A look at Eidos' surprise hit for the Nintendo DS.
Let's make this quick - I'm packing my house up to move and I haven't got time to be fannying about telling you people what you should and shouldn't be playing.
So, you're greeted on booting the game up with a screen warning you there are no licensed racing cars, post-apocalyptic soldiers, elfs, orcs or magicians, or gang fights. This: funny. Well done whoever came up with that. It's a very, very small element - it's not even a part of the game, but it immediately imbues Soul Bubbles with some... well... soul.
And it's fortunate that the theme of actually having a personality, some genuine charm about the title, is carried on through to the game proper. There's some bollocks story about being a spirit herder and blah blah blah, but what it boils down to is: you're a floaty git, you put these shiny gits in a bubble and you blow it around a maze-like stage full of bad gits and traps. That's about it. That's also the beauty of it.
Simplicity, as we all know, is the best thing in the world. The game starts off slowly, with players avoiding spikes, git crows and crushing traps, as well as squeezing through a multitude of teeny-tiny passages and being blown around by the wind. It's easy at first - maybe too easy. But things soon ramp up and soon enough you have to contend with manufacturing multiple bubbles to explore and take on obstacles, levels that go all over the bloody place and enemies that get annoyingly cunning - from the gentle pace you are introduced at it can get a bit much quite quickly, especially for those not very good at games (i.e. 90% of the DS-owning public).
I could go on about the mechanics of the thing - collecting stardust and Calabash, safely navigating the spirits to the end of the level, how the controls are shockingly well implemented and so on, but that's all dull and reads like a press release. All you need to know is that Soul Bubbles is a great game, a fantastic timewaster, ideal to play outside on a pleasant summer's day (if you don't have crippling hay fever) and a title that appeals to just about everyone - being both cute enough for idiots & girls and smart enough for real people.
It's perfect for short blasts, but has the depth to keep you coming back to hunt for whatever it is you may have missed before. Also, I should add: you rarely feel like you've been cheated. It's one of those extraordinary circumstances where losing feels like it's actually your fault, instead of a cheating bastard computer.
Throw in the fact that it's pretty ruddy beautiful, both amiable and original in its style, and it has some incredibly relaxing audio and, well, it's been released at the right time really. Soul Bubbles is a very warm game.