Review: Puzzle Bobble: Vacation Odyssey Brings a New Dimension to Familiar Gameplay

Screenshot: Puzzle Bobble: Vacation Odyssey I grew up playing Bubble Bobble on the NES, so I have a special place in my heart for the bubble popping dino duo, and always enjoyed the more thoughtful bubble popping of the spin-off series Puzzle Bobble as well. It was a no-brainer then that I’d play Puzzle Bobble: Vacation Odyssey if given the chance—and it turns out it’s a pretty solid VR puzzle game. Puzzle Bobble: Vacation Odyssey is a puzzle game where you have to shoot colored bubbles to groups of three or more other likewise colored bubbles to pop them. Part of the struggle is fact you don’t get to choose the color of your next bubble. Usually, your goal is to pop all of the bubbles, but occasionally you’ll have meet a specific goal, like freeing all of the small Chack’n that are trapped in the bubbles. And that’s pretty much it. It’s an extremely casual game that feels like a game you’d find at a carnival—but it’s only possible through VR. But Puzzle Bobble: Vacation Odyssey is a strange mix of abilities. Not only do you need to be good at finding the best places for your colored orbs to land, but you also have to have precise aiming and good timing to get them where you want. Screenshot: Puzzle Bobble: Vacation Odyssey What makes Puzzle Bobble: Vacation Odyssey strange is its mixed focus. It’s focused on puzzle solving, and popping groups of bubbles to get high scores, but you’ll need precision and good timing to solve the some of these puzzles. When you aim a bubble in Vacation Odyssey, there’s an arching line showing you where the ball will land. You can use this to aim most shots, especially in the first few dozen levels. Even with this aim line, sometimes making shots can be difficult. The bubbles like to easily stick to others, so if your line travels close to a nearby bubble its possible it won’t finish its arc. Also, since you’re holding the slingshot that shoots the bubbles, even slight unsteadiness in your arm can mess up a precise shot. This gets even more difficult when levels start to feature moving targets. But even when the bubbles don’t move on their own, hitting the exact spot you want can be limited to how stead you can hold your arm. There are three different ways to play Puzzle Bobble: Vacation Odyssey. There’s a story mode with 100 levels, a Versus mode, and a never-ending mode. I spent most of my time playing the story mode with its varied difficulty. While it does get a little bit more difficult overall as the levels go up in number, it is not a linear progression. Often I’d be stopped by a level I just couldn’t pass. While bubble popping is the main mode of gameplay, there are some variations in what to pop, and how to pop them as you progress through Vacation Odyssey’s levels. There are also coins to earn, based on how well you perform in the level, and you can use these coins to unlock and then purchase power-ups that can make those hard-to-beat levels a little more manageable. The bomb blows up groups of bubbles, the paintbrush allows you to change your next bubble’s color to the one you want, and a compass that lets you turn the 3D bubble formation to give you the shot you want. Screenshot: Puzzle Bobble: Vacation Odyssey If you’re a fan of the Puzzle Bobble series, and want a new dimension on familiar gameplay, Puzzle Bobble: Vacation Odyssey is worth a look. If, more likely, you have an Oculus Quest headset sitting around and you’re looking for a casual puzzle game, Vacation Odyssey is brightly colored fun. While its main mechanic can be an exercise in patience as you try to get the perfect shot, it retains the Puzzle Bobble feel.   Puzzle Bobble: Vacation Odyssey is available now on Oculus Quest and Quest 2.
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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.