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Puzzle Bobble Mini – Neo Geo Pocket Color

Puzzle Bobble Mini – Neo Geo Pocket Color

Platform: Neo Geo Pocket Color

Developer: SNK Playmore

Publisher: SNK Playmore

Release: April 30, 1999

Genre: Puzzle

Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10

Note: I emulated the game on my Android phone with the NGP.emu free version emulator.

Surely anyone who has browsed the games section of any mobile app store has seen at least a dozen of those “puzzle bubble” games. This puzzle game genre has become increasingly popular over the last decade or so with the growing mobile and handheld gaming market. However, it had some pretty humble roots; the Puzzle Bobble (and of course Bubble Bobble) series. Or as it is referred to in the United States, Bust-a-Move.

Puzzle Bobble Mini Cleared screen2

Puzzle Mode

The Puzzle Bobble games have been around for as long as I have, and I’ve been playing them on home consoles my entire life. So when I was looking for some games to play on my Neo Geo Pocket Color emulator, it was pretty clear that Puzzle Bobble Mini would be one of them.

To start; Puzzle Bobble games are usually pretty simple, you start off in a rectangular screen in which the top is filled with a pattern of bubbles and at the bottom you have your mechanism where you can shoot a random colored bubble to match the ones in the pattern at the top and pop them. Of course, at the same time, you’re also racing against the clock to get rid of these bubbles before they pile up and cross the line  at the bottom of the screen which marks game over. If you’ve ever played Tetris, just imagine the screen upside-down with blocks at the top to start.

In Puzzle Bobble Mini you have three game modes to play through, Puzzle, VS-CPU, and Survivor. In the Puzzle mode you play alone through a series of 100 levels where your score is based on your speed. As you progress through the levels, the puzzles you find will begin to get harder, but I honestly felt that it wasn’t too difficult during my first run. And of course if you want a challenge, you can always change the difficulty in the Game Options screen, which goes from level 1 to 8. The game, of course, automatically starts at level 1 difficulty.

Puzzle Bobble Mini vs


In VS-CPU mode, you play against one of eight enemies from the Bubble Bobble series which you get to choose from. In order to win this mode, you have to survive long enough that your opponent’s bubbles cross the red line at the bottom. When you win twice, a small crown will go over the character you beat’s head in the opponent selection screen. While this mode is shorter than the Puzzle mode, I felt that it had a lot more of a challenge to it. It was much tenser trying to outlast an opponent who could zap extra bubbles into your field than simply finishing quickly.

Puzzle Bobble Mini survival

Survivor Mode

The last mode, Survivor mode is probably my favorite. It blends the tense action and difficulty of the VS mode with the longevity of the single player mode. In Survivor mode, you start with a block full of bubbles at the top of your screen and your goal is to survive the cascade of bubbles to rack up points. In my opinion, Survivor mode is probably the most difficult of the three modes but also the most rewarding to get a high score in.

And that’s Puzzle Bobble Mini. So why do I consider this a good game? Think about it. Puzzle Bobble Mini is the first of the Puzzle Bobble series to be made specifically for a handheld (the Neo Geo Pocket Color) instead of being later ported like the original games. It marked a turning point for the a series that was once confined to home consoles and arcades, it was portable and therefore, acessible to a wider audience. Like many other early handheld games, handheld versions of console games didn’t care about being the most innovative or new, it was about the idea that these fantastic series like Puzzle Bobble and Sonic could be played anywhere. So while Puzzle Bobble Mini has only a three game modes, no multiplayer, or shareable scoreboards, it’s a game that people new to the series or a long-time fan could enjoy.

Puzzle Bobble Mini Highscore screen

While you couldn’t virtually share your scores, you could save them per round in Arcade-like fashion.

Honestly, what makes this game great isn’t what it has but what it is. Puzzle Bobble Mini is the grand-daddy of all puzzle bubble games. Although the Neo Geo Pocket Color was a short lived console, this series’ longevity is so because of it’s simplistic, but challenging puzzles matched with the ability to take it on the go. In fact, since the Puzzle Bobble Minis release in 1999, at least fourteen of the twenty-one following releases in the series were handheld or mobile games. Of the remaining seven, two were online titles and the rest, smaller releases like Wiiware and Xbox Live Arcade.

So next time you think about downloading that new Bubble Witch Saga onto your phone or decide to play Bubble Safari on Facebook with friends, remember, Puzzle Bobble Mini.

Written by Doc Croc

Doc Croc aka Kelly is Nerd Bacon’s Editor-in-Chief and resident narcoleptic. In the off-chance she isn’t already asleep, you can find her here at the Bacon!


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One Comment

  1. I used to play the hell out of a Bust-a-Move demo that came with one of my PlayStation magazines when I was very young. Sucks that this series faded away, only to have clones on mobile devices surpass it in popularity. Long live Bub and Bob!


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