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a love letter to 'Soul Bubbles' - one of the best games on the nintendo ds

jarosh

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Oct 2, 2005
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soul bubbles is a puzzle adventure game for the ds developed by mekensleep. it's a charming, clever, incredibly addictive game, lovingly crafted with so much attention to detail, so much creativity; i fell in love immediately. it's my handheld goty 2008, possibly even my goty overall.

___________________________________________________________________________


the basic premise:

you're a young shaman and your mission is to lead 7 glowing spirits (or souls) to safety through maze-like levels in 8 different worlds. there's a total of 40 levels overall. you draw a bubble around your spirits and blow it towards the exit (with your stylus, not your mouth).


start and exit of each level:



___________________________________________________________________________


now, to reach your goal and to pass the many obstacles on your way you have three different masks at your disposal that can be equipped at any given time:




- the green one is the bird mask. it simply allows you to draw bubbles - as many as you want. hold the d-pad up or the x button to equip it.
- the orange one is the tiger mask. you use it to cut bubbles in half (allowing you to get through smaller cracks and the likes) or join a group of touching bubbles. hold the d-pad right or the a button to equip it.
- the pink one is the elephant mask. it helps you deflate bubbles when they're too big or get rid of them entirely. hold the d-pad left or the y button to equip it.

however, these masks aren't just there to help you guide the spirit bubble(s). you use them for puzzle solving, too. you can collect water and other things (i won't spoil them) in bubbles. you can cut through plants that keep your bubble hostage. you can deflate evil spiky fish to render them harmless... just a few examples of all the things you can do with your masks.

of course as long as you don't have a mask equipped, you use the stylus to blow your bubble in the desired direction:



___________________________________________________________________________


on your way through the levels there's two things to collect: stardust and calabash...



soul bubbles isn't a collect-a-ton. collecting stardust is pretty straightforward; following its path will lead you straight to the exit. there's still a handful of hidden stashes of stardust bits in every level though, so keep your eyes peeled if you wanna get them all.

there's 3 calabash in each level and they're usually hidden away in small tunnels, sometimes behind elaborate puzzles that lead away from the main path. don't worry though, you can always go back if you missed one and it's impossible to get stuck, no matter how large or convoluted the levels seem. keep an eye on your spirits; when you get close to a calabash they turn into glowing pink hearts. check every nook and cranny, check for small hidden tunnels covered by leaves, trees or bushes, check the environment for impossibly small cracks - that's where you'll find the calabash.

___________________________________________________________________________


defeating enemies is often a matter of touching, slicing or deflating. sometimes you need momentum to attack them, sometimes you need an actual weapon in form of a flower. you'll also find obstacles that need to be overcome or destroyed; there's a surprising amount of variety in how you do that.



___________________________________________________________________________


press and hold down on your d-pad to switch the two screens and bring down the map to the touch screen. you can move around freely on the map but you'll only see what you've discovered with the spirit bubble. this feature is very helpful for collecting stardust you might have missed on your way; simply draw a bubble around stardust bits that were left behind. and later on in the game when you need multiple bubbles to solve puzzles you'll find the map very useful as well.



___________________________________________________________________________


at the end of each level your performance gets ranked. if you get all the calabash, all the stardust and bring all the spirits home safely in a reasonable amount of time (the game is very forgiving with the time) you'll get an S rank. of course you can always go back and improve your rank.

___________________________________________________________________________


videos:

http://www.gametrailers.com/player/35095.html
^ this one's really nice. interview with the developers + lots of footage.

http://www.gametrailers.com/player/34924.html
^ neat video showing off the tiger mask

http://www.gametrailers.com/player/34706.html
http://www.gametrailers.com/player/34707.html
^ two short gameplay videos

___________________________________________________________________________


as you can probably see, soul bubbles is a gorgeous game. beautiful hand drawn 2d backgrounds, wonderfully animated enemies and environmental effects. the world in soul bubbles feels incredibly alive, with leaves blowing in the wind, plants and trees being affected by your movement, rain, waterfalls, fire, birds, butterflies, and fantastic looking and behaving physics for your bubbles and other things in the environment. the particle effects in soul bubbles are simply amazing. and there is so much attention to detail in how the worlds were designed - i was blown away over and over again. it's something you don't see a whole lot, people putting so much love and passion into their art design and technology in a game like this.

but that's all just sugar coating on top of the awesome gameplay and level design anyway. each world has its own theme that doesn't just come with a completely new design but with entirely new and unique gameplay mechanics (the worlds are based on shamanism in different cultures: celtic, mayan, inuit etc.). up until the last world the game has new mechanics to offer. sometimes they stay unique to a certain world and sometimes they are carried over to the next worlds. sometimes the gameplay changes completely in unexpected ways...

however, it's not only the worlds that are unique thematically and in the way you approach them. no, almost every level is distinctively different and fresh. it's simply amazing how much thought was put into the level design, the placement of obstacles, enemies and collectibles. and then of course there's the puzzles: they're never frustrating and their setup and solution always puts a smile on your face. there is so much creativity at play here, so much passion for even the tiniest detail; at times i was reminded of mario galaxy.

but enough rambling!

go buy SOUL BUBBLES and support a small developer that really deserves it!

