The world needs more derivative puzzle games on mobile devices about as much as the Antarctic really needs more ice. Flick through the application store for any platform and you'll find swathes of self-described "innovative" games that are, quite frankly, not very entertaining. (And usually, not remotely innovative either!)
So why am I giving a good review for Bonsai Blast, which on the surface is yet another addition to this pool? Quite simply, because it's a very good game. It does what it says on the tin, it pulls no punches and tells no lies.
Bonsai Blast, from the California-based Glu Games, is a marble-shooting puzzle game for Android and various other platforms. It's certainly nothing you've not seen before, the core gameplay closely resembling classic titles such as Puzzle Bobble (which we in the UK called "Bust-A-Move" for reasons I never quite figured out). Enemy balls fall from the sky, you shoot the enemy balls with your friendly balls, line up enough in a row and the enemy balls disappear. Repeat until bored.
Except with Bonsai Blast, you might be repeating for a very long time, because Glu have done a very good job of putting in little interesting quirks and incentives to reignite your interest in the genre. For a start, rather than the marbles falling down in lines or patterns as in previous games, they follow a kind of track. Early tracks start off ridulously simple, with one entry point, one exit point and a single route for the balls to go through, while later on in the game much more complex levels start to emerge. There are boxes to break, powerups to collect, difficult wall-shots to master and weird shortcut chutes that sometimes appear to be the only way to accomplish your goal. You can also use various tactics that would probably be considered cheating in other games of the genre, for example moving your gun around the level to shoot from different angles.
The developers have added multiple game modes, the traditional Adventure mode, where the level ends at a set moment and completion of a level unlocks a new one, as well as a Survival mode - the level does not finish until you lose, and your sole aim in life is to get the score as high as possible. (or at least higher than everyone you know, right?) I haven't had the chance to play the game to its completion, but I don't see the track of levels running out anytime soon - Glu claim on their website for the game that there are 90, and that they start to ramp up in difficulty quite steeply. Time will tell.
All of this adds up to an experience that is rare to come by in a free game - Bonsai Blast is POLISHED. The graphics are superb - simple, yes, but nonetheless superb, with their "zen garden" 2d art style giving the game real character. I haven't had a single bug or crash so far, and the game runs smoothly most of the time (users of older phones have noted that it uses quite a lot of memory, this is true but not an issue for most people I suspect).
Below is a short video of the gameplay, please excuse both the East Anglian accent and the fact I attempted to record a video of me playing a game after pulling an all-nighter! (Lack of sleep apparently makes aiming difficult.)
- 8/10 - Not the most ambitious graphics perhaps, but they do the job and the art style is beautiful.
- 7/10 - Bread and butter.
- 7/10 - OK, so it's "just another marble shooter". But it's fiendishly addictive thanks to the little extras.
- 9/10 - One of the most polished games I've seen on the Android platform.
If you need a fun little time killer for the train station, get it. If you're a fan of marble shooter games, get it. If you WERE a fan of marble shooter games, and have always been disappointed with the low quality, derivative titles that often come out for mobile devices... well, you're just like me, and you're gonna love it. :)