By: Jasmine Henry | Aug 22nd 2012
One of the key things that makes a video game a video game is that they exist in some sort of weird reality. A reality where health never quite depletes, where special powers aren't just for heroes, and, in the case of the latest 'it' game, Bubble Safari, a reality where the existence of a bubble is only threatened by other bubbles and the end of the game screen, either of which can result in the inevitable pop that bewaits those tiny pockets of air.
Bubble Safari is the newest game that is taking the Internet by storm, with publisher of the title (and social gaming behemoth) Zynga already racking up around 31 MILLION players in the few months that people have been able to take their bubble bashing virtual.
Gameplay is easier than pie to understand (or just about any dessert actually) because the mechanic is likely one that you've utilised in other games before. You use a bubble canon positioned at the bottom of the game that's filled with various coloured bubbles - ready, aim and fire at a group of bubbles to make a a cluster of 3 or more of the same coloured bubbles to get them to pop. Bubble Safari never makes it easy for you, with the bubbles you want to hit often being in tricky, hard-to-reach places or your canon being loaded with a colour of bubble so far off the end of spectrum to the one you want that you might wonder who let Picasso at the colour wheel again.
Rather than having to pop so many bubbles to rack up a certain amount of points, Bubble Safari requires you to pop at least 10 bubbles on the very top row of the screen to complete the level. The more bubbles you have left over on the screen (and in the canon) at the end of the level, the better, for the bubbles then turn into bouncing pieces of fruit which either land in point baskets and higer your score or fall out of the level and into the ether. As well as clearing those 10 bubbles from the edge of the screen, you have to rack up enough points to get one star (there's a star meter on the right hand side of the screen) which is another prerequisite for passing the level.
If getting through a level sounds rather confusing in writing then you can imagine what it's like to play it. It's Zynga's obvious attempt at giving the game layers as not to seem like a copy and paste of other 'match three' genre games, but it's a design choice that hasn't been executed very well and will be ignored by the masses and likely by you too, for the sake of your own sanity. Getting through the level without thinking too much about your goals is an alternative.
On top of the (really quite low) difficulty of the bubble popping itself and the challenging hardships of level completion, Bubble Safari aims to thwart your bubble destruction aims with the use of a bubble limit. If you run out of bubbles for your canon before you clear the board, then it's game over. Refresh, go back to square one and start again for this round of bubble bursting is over.
If you plan on sinking a lot of time into Bubble Safari, you'll probably end up cutting that time short. Not for lack of want (although it is distinctly less addictive than Wetopia
, for example) but for the reason that the game actually limits how many times you can play it within a short space of time. You get a certain amount of energy to begin with but with every time you play a level, it takes away three energy points. Those with patience can wait it out until you get more, or, you can try your best to complete levels as with each star you rack up (you can earn at least three), the more energy you get and depending on the amount of stars you ended the level with, Bubble Safari will reward you with bonus energy and coins at too.
With the progression of levels brings the progression of difficulty, and while Bubble Safari never becomes a struggle enough to have you tearing your hair out, it will amp up the challenge in an effort to make you try. You'll probably want to to utilise the sets of fruity power ups on offer. There are three ways that you can gather power ups - Bubble Safari rewards hard work in-game with power-ups, for example, the fire shot power up which is exactly that, in bubble form (!) which is rewarded for bursting three sets of three bubbles in a row. Then there's the "Boost Bubbles" spin wheel which includes a meter - the meter fills up over time or can be spun when you spend 'Safari Cash' (which in turn can be bought from Zynga using your own, very real money) and will give you such bubbles as the 'Electric Bubbles' which will quite literally electrify bubbles to bursting with a powerful bolt of blue to the Bubble Safari board. On the other hand, you can also spend (virtual) Bubble Safari gold to purchase powerups from the in-game store and while you can purchase gold with your own money, it's much cheaper (and not that difficult) to accumulate it through good gaming!
Rather than spending your Safari Cash (as well as your on hard-earned walet liners) on power-ups, you may want to save it as further down the line, Bubble Safari will see you spending that just to unlock levels, so just keep that in mind before you go on a power-up spending spree.
While there are work arounds to the almost 'hidden' costs in the game, e.g invite friends to the game to unlock levels rather than paying to unlock them, or completing sponsored offers to get gold coins, it's easy to tell that this has been done to avoid you thinking that Zynga is The Worst (tm) for making you spend your own money with no other choice, but frankly, it feels wrong. For the short levels that you're given and the flimsyness of the game as a whole (even the social aspect of the game is just a leaderboard and a few extra bubbles from friends), spending any of your own money in Bubble Safari would be a slap in the face to you for the hard work that got you that money in the first place.
The only thing exotic about Bubble Safari are the leafy greens of the game's safari background. We've seen this sort of gameplay (social features excluded) so many times before but unoriginal yet ridiculously fun games are what Zynga does best and Bubble Safari is is just another Facebook gem in the social gaming king's crown. Bubble Safari gets a 6.