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Puzzle Bobble Universe (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Puzzle Bobble Universe on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Back in 2006, 505 Games released the fantastic four-player effort Bust-a-Move DS in Europe, an addictive game that refused to loosen its grip on puzzle aficionados. Then Square Enix self-published the next entry, changing the name at the same time to Puzzle Bobble, despite retaining the Bust-a-Move moniker through the days of the Game Boy, Super Nintendo, GameCube and even Wii, with the quiet release of the thoroughly enjoyable Puzzle Bobble Galaxy on DS. For the series’ 3DS debut, Puzzle Bobble Universe, Square Enix and Taito have handed the development reins over to Arika, the team that recently worked on the sublime Endless Ocean 2: Adventures of the Deep for Nintendo on Wii, as well as the brilliantly hectic shmups, Ketsui Death Label on DS and Nintendo-published Metal Torrent on DSiWare.

The world of Puzzle Bobble features two classic Bubble Dragons, Bub and Bob, that are most famous for their exploits in the 1980s arcade release Bubble Bobble. Rather than a platform romp, however, the puzzle off-shoot revolves around the ‘three-of-a-kind’ matching mechanic, with a selection of different coloured bubbles appearing at the top of the screen and the player being tasked with moving the arrow at the bottom of the screen in the appropriate direction to fire off whatever coloured bubble is next on the list towards the one above in the hope of creating a chain of three or more same-shaded objects. The premise is insanely simple, yet when executed by the Kings of Arcade, Taito, the formula becomes superbly addictive.

In this iteration, Puzzle Bobble Universe, the cute little dragon brothers stumble across an unmanned spacecraft, only to find it is nothing more than a trap and Bob subsequently gets captured by a large boss creature. It is up to Bub to not only rescue his sibling, but prevent all the bubbles that have spilled forth from doors on surrounding planets turning into hazardous space debris that could damage inhabitants of the universe.

Screenshot for Puzzle Bobble Universe on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

There are a paltry two modes available in Puzzle Bobble Universe, Puzzle and Challenge. The former follows the storyline, with players taking Bub through eight worlds, each consisting of ten standard stages, one rescue level where keys must be acquired, and a boss battle where bombs can be rapidly launched at the current foe. Here there are three levels of power-up at your disposal, in addition to regular bubble bursting, such as a laser beam to blast away some bubbles or an icon that changes all surrounding bubbles to the same colour for ease of clearing. The Challenge mode focuses solely on non-stop action, with three trials available - 100-sec. Bubbles, 300-sec. Bubbles, and Nonstop Bubbles, all of which merely involve clearing more and more bubbles under time limits, or simply until you die. In Challenge there is also the opportunity to use ‘Gimmick Bubbles’ to add a little spice to proceedings, with icons that can shunt blocks of bubbles in certain directions, or even blow up obstacles within a certain radius. The fun is short-lived, though.

The sad matter of fact with Puzzle Bobble Universe is that it lacks all the additional content poured into 2009’s Puzzle Bobble Galaxy on DS, even going as far as removing the touch-screen control mechanic that worked so well in the past (especially in the first Bust-a-Move DS). In fact, there is not even any form of multiplayer content included, not even a two-player option, local wireless or otherwise. Whilst the Lancarse-developed Puzzle Bobble Galaxy introduced mini-games, two-to-four player Wi-Fi play and even a shop where all sorts of extras could be purchased using accumulated points, a year-and-a-half later it seems that the new outfit, Arika, has either not handled the project well enough, or was simply not given sufficient time to ensure Puzzle Bobble Universe for Nintendo 3DS received enough care and attention. Puzzle Bobble Hamlet might have been a more apt title, in all honesty. What is still a highly enjoyable game at its core is ultimately crippled by its lack of enticement to come back and frequently play again and again.

Screenshot for Puzzle Bobble Universe on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


The classic Puzzle Bobble / Bust-a-Move gameplay returns, with bubble bursting being as fun as ever. However, the touch-screen controls have been removed, as have ALL the extras that were poured into Puzzle Bobble Galaxy on the regular DS.


Very, plain and simple visuals that do not look any different than the original DS graphics. With the 3D effect turned on there is barely any difference either.


Cute, bright and breezy themes throughout, with the main tune regurgitated with slight tweaks dependant on the world currently playing on.


88 main puzzles, the challenges and achievements to unlock may seem impressive, but Puzzle Bobble Universe will certainly not last anywhere near as long as its predecessor due to the lack of multiplayer, online modes, mini-games and all the other extras that had fleshed out Puzzle Bobble Galaxy out so much.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


About this score

Puzzle Bobble Universe is still a fantastic puzzle effort at heart, yet due to it being a considerably cut down version of its older brother, sadly it is hard to recommend this - especially since the Nintendo 3DS is backwards compatible with the regular DS, meaning Puzzle Bobble Galaxy will play just fine on the 3D portable. Why developer Arika stripped away all of the extra features Lancarse had included in the second DS iteration of Taito’s classic is unknown, but unless you are a die-hard puzzle nut that needs something specifically for 3DS, be wary that, despite its core quality, there is little to keep players entertained for the long-term.

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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date TBA   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date TBA   

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I'll pass, I want more Bubble Bobble.

( Edited 25.04.2011 22:05 by Squidboy )

3DS Code 2578-3122-0744
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I'm far more into Puzzle Bobble than Bubble Bobble but the lack of content is inexcusable.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I've still been having fun with this, but I don't understand how they can go from piling in the content for the last DS game straight back to even less content than the original Bust-a-Move DS from 2006 Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Let me guess... Just so they can justify releasing yet ANOTHER package of Puzzle Bobble with more content in it for the same system ? Isn't that how they work most of the time XD ??

I believe you though when you say you had fun with it... I sure would too as a fan of the concept. But if it's just to find the same formula and such limited content, I'd rather go back to playing it on the DS if I owned that version, chances being that I would probably not remember the puzzles.

I tried Bust a Move DS though and didn't like the fact that you launched bubbles from the bottom screen to shoot them to the upper screen. Made aiming needlessly hard for me.

( Edited 25.04.2011 23:19 by Kafei2006 )

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I preferred the touch-screen controls in Bust-a-Move DS and really don't like how they've ditched it this time round. The controls now feel far less accurate and even when using the Circle Pad the movement of the guide-line is 'clunky' Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Bub & Bob (guest) 28.04.2011 22:22#6

Bust-a-Move is brilliant! Puzzle Bobble Galaxy was great, but the touch-screen stuff felt weaker than BaM DS, tbh. All the extra content smoothed that over.

This, though, sounds shocking. No wonder it didn't even make the 3DS chart in the UK in its first week! Why doesn't Square Enix get a properly fleshed out version done asap and actually PROMOTE it?! Smilie

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