Bubble Pop Battle is a new Facebook game from Tetris Online, Inc. It’s currently being featured in the New Games section of Facebook’s App Center.
Bubble Pop Battle is, as the name suggests, yet another in the increasingly-long line of bubble shooters on Facebook. This time around, as well as popping groups of three or more like-colored bubbles by shooting additional ones up the screen, players compete in a head-to-head battle in an attempt to score more “KOs” than their opponent. A KO is achieved by causing the opponent’s screen to fill up with bubbles past the bottom line, at which point their screen is cleared and they can attempt to catch up. Additional lines of bubbles are dropped onto one’s opponent by matching large groups of bubbles and causing bubbles that are no longer attached to the top of the screen to fall. Incoming attacks are represented by a meter in the center of the screen, though this may be depleted and attacks protected against for as long as the defender continues to match additional groups of bubbles.
As well as tasking players with competing against others, the game features a linear sequence of levels. It’s initially not entirely clear why it takes this structure when the opportunity to battle against others would have been more than enough, but replaying a level reveals that each stage features a preset arrangement of bubbles rather than being completely randomized. The linear sequence of levels also serves as a progression system — upon completing a match, the player is awarded between one and three stars according to what their score was, and these stars are used to unlock powerups to purchase before a new match, and also to unlock treasure chests on the world map.
The game monetizes through sales of its soft currency, which is used to activate powerups. The interface also suggests that the game features a hard currency, but at the time of writing it is impossible to purchase this. The game also features a “lives” system — losing a match causes the player’s life count to reduce by one, but this may be restored by expending Facebook Credits directly. It’s also possible to purchase a permanent upgrade to the player’s upper life limit, allowing them to potentially play for longer.
The game’s social angle comes from two main aspects — competing against other players in each level (though it’s never made entirely clear if you’re actually playing live against another opponent or simply against an artificial intelligence with a random Facebook user’s profile picture attached — the speed at which “matches” are found and the somewhat predictable behavior of opponents suggests the latter) and competing asynchronously against friends with the leaderboard for each level. The map showing progression through the game’s linear sequence of levels also shows how far friends have got, and allows players to give their friends free lives. The game also automatically shares how far the player has got in the game to their Activity feed on their Timeline page.
Bubble Pop Battle is a pretty good game, so far as bubble shooters go, but it doesn’t really make enough of the “battle” angle. As previously noted, it’s difficult to tell whether or not you are genuinely competing against live opponents or not, as there’s no chat facility or means of communicating with opponents before, during or after a game. Part of the attraction of the bubble shooter genre when it originally appeared in arcades and on home computers and consoles over fifteen years ago was head-to-head competition against another player, provoking plenty of trash talk and an intense feeling of competition; here, there’s none of that, and it feels like you may as well be competing against a computer-controlled opponent — and indeed may well be!
The fact that it’s yet another bubble shooter can’t be ignored, either. Both the social and mobile games sectors are completely oversaturated with this type of puzzle game at present, and so it takes something truly special to make a game of this genre stand out. Bubble Pop Battle doesn’t really offer that special something, instead being simply competent at what it does. As such, it’s one to simply keep an eye on to see how the public responds rather than being a “must-play” title.
Bubble Pop Battle currently occupies the 100,000+ MAU tier with a rank of 867 and an estimated MAU figure of 292,675. It also occupies the 50,000+ DAU tier with a rank of 748 and an estimated DAU figure of 50,205. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.
A competent enough bubble shooter… but still just yet another bubble shooter. Wait and see how this performs.