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Puzzle Bobble 3D Can’t Run Away From Its VR Roots

puzzle bobble 3d vacation odyssey review

Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey, the latest in the series known better in the West as Bust-a-Move, brings Bub and Bob’s puzzle action to modern PlayStation consoles. The Bubble Bobble duo has seen new life lately due to Taito’s increased licensing efforts. (Like in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends.) But the version of the game here? It’s very different from what’s traditionally been a very consistent franchise.

Everything about the game, from its premise and controls to environments and menus, was designed for VR. None of that changed in the transition, despite developer Survios’ efforts to adapt. And for that VR, you’ll need the PS4 version of the game, a PSVR and… honestly, two working Move controllers, if you want it to work as intended. Otherwise? Nah. This is definitely the way you’re supposed to check out the game, too. It’s not a transcendent VR experience worthy of adopting the platform or anything, to be clear. But there’s whimsy! Aiming a thing in 3D space is both easier and more fun with that perspective. Hanging out in a space with your pal Bob throwing you colored orbs is cute.

This makes some sense! Survios is a VR specialist. It crafted this game, originally titled Puzzle Bobble VR, with Oculus platforms in mind. Survios hadn’t made a non-VR game before. And hey: one might say it still hasn’t!

puzzle bobble 3d vacation odyssey review

So let’s take a look at the game as most can play it: in the PS5 and non-VR PS4 configurations. Using the trigger to fire can be a fun VR thing, but in normal play, it’s a bit arduous to shoot every bubble that way. Especially with a DualShock 5 and its weighty feel. Vacation Odyssey chooses — and locks into — what feels like the maximum resistance for its trigger. Perhaps it’d be a bit too easy to just point and click, so this motion tests your hand steadiness. It’ll be interesting for some and maybe a dealbreaker for others.

To make sure you can see everything you need to see in one plane, Puzzle Bobble 3D zooms out pretty far. Third-person aiming from that far back? (And a bit off-center?) Survios designed the controls to be challenging in VR, so out of it, they’re really finicky. And in the game’s endless mode, all your targets are drifting slightly upward, making this even more of a headache.

There’s an element that Puzzle Bobble 3D does have going for it, though: the strategy of aiming at a rotating 3D object. See, it doesn’t change its facing until you shoot a bubble at it, and the force of the pop will show you your target from a different angle. Later levels add more and more targets, so deciding which is the right one to target with your current bubble color can be a fun time. We sometimes wished you couldn’t swap between two bubbles at any time so those choices were more difficult.

puzzle bobble 3d vacation odyssey review

Puzzle Bobble 3D has a star-based story level progression, as well as consumable power-ups that require grinding for a lot of coins. This is a premium paid product, people. What’s going on? These days, most people play phone games, and perhaps this is what they’re used to seeing. But it’s no less strange. There’s also online multiplayer, with friends or quick play against a random opponent. We can’t really speak to this part, because we tried for hours and were never able to match with anyone, even on launch day.

It’s hard to see an ideal player for Vacation Odyssey on PlayStation platforms. It’s a nice gesture to make the game playable by people who can’t afford (or play in) VR, but it’s definitely merely a consolation. Hey: Bub and Bob are still very cute.

Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is available now on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

Graham Russell
Graham Russell has been writing about games for various sites and publications since 2007. He’s a fan of streamlined strategy games, local multiplayer and upbeat aesthetics. He joined Siliconera in February 2020, and served as its Managing Editor until July 2022. When he’s not writing about games, he’s a graphic designer, web developer, card/board game designer and editor.