Developed and published by Survios, Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is a 3D version of the iconic bubble-popping game that started its journey back in 1994. Featuring the dragon due Bob and Bub, the new title Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey brings them back to life in beautiful 3D dragons, but they still look as cute as ever even when modeled in full 3D. The original title was developed and published by Taito and Survios is now at the helm of the new 3D version of the game. This is our review of Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey on the PS5 console in which we pop some bubbles in 3D and burst some cores on our island vacation.
In Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey, we will see the return of the bubble-popping duo of cute dragons Bub and Bob. Both of them are away on a vacation however their island vacation takes an unexpected turn for an epic adventure where they must start popping bubbles. Only this time around, everything in the game is in 3D, unlike the initial titles where everything used to be in 2D. Having the game in 3D gives you a brilliant change from the game that we are so used to playing. This is the first time that we have seen a Puzzle Bobble game in full 3D and all I can say is that the game looks not only gorgeous but it also brings with it the same level of challenge that the original 2D titles used to have.
One thing you will notice right after jumping into the game is that the developer Survios has done an amazing job in transforming the whole game to 3D. The levels are all based around the island vacation theme so there is sand, plenty of water, trees, and the normal beach items that you would normally expect from an island-themed game. However, the background is usually blurred out because our little bubble-busting dragons and the actual spheres of bubbles are in focus. Both of our dragons are on the ground however the bubble clusters that we have to destroy are in the air in the form of random DNA-strands-like forms. These clusters are different in every level and sometimes in later levels, there will be more than one cluster as well to elevate the challenge.
The gameplay of Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is just like you would expect it to be. You charge and shoot bubbles of similar colors to destroy after joining four or more similar colors. You can switch between two colors at one time in order to change tactics. However, apart from the two available colors, you do not have any other options to shoot at the bubble clusters. After choosing what color you want to shoot, you can charge by holding the R2 trigger and shooting when you are happy with the force. I was amazed to see that the game uses the adaptive triggers properly because even AAA games are not properly using them. Shooting the bubble at the color with force with rotate the cluster all around so you will have a fresh set of bubbles after your current move. You have to work your way around how much you want to rotate every time and carefully knock out the bubbles in order to reach the center core and destroy it. A level is considered clear once you have cleared all of the bubble clusters by destroying their center cores.
Depending on the levels, you either have to complete all clusters within a move limit or a time limit. Depending on your performance, you will be awarded stars at the end of each level. This is common for all level types. You have the Singleplayer mode where you have to play through the main campaign of the game. This has 100 levels set on various islands and you have to move level by level and complete all of them within their requirements in order to move to the next one. Apart from the Singleplayer mode, you can jump into the Endless mode which is just one level, and you have to try and clear as many bubble clusters as you can without letting any of them inside a portal at the top of the level.
Finally, you can also go online in the Duel mode where you can jump into a Quick match with random players from around the world and see who can clear their section of bubble clusters before the other one. You can also join in games with our friends in the Duel mode however one thing that I found missing was a split screen mode in the game because jumping in Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey with a local friend and challenging them in a game would have been epic. Still, at least you can try out the online mode with friends and it is something that was missing from the franchise before completely. One thing that Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey does have is the challenge and the game will keep you on your toes because you do not just randomly have to pop bubbles. You have to do that in style and while trying your best to do that with the maximum score possible as well. The level of challenge is evident from the Endless mode because you have to score really high in order to just unlock one of the special powers.
Popping a large number of bubbles together allows you to create combos and the bigger the combo, the higher the score you will net at the end. The stars you earn depend on your high score as well as the smaller number of balls you use for that. For timed levels, you have to hit the target score before the timer ends in order to complete the level and move on to the next one. Probably one of the biggest challenges in the game is figuring out how to land your shots probably. The camera sits behind you at an angle and a small circle identifies where the ball will land but for me, the sensitivity is a little weird because finding that perfect spot to land the shot was a little hard in certain scenarios. The game does not offer the chance of adjusting the camera sensitivity which could have increased the overall accuracy of the game. Other than that, the gameplay is pretty challenging and demands accuracy like that of the original titles.
While I loved playing the game, I did notice that the camera angle could sometimes be a little confusing when it came to judging the exact location to land the ball. This made me think that some of the hardcore fans of the original 2D version of the game might not like the whole change and especially the fact that you cannot change the camera angle because sometimes the camera does feel a little off since it does not really show where the ball will land when you shoot it. Having a movable camera would have been even better since it would have allowed you to rotate around and make your shots even more precise. The game is already out of its initial concept by moving from a 2D environment to a 3D environment so why not add a rotatable camera into the mix as well?
Another aspect of the game that I was unable to try out is the VR mode of Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey. Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey comes with its own VR version and it is included in the standard version of the game as well. If you have your PS VR headset, you can pop that on your head and the game transforms into its VR mode without downloading any other game versions or modes. While I was unable to try out the game in its VR mode for this review, the game comes with it and it is a pretty cool thing to have it. Players who own the PS VR headset can try out their bubble-popping skills in VR which brings another unique gameplay perspective into the mix.
Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is a beautiful 3D version of an iconic title brought to modern consoles. While the 3D visuals and beautiful art style do bring a fresh look to the franchise, some of the hardcore fans might just prefer the old, 2D classic version of the game since it had no camera issues, and you knew the exact location where the ball would land after shooting it. Apart from this, Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is a gorgeous and meaty version of the game that is surely going to keep you busy for hours. The level design is pretty good, the overall animations are neat, and seeing the cute little dragon duo in amazing 3D is just amazing. Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey brings the challenge of the classic to modern players with a modern touch and it is certainly worth checking out.
Final Score: 8.0/10