Review – Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey

Even if Bubble Bobble started out as an arcade platformer series, its puzzle counterpart, Puzzle Bobble (which used to be known as Bust-a-Move back in the day) is arguably a lot more famous. I remember that pretty much every single system up until the 3DS used to get at least one version of the franchise eventually. Then due to Taito’s demise in the 2010s, we stopped seeing new entries coming from them, as well as new Space Invaders and Darius games. Now that the company is making a comeback with smaller arcade-like revival titles, it was only a matter of time for Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble to show up on current-gen consoles. Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is the result.

Puzzle Bobble 3D Beach

It’s a fun take on the formula, but 2D Bust-a-Move reigns supreme.

Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is not just a polygonal take on the tried-and-true Bust-a-Move “connect three” formula, even though I kinda wish they had gone the easier route (more on that later). This is a brand new take on the franchise’s gameplay loop, focusing on tri-dimensional puzzles you need to complete by destroying colorful orbs and paying attention at the direction of your shots, as they will constantly flip around and catch you off-guard if you were planning on shooting for an opening.

It is a fun gameplay loop, but it is less frantic than its predecessors, opting for a more strategic style. The main career mode puts you into different scenarios where you either have to complete a puzzle with a set amount of bubbles or in a set amount of time. It is fun, but not exactly arcadey. The main arcade mode included in this package is also more strategic than any other Bust-a-Move predecessor, being more of a race against time in order to prevent your orbs from being captured by a black hole. It sounds weird, doesn’t it? Well, this is exactly what happens. There is no better way to describe this situation.

Puzzle Bobble 3D Story

Not a big fan of how Puzzle Bobble 3D unveils its riveting plot.

The controls take some time to get used to, as the developers tried to come up with a minute way to take advantage of the DualSense’s adaptive triggers for the sake of it. You aim with the left analog stick and calculate your strength with how much you hold down R2. Good in theory, but it ends up being that you can either shoot it properly by holding R2 down to the end or pressing just a little bit of it, only to watch your bubble fall down on the ground. It’s almost as if there is no in-between.

As for the presentation, Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is actually pretty good. I was surprised to find out there was a proper PS5 build for this game, and while that didn’t result in jaw-dropping visuals, I was still pleased with how adorable the Bubble Bobble protagonists looked in full 3D. The game is wonderfully colorful, has little to no loading times, runs incredibly well, and features a saccharine, but always uplifting soundtrack. Its menu interface is a bit ugly, reminding me more of a mobile game than anything else, though. Thankfully, you will rarely need to see menus, as you can advance from one level to the next without going through a separate window.

Arcade Mode

In Puzzle Bobble 3D’s arcade mode, you must avoid letting your bubbles get eaten by whatever this black hole is supposed to be.

Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is a fun arcade title, I won’t deny that. If you’re looking for some casual puzzle fun on the PS5, you will get your fair share with this little game. With that being said, for as much as I commend the developers for trying to come up with brand new ideas for such a tried and true formula, I certainly do not think that this 3D gameplay is anywhere near as fun and addictive as the classic Puzzle Bobble/Bust-a-Move we all grew up playing and loving. If anything, I hope Taito listens to feedback and releases a modern revamp of the classic 2D puzzle game in the near future. Hopefully, naming it Bust-a-Move, as it should.


Graphics: 7.5

Not exactly impressive for a PlayStation 5 build, but it’s the cutest you can possibly get with Bubble Bobble characters in 3D.

Gameplay: 6.0

The idea for a 3D take on the classic Puzzle Bobble formula is interesting, but the controls don’t always feel responsive and intuitive enough. It does use the DualSense’s adaptive triggers, even if in very minute ways.

Sound: 8.0

Just like with pretty much any Bubble or Puzzle Bobble game, the soundtrack is way catchier than it has any right to be.

Fun Factor: 6.5

It’s fun in an old-school arcadey way, but there’s no denying that 2D Puzzle Bobble is a lot more fun than this brand new 3D counterpart. Kudos for the attempt at innovating an old formula, though.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey is available now on PS4 and PS5.

Reviewed on PS5.

A copy of Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey was provided by the publisher.