Dress To Play: Magic Bubbles!
3DS Download | EnjoyUp Games / CoderChild | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | $3.99
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29th May 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
The first entry demonstrated that the contributions on both sides were insufficient to bring about a proper mix. Dress To Play: Magic Bubbles! learns from the mistakes of its predecessor and doesn't devolve nearly as quickly, nor does the direction appear to be as frazzled. But the execution is still questionable, with enough doubt being raised that the game can't stand on its own formula, but rather a fallback method.
Evidenced by its target audience, the debut Dress To Play title saw to address an apparent need on the eShop. How pressing that is or was, I don't know, but the difference with this continuation is that the spotlight, which originally excluded boys, is now shared between both genders. The age demographic and the base model are the same, the latter replicated with some small adjustments to ensure it's something the entire family can take part in. Dress To Play: Magic Bubbles! furthers the cutesy art style that shaped the original with its settling colour choices and backgrounds, though they aren't as active or as responsive to 3D use as they were in the previous title. Music has also witnessed improvement, with a mish-mash of happy hardcore and pop sounds heard on menus and during gameplay (albeit the gameplay track is a tad garbled).
The proceedings are now supervised by a penguin of a tone that fits in with the existing atmosphere, cheering you on during participation in the Play component and also feeling sorry for you when you miss an opportunity for a combo. The extent of its personality is seen when a player fails very early in, having this look of extreme dissatisfaction, as if saying with their eyes, "Don't even talk to me, because you did so miserably." I'm not sure that it's entirely beneficial, but having a character to identify with beyond the custom figures created is another way in which the second entry differs from the original.
As before, character customization (the Dress component) is treated as a portal to gameplay, which in this case comes in the form of match-three principles. The preliminary setup isn't extensive -- though loading times are more noticeable than before -- and enough choices are presented that players will have a fair time mixing and matching prior to the game portion. While often making use clear iconography, minor mistakes prevent the setup from being perfectly intuitive, one being that when asked to select a gender, the position of the two icons doesn't correlate with the order in which they are listed.
The developers have tried to hook players just like last time by locking a considerable portion of the costumes, accessories and other items in the catalogue, with the prospect of new duds presumably being a motivator even as the experience extends further out. The assumption and perhaps even overestimation in the direction prove worrying in the context of longevity and short-term engagement.
Like the first iteration, the game portion bears a direct connection (as small as it is) to the simulation aspect in the way of how goods are purchased, arriving in the form of three distinguishable elements: Leaves, Drops and Hearts. With players being referred to as Bubblers, coloured bubbles launching from the washing machine are to be arranged on the upper screen to form matching groups as they rise to the top. Reading the digital manual, there are reasons behind why this is so, but this isn't elaborated on in-game for the sake of immediacy and easy comprehension. It is for that same reason that items aren't explained by way of formal introduction, but that's not a big loss seeing as the effects are easily understood. Bombs detonate when cleared in a group, Rocks disappear only after reaching the top pane, and Rainbows are wild cards. The only one that's non-standard is the Ice item, which freezes an entire column for a few drops.
The thing with Dress To Play: Magic Bubbles! is that is has the benefit of a stronger game component to serve as a safety net. The only reason why the game doesn't flinch is because this portion emulates an established gameplay style, and with that in place, the simulation aspect becomes trivial in relation to the overall experience. Either way, it's still not a strong concept, nor do the two components at work enter into a collaborative relationship -- while respect is paid to the one, neither are well-harnessed either on their own or as a couple.
Strangely, the game gives off more of a Bust-a-Move vibe in its layout. Nevertheless, the match-three gameplay is tailored to be entry-level-appropriate, and as such, Magic Bubbles! is better served by having this as its focus. The alternative just doesn't work too well, nor does it provide any momentum through which players will be drawn to return. There is a two-player battle mode, as well as a series of challenges that ultimately prove pointless in line with what little movement is encouraged and actually takes place. But these cannot reverse the situation the game finds itself in.
This series has yet to forge a strong bond between the two merging gameplay styles, and because of this lack of fulfilling connection, any fun that such a merger could entertain ends up evaporating. While Dress To Play: Magic Bubbles! is the superior entry, it is for little tangible strength of its own accord. Ultimately, the management still isn't there, and the objectives they had in mind have yet to be realized with adequacy. That said, the game can be used as a tool to introducing younger audiences to match-three gameplay, and from that standpoint, the family-friendly nature of the title is just enough to slip it a pass.
18/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Small elements tied to simulation aspect, benefits from the game component being a fallback, still not a strong execution
Presentation 7/10 - Minor defects with the setup, good music, inviting and cutesy look, less active backgrounds, 3D doesn't do much
Enjoyment 3/5 - Loose connections between components, fun evaporates though not as quickly as before, functions best as an introduction
Extra Content 2/5 - A fair amount of unlockable clothing and accessories, two-player mode, challenges don't matter much in the scheme of things
Equivalent to a score of 60% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System