Thanks ININ Games to for the review code
Title: Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey
System: PS4 (VR)
Release Date: 10/05/2021
In this tropical take on the Puzzle Bobble series, Bub and Bob hit a vacation, before the evil Bonner causes all sorts of mischief. The story is told through incredibly basic still images, and really doesn’t amount to very much besides an excuse to get popping.
This is a first for SFG in some ways: while the super belated Neptunia VIIR Review was done after I got my PSVR, said game sadly had the compatibility break down and thus made that component unusable. Thus, with Puzzle Bobble 3D having both a 2D and VR mode, I decided to check both options out, leading to this being a review that should hopefully inform users in both camps if the game is right for them or not.
In general? Vacation Odyssey looks fine, though the UI and menu reminds me very, very much of the sort of browser/mobile puzzle games I’d grow up with in my youth. In the 2D mode with just a Dualshock, moving a cursor can get dull, but luckily once in a stage you can just jump to the next level immediately without much of a worry. The visuals look pretty, and the character model for your dinosaur friend is emotive and rather goofy. Since you’re shooting at 3D arrangements of bubbles, what is here gets the job done well enough, even if at a basic level. The music is a tropical assortment of songs that are pretty forgettable, though you will hear the occasional remix from an older Puzzle Bobble now and then.
But VR is where this game truly shines, and it definitely was made for it in mind. When PSVR is enabled, you can look around the tropical area and see Bob in VR, and the colorful world really does make it pop out. You can use either the Dualshock or the PS Move controllers, and doing the latter will have you with your own pink paws running the bubble slingshot, which is a cute touch. You also navigate the basic UI with a pointer which causes the presentation to make so much more sense in this format. Playing with the PSVR Headphones also led to the soundtrack feeling more like ambience, and while obviously such technology will never make you feel like you’re actually there in the tropical world, Vacation Odyssey definitely feels much better in VR than as a basic game.
Vacation Odyssey is surprisingly light on modes, only offering a couple to dabble with. You have an online versus mode, which as much as I wanted to try out, I just couldn’t find a match, and you can’t do this locally/against CPUs either, so alas. There’s an endless mode, which tasks you with shooting endless groups of bubbles before they reach a portal in the sky, and it doesn’t have any online leaderboards, so this is really only good for playing for local score chasing. Still, it’s a fun enough timewaster, and this is the best way to introduce the controls and such.
For the traditional, Dualshock 4 controller in non VR mode, your controls are simple. You use the stick to awkwardly aim your bubble shooter, and can switch with a backup bubble that your friend is holding at the press of a button, before firing with the X button. Per usual Puzzle Bobble standards, you shoot to create a group of 3 or more, working your way to create chain reactions or destabilize the clusters, and rinse and repeat. Honestly, playing this in Non-VR mode is a bit boring, since the aiming of the cannon and dealing with the 3D clusters just isn’t nearly as snappy as working with the traditional fields of bubbles from the main series, and as the endless mode continues, the clusters do speed up, but even this frantic pace doesn’t make it much more enticing.
Luckily, that’s where the VR magic comes into play, and you have several methods to control the game when using a PSVR. You could try two PS Move controllers and the PS Camera, where one arm is the shooter and the other is your paw, which is used to grab onto a bubble and physically load it onto the top of the shooter, but I found that fiddling with the shooter to be pretty awkward, and pointing it around often made the cursor tremble after a while, leading to me having to calibrate this mode a lot. Shooting is OK once it’s all locked and loaded, but the best control method by far is the Dualshock 4 controller with the headset. Using your head to look around and the Dualshock 4’s motion controls to actually aim is pretty damn fun, and I was having a lot more fun with this combination, clearing clusters and the in-game stages in no time, so if you have a PSVR set up, this is absolutely where Vacation Odyssey shines, since the VR adds quite a bit of immersion to this cute game, and the Dualshock 4 is more than serviceable for aiming without dealing with the move and camera combo.
Speaking of the in-game stages, that’s the last bit of Vacation Odyssey to cover, so let’s sum those up. In this 100 stage adventure, Bub and Bob set out across a variety of locales to stop the evil Bonner from ruining their fun, and these are presented in your very typical, 3-star stage format on a world map. Each level has their own objective, usually requiring you to clear all the clusters in a limited amount of moves/time, and you can gradually unlock powerups to help turn the tide of a tricky stage. This is another big reason why I do not recommend the move combo, since when I ended up on stages with a time limit, some of these time limits can be pretty irritating when you’re working on your aim, which was the main motivation for me switching to the Dualshock.
Still, ultimately, this game is just Puzzle Bobble at the end of it all, only with a weird new perspective that works great in VR and is absolutely adorable, but once you go through the 100 stages there’s little else to do besides focusing on staring them all or improving your scores. I honestly do wish there was some sort of online component to the game outside of the versus mode, since leaderboards or a VS COM Arcade mode would be very nice.
In conclusion, Vacation Odyssey is definitely a great game for PSVR, but by itself it remains a pretty generic entry in the Puzzle Bobble series, with the point and shoot action being only so much fun before it gets repetitive. There are 100 stages to go through, but besides an endless mode (which doesn’t even have online leaderboards!) and an online VS mode (Which doesn’t even have local play as an option!) there really isn’t much here.
As a VR showpiece, and when played with a Dualshock 4 in the headset, it’s a pretty clever reinvention of the Puzzle Bobble style that’ll give you a few afternoons of fun before drying up, but playing without PSVR, I honestly can’t recommend Vacation Odyssey just due to how light and plain it is. Truly, the PSVR is what the game was made for in mind, and with that much fun, I can easily recommend it for the price if you have one of those lying around, but for those without PSVR, you may want to wait with caution.
I give Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey a 6 out of 10.