Nintendo

Pop Review

Pop LogoThe concept of Nnooo’s Pop for WiiWare is about as simple as it gets in a video game these days. Bubbles of various sizes float will across the screen and you use your Wii Remote to try and pop them. Somehow though, the extremely simple concept manages to make for a fun, challenging and surprisingly deep experience thanks to a few key features.

The biggest feature that has kept me playing is the inclusion of online leaderboards that utilize the WiiConnect24 service. Also included are local multiplayer options and an at achievement system similar to an Xbox 360 title. In fact, after just a few minutes with Pop I thought it was the most Xbox LIVE Arcade type experience I’ve had away from the Microsoft console. Read More...

The core of the single player experience in Pop is dubbed Normal Mode. In this mode players will try and pop their way through 16 waves of bubbles. Each wave gets a bit faster and they change direction a number of times as you go. The main challenge in this mode comes from a constantly decreasing clock, if the clock hits zero its game over.

Every time you pop a bubble, you will be rewarded with points and a bit of time. Smaller bubbles are worth more points and larger ones are worth more time.  Miss hitting any bubbles entirely and you are nailed with a three second penalty.  There are also bubbles with skulls in them that cause a time penalty when hit. At first the skull bubbles are easy enough to avoid but as you progress they are easier to hit, not only because they get greater in numbers but because popping each bubble creates a ripple that can pop bubbles around it.

This is what Pop Looks Like...

There are a few power-up type items to help you along your way as well. There is a cluster bomb item that wipes out all of the bubbles in a radius around it when popped, an item that slows down the bubble flow and another that increases the size of your on-screen aiming reticule. Lastly, there are multiplier bubbles to help you build your high score.

There is also a combo system in place to aid with score building. Bubbles travel across the screen at different speeds and on different layers and popping a spot with several layers of bubble under it yields a bonus for each one popped.  Popping bubbles of the same colour in succession quickly also produces bonuses.

A sort of strategy comes from a couple abilities given to the player. Bubbles can be dragged to another area of the screen by holding down a button. This comes in handy for building layers or keeping a combo going. It can also be used to place the nuke bubbles in effective locations before detonation.  You can also hold a bubble and shake the Wii Remote to pump it up, increasing the ripple radius when it gets popped.

Advanced Mode keeps the same scoring system in place, but you’re actually battling an increasing timer in addition to the countdown timer. The challenge here is to use all of the tricks you learned in normal mode to score 9,999,999 points as quickly as possible while staying alive and keeping the countdown timer from reaching zero. This can take anywhere from a couple minutes to a couple hours depending on your skill level and ability to find the game’s exploits. The user at the top of the leaderboards clocked in at about one minute and 45 seconds.

Chill Mode is exactly what it sounds like; it’s just you and the bubbles. No score, no time limit and no pressure. Besides basically acting as a “bubble toy” mode, I found that Chill Mode was a great way to practice, almost like an extended tutorial or training mode.

All three modes can also be played in what I can best describe as “competitive co-op” multiplayer. Two to four players must share the time bank while individually trying to get the best score. Some new items are introduced in multiplayer modes. A flashlight item limits the screens field of vision to a circle around the player that hits it and an electric item shocks other players making them unable to move for a few seconds.

Sometimes the Colours Change

Maybe I just didn’t get the multiplayer side of Pop, but I simply couldn’t get into it at all. Separating the co-op and competitive elements would have made it more fun to me. I did enjoy trying to dual-wield my way to victory on my own however, something I’m sure a lot of others have tried as well.

Pop is very easy to control. You simply aim your Wii Remote at the screen and use either the A or B button to pop. I found it easy to pop off shots quicker by alternating between the buttons in succession.  The aiming reticule can be quite shaky at times and has caused me a number of missed shots. Players that have a hard time keeping their hands or arms steady may want to consider using a Wii Zapper or Nyko Perfect Shot to aid their aiming.

Graphically there is not a whole lot going on in Pop. Four colours of bubbles will float across the screen on top of a liquid-looking background. The background and bubble colours will change every wave or so. Pop would have been a complete nightmare for colourblind gamers had Nnooo not included the option to have the bubbles change shape to make the game playable.

Audio is practically non-existent, but what is there sounds nice enough. Most of the popping sounds are actually handled by the Wii Remote speaker if it is turned on and manage to avoid sounding distorted or tinny.

When I first started playing Pop, I said “Seven dollars? They can’t be serious”. After putting a fair amount of time into it I feel that the price point is fair. For me, the inclusion of achievements and online leaderboards alone justifies the price. Pop is a game that I’ve enjoyed playing in short bursts and one that has also sucked me in for a few hour plus sessions.  If you’re in the market for a simple light gun style shooter, or you’ve exhausted the fun that can be had in Wii Play target shooting, Pop is probably right up your alley.

Positives:

+ High score based gameplay keeps you hooked
+ Online leaderboards


Negatives:


- Little to no music
- Multiplayer has an identity crisis

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Game Forward score: 3/5


Brian J. Papineau > Game Forward

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Pop (WiiWare) Quick Facts:


Genre: Light Gun style Shooter
Developer: Nnooo
Publisher: Nnooo
Release Date: May 12, 2008
Price: 700 Wii Points / $7 USD
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)