___________________________________________________________________________


soul bubbles was released in europe on june 13.

looks like at the moment it's only available through toys'r'us in the us
http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3163607
it's in stock though and only $29

amazon.com lists a wide release for december 3.

play-asia lists it as a pre-order for "july".

___________________________________________________________________________


http://www.soulbubblesgame.com/
 

lopaz

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Apr 28, 2007
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So how hard is it? I wanted the game but all the reviews said something about it being too easy, and I'm sick of patronisingly simple DS/Wii games.
 

jarosh

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lopaz said:
So how hard is it? I wanted the game but all the reviews said something about it being too easy, and I'm sick of patronisingly simple DS/Wii games.
it's not super hard. it gets more challenging in the later worlds but this isn't the kind of game where you have to repeat levels over and over again. similar to mario galaxy the fun lies in discovering new gameplay mechanics and successfully mastering them. that said, a handful of levels in world 5 and 6 had me pulling my hair out and they might take you up to 30 minutes to complete (i'm talking about single levels here). but especially the first two worlds are rather calm and relaxing. it's mostly about exploring and navigating the worlds carefully without losing one of your spirits.

Gagaman said:
:lol Brilliant.
yeah, that's actually in the game. thought it was pretty funny.
 

ITA84

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Feb 10, 2007
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lopaz said:
So how hard is it? I wanted the game but all the reviews said something about it being too easy, and I'm sick of patronisingly simple DS/Wii games.

It's indeed easy, but I wouldn't define it "patronisingly simple", as there's a variety of interesting puzzles. If you want challenge, you might want to time-attack levels.

I'm about to try the last world and, so far, I've only found some "challenge" in the last four levels (I still got all S-ranks).
 

blu

Wants the largest console games publisher to avoid Nintendo's platforms.
May 4, 2007
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amazon.ca said:
Available for Pre-order. This item will be released on Nov 24 2008.
i love you too, NoA(C). no, really, i do!
 

Mejilan

Running off of Custom Firmware
Jun 9, 2004
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I did that for their B2G3rdF deal, but shipping's nasty with them.

I just need to get off my ass and head down to the Super TRU at Times Square. I might do that today, actually, since I'm headed to Penn Station to grab a train to NJ for the weekend. Times Square is only 1 or 2 stops beyond Penn Station.

Anyone know if they're open today, what with it being a holiday and all?

Edit - The thing is, before I learned that it was a TRU exclusive, I tried finding it in a bunch of stores I shopped at recently (FFTA2, Trauma Center 2, etc.) None heard of it or even had it in their systems. TRU is pretty out of my way on a usual daily basis.
 

Galactic Fork

A little fluff between the ears never did any harm...
Dec 9, 2005
6,173
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Wait! It's a TRU exclusive? Bah, the nearest ToysRUs is across the city. That blows. I'd been looking forward to this game since last month, and then completely forgot about it. Now I'm just depressed. I still want it though.
 

risky boots

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Jan 12, 2007
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This looks really neat for a game I've never heard of before. Reminds me of LostWinds a bit. Ordering it now
 

Mejilan

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Since neither of these threads are official threads, and this one is WAY more informative, I don't see why that older thread precludes us having this newer, better one. ;p
 

jarosh

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El-Suave said:
The game is awesome - so awesome that it already has a thread.
http://neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=307739&highlight=bubbles

My only complaint is that it lacks a bit of some challenge - but that makes it all the more zen. For a final verdict I have to finish it, but so far I can't recommend it enough.
since when can games only have one thread? there's preview threads, impression threads, threads for screens, anticipation threads, official threads, lttp threads, appreciation threads etc. for every game.

i don't see a problem with it.
 

jarosh

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i just finished the last level today. wanted to get s ranks everywhere first...

the last world is definitely the hardest. you unlock two bonus levels but they're honestly nothing to write home about, the second one being more of a playground than an actual level even. although i would have really liked an actual world in the style of those two levels (they reminded me of okami with their japanase watercolor style).

took me almost 9 hours to finish the game.

dunno if anything will be able to top my handheld goty 2008 so far.
 

Yes Boss!

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Nov 27, 2007
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jarosh said:
It took me almost 9 hours to finish the game.

dunno if anything will be able to top my handheld goty 2008 so far.

Yeah, I've been playing all week and I'm up to about eight hours and Level 7. I've also been S-Ranking as I'm going. Game really reminds me of the great fun I originally had with Kirby Canvas Curse.

