When it comes to game genres that have been done to death, the word game is king. You can't blame developers for trying to come up with a unique twist for them, because if it does well, it does SO well -- look at that Words With Friends phenomenon. How do we make the next Words With Friends? And then there's a flood of games that all make you use your spelling skills. Great. Maybe if I get really fancy I can spell "ubiquitous". Or something.
Maybe it is possible to find a few that try the new twist and come out successful, though. Bubble in Paradise [$0.99] didn't sound too promising to me from the name itself, but once I got a look at the bubble mechanic I could tell the possibility of getting hooked was there. Basically, the premise is simple: your screen fills with bubbles, each of which have a letter on them. To form a word, you have to tap the letters and submit, and if you've got a word, the bubbles all pop, clearing more space for the ones to come. The twist is that if you don't use them, the bubbles grow, and if you let them get too big, your game is over. Hope you have a good way to use that Z in a sentence.
There are little powerups to help you on your way, such as Freeze, Deflate and Plus. The first two are self-explanatory (and something you will certainly need as the levels progress in speed and challenge), but Plus is a special one you can unlock that will increase the score given by all nearby bubbles when you pop it. The only way you can unlock this is to collect stars as you play, which will randomly appear on the boards. The further you get, the more powerful goodies you can get your hands on. You'll also need to learn to avoid ones like Faster (makes bubbles appear more quickly) and Inflate (makes nearby bubbles grow). Things get tricky once these appear and you're already rushing to make combos.
Another option the game offers is hints, so if you are really stuck, you can use one to have the game show you a word. There are a limited number of free hints, however, and after you use them all you have to earn them in play or dish up your dollars. This is where in-game purchases come in. You can grab 20 hints for $0.99, which is pretty cheap actually, or if you have trouble assembling words in general and grew up in a small cave being raised by forest animals and making clicking noises to communicate, the 1,000 hints package might be good for you at a whopping $9.99.
Like every solid word game, Bubble in Paradise offers multiple modes to play in, so if you get burned on one you can try out another. Normal, Endless and Battle are available right off the bat, but you'll have to earn stars to play Blitz (a timed mode). If you don't want to wait to unlock Blitz, you can dish up a buck and unlock everything. The tone of in-game purchase options means a lot to me as a user, and I found that these were never intrusive. They were there if I wanted them, but without them the game was still perfectly fun. One other cool thing about these was that you can send them as a gift to a friend playing the game, which I thought was a cool touch.
One of the only issues I had with Bubble in Paradise is that I couldn't always find someone to play in Battle mode. On the other hand, it's just as easy to invite friends to play as the game is Crystal and Game Center enabled and can quickly hook you up with a network of people who may or may not outspell you. Bubbles in Paradise is a simple title, but well-executed and very enjoyable. I'm probably biased since I like to spell and learn new words. I also admit I gloated a little over the fact that my best word in the last round was "puked." Not because it's a long word, mind you, but because I have the sense of humor of a fourteen year old boy.
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