Bubble-popping, honey-stealing fun with Buggle

Buggle from Cookapps is a Facebook-based bubble popping puzzle game. The game showed up as the No. 8 fastest-growing Facebook game by MAU this week, with a gain of 590,000 — an increase of 328%. It shares plenty of similarities with titles such as King.com’s immensely popular Bubble Witch Saga, but are its few twists on the formula enough to distinguish it from its rivals?

Buggle casts players in the role of a hungry bear who wants to steal honey from a colony of bees that live in a tree. Said bear is armed with a cannon that fires colored bubbles, a limited quantity of which are available on each level. Connecting groups of three or more bubbles at once causes them to pop and disappear. If this causes other bubbles to become disconnected from the top of the screen, they will fall to the bottom of the screen and into several honey pots, each of which is worth a particular number of points. If the player pops five or more bubbles in one shot, it starts a combo, which temporarily closes off the lids of the lower-scoring honey pots.

The objective of each level is to cause all “wasp” bubbles to fall off the screen, at which point the player will receive a bonus for all remaining bubbles in the cannon and a star rating according to their overall score for the level. Leaving aside the scientific inaccuracies of wasps cohabiting with bees, this mechanic is a good addition to the formula. It provides the game with a slower-paced, more cerebral “puzzle” feel that differentiates it from other titles that simply require players to destroy all bubbles on screen.

As players progress through the game, they earn the ability to use various “magic bubbles” that give them special abilities. These vary from the “bomb” bubble, which takes out a small area of bubbles at a time, to the “cure” bubble, which removes various “obstacle” bubbles that would otherwise make the player’s progress more difficult. These magic bubbles are acquired by spending soft currency, which is acquired through play or purchased using Facebook Credits. The player may also purchase premium “Magic Jars,” using Facebook Credits. These provide permanent enhancements to the player’s abilities such as a larger number of bubbles per level or a more accurate guideline for aiming.

Social features for the game include a leaderboard for each level’s score and an overall leaderboard showing how many stars the player and their friends have earned. The game also features the facility to brag about achievements on one’s Timeline. The game isn’t overly pushy about getting players to invite friends once play begins, but the first thing it does every time it loads is pick 50 people from the user’s friends list to send a request to. This may be easily cancelled, though it may be seen as an annoyance by people who just want to play for fun rather than competition.

Buggle is mostly a good, satisfying puzzle experience but would benefit from a couple of tweaks to be a little more player-friendly. For example, a player’s “lives” are expended whenever they start a level. This means that even if they have a run of completing levels perfectly, after a certain period of time they will be forced to either pay up or wait for them to regenerate. By comparison, King.com’s titles only reduce the player’s lives by one if they fail to complete a level, allowing skilled players to enjoy the game for longer sessions. Buggle players may purchase unlimited lives forever for 799 Facebook Credits ($79.90), though given that this is considerably more than an equivalent paid standalone game which may be played an unlimited amount on computer, console or mobile it’s doubtful how many users will take advantage of this option.