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Xbox Live Indie Games Review - Bop N’ Pop

xboxboxartOkay, I'll admit. When I first downloaded the trial for this and tried it out, I couldn't stand it. I thought it was terrible, couldn't get the gameplay, and deleted it. Then the other day the developer emails me with a code for the game asking flat out if I could review it. Now ... being that I had only played the trial and I don't get into puzzle games ANYWAY, my original thoughts on the game weren't really relevant to the overall game ... so I figured what the hell. If nothing else from the impression I had from the trial with my history of disliking puzzle games, it's always fun to tear a horrible game apart. After playing the full version of this game however, it actually kinda surprised me. The description says "One of the most addictive puzzle games on the net is now available for your Xbox 360." ... which I have never played, nor heard about. But on that same note, I'm going to assume it's some sort of Flash game or something, and I don't play those. So I'm going to pretend it doesn't exist.

The game offers different modes of play : Traditional, Battle and Party.  Naturally, the first mode I tried was Traditional since I don't fare too well in multiplayer modes. So when you first start the game, you select from one of five characters. They all have their own distinct looks to them. Chaz, the blue guy looks like he's a rocker. The red guy looks like he's about to tear someone's face off. The purple character is a chick named Lena. The yellow one, Petey is my favorite just because he looks like a bat shit insane Pac-Man that's had WAY to many power pellets. And the green guy Zeffer who's the serious one of the bunch I'm assuming.

You start the game, then you see a screen with a neat looking background and a very basic play area. It says "READY? GO!" then your "orbs" start falling down the screen one by one at random. You press Left and Right to move them, and hold Down to make them go down faster. After a while, it throws up a random row of orbs from the bottom. The orbs themselves are the various multicolored characters in the game making weird faces. You have to attempt to make up and down lines of the same color, and every now and then an activator comes down that's an arrow of whatever color your orbs are. You hit that line or colors and they all pop. There's a red bar off to the side that you have to fill up to win the level. But if your orbs reach the top of the screen, it's game over. That's pretty much how the basics of the game work. This is also the mode that I like the least because it's pretty boring.

The next mode is a bit more interesting, it's a 2 player Battle mode where you square off against either a CPU controlled opponent, or a human friend. Whenever you pop a line of a certain amount of those orbs, it sends off a row of random orbs up from the bottom of your opponent's screen. And there's an attack bar at the bottom that fills as you pop the orbs. Once it's filled up, you hit the A button and launch at attack. Which seems like it's randomized, because I've seen it add orbs to the bottom, reverse controls and even make the controls unresponsive for a short amount of time. NOW we're getting somewhere with the Battle mode, because this is actually kinda fun.

With the third, and best mode Party mode. It's a 4 player game where you can play against CPU controlled opponents or humans, or a mix of any of them. It's basically a 4 player Battle mode and this is the best part of the whole game. You pick whatever character you want and just go in and tear people up. It's a lot more forgiving with the activators. Unfortunately, it's more forgiving for EVERYONE for someone like me who sucks at these kinds of games. But there's a certain feeling of satisfaction when you launch of an attack and see 1 or 2, or sometimes all 3 of your opponents just hit the top of the screen and lose. :) One of these days I wanna try it with some friends and see what they think. Will be more interesting since we'll probably be drunk.

But there's a slight hitch with the gameplay that really annoys me. When the orbs hit either the top of another row, or the bottom of the screen, it's set in stone. There's no sliding the orb over at the last seconds, which really makes it near impossible to pull a win out of your ass when you you're near the top of the screen. It's a nitpick, I know. But it's worth mentioning. And a description of what the attacks do in the game itself would have been helpful. And while there are high scores and it does keep track of your wins, it unfortunately doesn't save them. It would've been cool to see local (or global) win/loss records.

It's hard to say anything about the graphics in puzzle games, because so long as they function and do what they're supposed to do they're good in my book. And that's exactly what this game is, functional. The orbs don't animate, the popping animation is pretty good. The backgrounds looks pretty cool, and they are nicely varied. When you do an attack, you get this neat wooshing sound effect, and your character comes up on the screen with a little pattern to let you know that something's about to happen. The character select screens are pretty cool. They're functional. Pretty good, but pretty basic.

The sound, I mean, there are various little sound effects and little what sounds like voices. They're all perfectly appropriate to the game. The music however, while the music is good. There's ONE SONG in the ENTIRE game and it repeats. Over and over and over and over and oh God. It's enough to drive you crazy. It wouldn't be so bad if there was a way to turn it down in game, but there isn't. A volume control for the music and/or custom soundtrack support would've made this so much better.

*UPDATE* Honestly, custom soundtrack support is something I go by in the feature list for the game on Xbox Live since I've never actually used it. Until now. It DOES in fact have custom soundtrack support. Kinda. You just use your guide button and play different music that way. Thank God the developer told me about that. Instead of the damned repetitive music that the game comes with, play your own. I suggest either the song from I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1NIT!!!1 or the soundtrack to Invincible Tiger : The Legend of Han Tao, which if you don't have you can download here and here respectively.

Other than the slight gameplay gripe and the repetitive music, this game actually kind of surprised me. Because once you get past the damned repeating music the game itself is actually pretty good. It's got most of the modes and options it needs to be fun, and while Traditional mode is pretty boring, the Battle and Party modes are actually a hell of a lot of fun.

Originally, I had given this game a 6.5 because of the repetitive music .. and a 7.5 if it had volume control and/or custom soundtrack support. Like I said above, it DOES in fact have custom soundtrack support, sorta, and I gave some suggestions on what to listen to. So yeah ... 6.5 with the original music and a 7.5 with music that doesn't repeat itself to infinity. Hearing that same song over and over makes me want to go out and buy Grand Theft Auto 4 just to kill hundreds of people without worrying about getting into trouble. And I'm not even a big fan of Grand Theft Auto 4.  While that gameplay gripe is kind of annoying, it's not a real big deal once you get the hang of it. Having it permanently track your win record and high score would help a lot too, and would make the Traditional mode a lot better. But once you get into Battle and Party, the game really becomes interesting. And if you're an unpopular bastard like me, playing against the CPU opponents is pretty fun. Just don't do what I did and judge it by the trial, because it sucks. right now the game is sitting at 200 points, which it may raise or lower with the new pricing structure. Who knows. But if you've got the points to spare, and can get past the music repeating over and over, it's actually a pretty fun little local party game because the multiplayer really makes it.

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