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Publisher: PlayFirst    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G4 @ 800 MHz    Hard Disk: 12 MB    Graphics: 800x600

September 12, 2007 | Samuel Slesinger

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After 20 years of inactivity, the renowned candy factory known as Sweetopia has reopened. The dashing young scientist Kate Gainsborough has taken over her grandfather’s business and his role as an “eccentric inventor” as well. On the first day of work in the factory, she adds too much “anti-matter” to the candy mix, and the result is disastrous. Atomically unstable sweets known as Sherbet Sizzlers are created, and you and Kate must man her grandfathers’ candy launcher in order to prevent the sweets from destroying the factory.

In 1994, Taito released a puzzle arcade game called Bust-a-Move. The game allowed the player to control the angle of a fixed turret at the bottom of the screen, and shoot colored balls at a grouping of other balls at the top of the screen. The idea was to create chains of three or more identical balls, thus removing them from the game arena, before the clump reached the turret. Bust-a-Move tested a player’s ability to make quick decisions, and its addictive nature swept the arcade gaming world in the mid-90’s. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, Taiko’s cheeks should be red. Bust-a-Move’s success lead to the spawning of several sequels and clones, most notably Snood in 1996, and an online version known as Pengupop last year.

As you might have already guessed, Sweetopia is a clone of Bust-a-Move. The player operates a candy launcher and shoots a range of different colored sweets. Surrounding the launcher are conveyor belts that transport chains of these sweets around the factory, and the player must prevent the chains from meeting by matching triplets of candy and destroying the chains.

There is both an arcade and story mode, the ultimate goal of each being to destroy all of the chains while preventing the Sherbet Sizzlers (large, disco-ball candies that head the chains) from meeting each other on the conveyor belt. Unfortunately, there is no discernable way to tell when new chains will stop entering the playing field. Combine this with the fact that the first 50 levels of the story mode are tediously easy, and you got a recipe for one sour Sweetopia. If you manage to endure the first couple hours of play necessary to reach level 50, the game does pick up. You may even begin to fail levels, a welcome change after the monotony of cruising.

Despite the formula gameplay, Sweetopia offers a few creative distinctions. After the first few levels of story mode, the game introduces new types of candy. These candies not only increase the difficulty of the game (more candy equals more prioritization of shots), they also have unique properties. Some candies dissolve when shot from afar, some have crooked trajectories, and others repel all other candy types.

Secondly, there are power-ups. These range from allowing the player to pause the conveyor belt for five seconds, to shooting a fiery ball that destroys any candies in its path, to multiplying one's point total several-fold.

Lastly, many levels offer more than one vantage point for the candy launcher. By clicking on the alternate station, one is immediately transferred and can fire from a whole new angle. For some levels this alternation is necessary, as obstacles often block the conveyor belt. For others, it is merely a different way to play the game. And that’s what all of the distinctions really boil down to. They make Sweetopia more interesting, a necessary contribution to an otherwise repetitive title.


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