|Genre: Puzzle & Trivia|
|Min OS X: 10.4 RAM: 256 MB Hard Disk: 25 MB|
Ever since Russian developer Alexey Pazhitnov adapted Tetris to the computer in 1985 people have been making reincarnations of the classic with varied results. Pop-A-Tronic is one of the more recent attempts to reshape the wheel, if not reinvent it with cute graphics, catchy soundtracks, and four methods of frantic gameplay.
If youíve ever played Jewel Quest, Super Collapse 3!, or any of the many drop down puzzle piece games youíll know what to expect from Pop-A-Tronic, with the exception of a few interesting twists. As lines of bubbles fall down, your goal is to spot connected groupings of three or more same-colored bubbles and nail them with your energy needle in a vain effort to clear the board. You always start out with a partially filled board and can only hope to keep a few spaces clear before the classic "Game Over" message signals your final failure to keep up. For you obsessive compulsives out there this game could be torture since you will never be able to wipe your slate completely clean unless you pump and blow up a well placed charge bomb.
A "charge bomb" you say? Well, itís time to explain the previously mentioned "interesting twists." In an effort to spice up a seemingly run of the mill puzzle game, Big Blue Bubble, Inc. has incorporated the color transmutation device and charge bombs, which you click on furiously to wipe out a maximum number of bubbles. In addition, the more combos you pop, the higher your flask meter goes up until you are rewarded with a purifier bubble to clear out all bubbles of a certain color. You can also inhale bubbles into your energy needle to place them in more strategic locations.
These advantages are offset by an increasing dearth of wrenches thrown into your bubble popping gears. You are penalized every time you click a bubble that isnít part of a color combination by locking it until it reaches the bottom of the pile. Additional colored bubbles are also thrown in to complicate things as you complete higher levels. Eventually you will be overwhelmed by your lack of speed or an unlucky series of bubbles giving you no combos to pop.
Pop-a-tronic does try to mix up this formula with four different game modes: marathon, puzzle, lock-out, and self destruct. Marathon is the standard game. Lock-out is an even more furious version of the former. The two most interesting modes are self destruct, in which you use the inhaler to move bubbles around for the most combos possible until the timer reaches zero, and puzzle mode, where there is no timer at all. In puzzle mode you get to calmly pick your combos in the best way that will beget yet more combos until you run out of options.
GraphicsCute and uncoordinated is probably the best way to describe Pop-A-Tronicís graphics. It is a weird mix of pastel colored bubbles, wooden textured backgrounds, and science lab styled ambiance. Yeah, it doesnít make sense to me either. Donít get me wrong. The 2D graphics are well done, just maybe not in the most thematic way possible.
The animations are few. The bubbles fall down. You burst the bubbles. That basically sums it up. The good news is that the minimal animations are non-invasive, a good thing considering the fast pace of play. You can also play Pop-A-Tronic in full screen or windowed mode; and it isnít a processor hog, which is to be expected.
SoundMuch to my surprise, the soundtrack to the game is better than expected. It reminds me of Pangeaís compositions out of Cro-Mag Rally or Enigmo. The synthesized beats and melodies bounce along at a good pace. There is even a didgeridoo mixed in there I think. The music changes every few levels so the tracks wonít wear out. Itís about the only reward you get in the game other than the satisfaction of trying to beat your high score. The other sound effects are adequate and effective.