Bust-A-Move Ghost | Developer: Dreams | Publisher: 505 Games | Format: PSP | Genre: Casual, Puzzle | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Bust-A-Move Ghost PSP, thumbnail 1
Variety is the spice of life, they say. Were our existence a succession of identical events, sensations and experiences, things would most likely get unbearably dull.

And on the surface variety is something Bust-a-Move Ghost appears to offer plenty of, with its healthy selection of game modes. Yet peel away the menu screen and what you're effectively left with is several variations on the same theme.

Does that make it dull? Hardly.

The puzzle dynamic at the centre of the Bust-a-Move experience – which involves aiming and firing off randomly coloured bubbles from a launch pad as a way of clearing the clusters of them hanging above by getting three or more bubbles to touch and pop – remains addictive, despite being largely unchanged from its first appearance during the mid-1990s. And the sense of satisfaction at delicately directing and squeezing a bubble through an impossibly tight gap, or successfully using the play area's walls to bounce another into a spot only reachable by doing the kind of angle calculation Ronnie O'Sullivan would cherish is still very much present.

But this is more than just a lesson in colour recognition and Newton's favourite subject. This is a puzzle game, and clearing the screen before the lowest placed bubble crosses the playfield perimeter (bubbles drop a level every time a set number of new bubbles is fired) involves an element of strategy – not least in the special bubbles that occasionally appear. Some of these clear the field of all bubbles of the colour they first touch after being fired, for instance, others explode and burst everything in the immediate vicinity, while one rips through every bubble it comes into contact with.

The game modes also add their own individual twist. Classic sticks to the format we've outlined, and offers 500 increasingly tricky screens for you to clear. Ghost adds a suitably ethereal quality to the bubbles being fired, so that they will only stick to those already on the playfield once they've bounced off a wall, as well as a character heart monitor that forces you to keep matching bubbles or risk a coronary. See Saw, meanwhile, is perhaps the most fiendish, requiring you to balance your bubble firing between either side of the playfield, or otherwise see it topple over.

The other modes are more variations on the theme: Blind offers a blank playfield, with bubbles revealing themselves whenever they are touched by those fired; Shot gives you one bubble and therefore one opportunity to clear the screen; Time Warp affects the speed at which bubbles are launched (and feels a little redundant); Mix 'em Up can prove particularly frustrating in that colours on the playfield are constantly changing; finally, Running Launcher recreates the Classic set-up but features a continuously moving launch pad to truly test your aiming ability.

The real challenge though, and arguably the best way to enjoy the game, is to go head-to-head against another player – either the PSP, or a friend via the ad hoc function. You'll find a couple of multiplayer specific options available, but in truth nearly all of the single-player modes adapt perfectly anyway, and the addition of a competitive component revitalises the experience.

Granted, even the renewed intensity of two-player games and that generous selection of new modes is unlikely to attract the attention of anyone already overly familiar with the Bust-a-Move franchise. The underlying core isn't fundamentally altered, after all.

But we're reviewing from the perspective of newcomers to the game – and they'll find themselves at a particular advantage. For Bust-a-Move Ghost may ultimately lack the zing to earn it classic status, but it's a solid and enjoyable puzzle title that deserves a place within a PSP software library that would certainly be a little duller without it.

Bust-a-Move Ghost is out now – click here to buy.
Bust-a-Move Ghost
Reviewer photo
Joao Diniz Sanches | 14 April 2006
The ageing dynamic may not match the depth found in the best examples of the genre, but Ghost should still entertain for a substantial length of time
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