xbox live indie game reviews

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Not Worth the Points

Prepare for Popping Blood Vessels

Ever since the U.N.'s binding “Tetris for Peace” resolution singlehandedly ended the Cold War and spared us from nuclear annihilation, puzzle games have exploded onto handhelds, consoles and browsers in an attempt to capture the wallets and minds of the masses. The 'falling block' concept has seen more than its share of prospective heirs to the throne, including: Dr. Mario, Columns, Yoshi, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, and Lumines. While each iteration has attempted to apply a custom touch to a classic game mechanic, none has ever topped the simplicity of the original. Bop N' Pop is continuing this trend.


There's not a whole lot that will surprise you about this game if you've played any of the aforementioned titles. Unlike most games in the genre, blocks do not fall in shapes or clusters. Instead, various colored (and cartoonishly expressive) orbs drop from the top individually, waiting for you to pop them with an 'activator'. As the game progresses, rows of orbs rise from the bottom, pushing your stacks upward towards impending doom. If you're in battle or party mode, these rows are triggered whenever your opponent pops a column of orbs. Conversely, your attack meter fills as you burst those adorable little bubbles on your own board, eventually giving you the power to temporarily cripple your opponents with a little tap of the X button (which handicaps your foes with amusing random effects such as reversed or frozen controls).


My major beef with this game is the one-dimensional gameplay it creates. Since orbs can only be cleared vertically, the horizontal aspect of this game is essentially forgotten. Instead of configuring your pieces to cascade onto each other, you're forced to constantly stack each color and hold out until an activator falls from the sky. This is, unequivocally, one of the most frustrating game mechanics ever devised and prevents any game from lasting more than about two minutes.


If there is a puzzle game hell, it surely revolves around this 'pounding your face on the desk/waiting for the perfect piece' dynamic. I sat on my couch like I was on the verge of a Vietnam flashback, angrily performing a rendition of a screenplay (prevoiusly-titled Tetris and the Elusive F*cking Straight Piece). “I HAVE A STACK OF RED ORBS! AND A STACK OF GREEN! AND BLUE! LET ME BOP THEM! OR POP THEM! I DON'T CARE! LET ME DO ANYTHING!!! AHHHHHHHHHHH!”


Though the interface is intuitive and well-polished and controls are simple and responsive, there just isn't anything outstanding about this title. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend Bop N' Pop to anyone who values their personal sanity.

 

XBox Live Indie Games Reviews