Likely handheld GOTY but I like Space Invaders Extreme a wee bit better...and Rhythm Tengoku Gold might put up some stiff competition.
 

lopaz

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Apr 28, 2007
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ITA84 said:
It's indeed easy, but I wouldn't define it "patronisingly simple", as there's a variety of interesting puzzles. If you want challenge, you might want to time-attack levels.

I'm about to try the last world and, so far, I've only found some "challenge" in the last four levels (I still got all S-ranks).

jarosh said:
it's not super hard. it gets more challenging in the later worlds but this isn't the kind of game where you have to repeat levels over and over again. similar to mario galaxy the fun lies in discovering new gameplay mechanics and successfully mastering them. that said, a handful of levels in world 5 and 6 had me pulling my hair out and they might take you up to 30 minutes to complete (i'm talking about single levels here). but especially the first two worlds are rather calm and relaxing. it's mostly about exploring and navigating the worlds carefully without losing one of your spirits.
.

Kay thanks guys. May get it at some point.
 

Mejilan

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Jun 9, 2004
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Left work a bit early today and headed to Times Square to watch The Dark Knight. Decided to stop by the Super TRU nearby to see if I could find Beautiful Katamari, since it's rumored to be VERY cheap in-store these days. No luck.

But I did find the TRU exclusive Soul Bubbles, which I TOTALLY forgot about. I just played through the first three levels and I'm basically totally in fucking love.

Bitches, go get this. Now.
 

Dash Kappei

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Apr 8, 2005
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Damn, full price (even more, I've seen it priced at €45 in more then a couple of malls) and that AWFUL box art killed the game at retail it seems... this is just anectodal mind you, even though going by GAF's traffic ITT it doesn't seem so far fetched :-/

Game's pretty great from what I've played, I loved Kirby CC and this game has a similar vibe plus great art.
I'll wait for a price reduction though, too big of a backlog/other games I need to spend my bucks on.
Let's say that at €25 it's a deal (€ not £ ;-).

edit:
Damn, even Play has it still at £25
 

Mejilan

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The great thing about bad box art is that the case can be thrown on a shelf to collect dust, with affecting gameplay or enjoyment. :)
 

blu

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May 4, 2007
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Mejilan said:
Bitches, go get this. Now.

i can't for the simple fact the game doesn't fuckin exist here in canada.
 

Reilly

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May 13, 2005
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An underrated game for sure.

I just don't like games where I'm suppose to avoid touching walls and shit.
 

Dash Kappei

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Apr 8, 2005
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Mejilan said:
The great thing about bad box art is that the case can be thrown on a shelf to collect dust, with affecting gameplay or enjoyment. :)

Well, of course :)
But it affects sales in this days more then ever before (e.g. the Metroid Prime series :-/)
 

wazoo

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Jun 10, 2004
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Just heard that this game was made with help from Frederic Raynal. Not surprised it is so charming.
 

Ecto311

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May 26, 2007
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I would love to play this game, but its no where to be found and not a whole lot of TRUs around me.
 

Mejilan

Running off of Custom Firmware
Jun 9, 2004
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jarosh said:
mejilan, how about posting some more in-depth impressions?

When I've played more. I've a surplus of new, quality titles fighting for my attention. And I'm still in the initiation stages of Soul Bubbles.
 

Flunkie

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I love this game. I got it a couple days ago, and it's such an amazing game.

Second best game on the DS for me, now. Only behind Kirby Canvas Curse.
 

Dash Kappei

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jarosh said:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frédérick_Raynal

well, i'm glad this thread got bumped again. soul bubbles deserves all the exposure it can get. it did not sell well and obviously there's not a whole lot of marketing money around. it needs the word of mouth. i so wish more people would give it a shot.

I for one WANT to buy it (game's really nice!) but as I said the price it's a bit steep, I mean even 1st party games on day 1 don't go over €35 these days... so anything above 30Euros is pushing it imho.
No doubt I would've bought it on launch day until let's say a couple of years ago, when we weren't flooded by all these great games on the DS fighting for our bucks.

Only hendheld games I buy nowadays full price are the ones with lots of replayability.

But if anyone's looking for a great game to get for the system then look no further, Soul Bubbles is your answer.
 

Mejilan

Running off of Custom Firmware
Jun 9, 2004
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Alright. Even though I didn't NEED to finish World 1 before moving on to World 2, I 100%'ed World 1 ANYWAY. And now I'm well on my way towards 100%'ing World 2.

Why? Because the game is AWESOME. On paper, it's a very simple-seeming game. In execution, it is a very pure and refined one. It's literally one of the most generous, unique, and astonishing games on the DS. I won't waste time regurgitating what was explained (more patiently and eloquently) in posts above.

But I do want to stress this game's uncompromising quality and ingenuity. To take a page from the game's very theme, it's a breath of fresh air.

I love how, utilizing the various masks that are immediately at your disposal (after the small, 3 mini-level initiation), I'm able to split the spirits into separate, smaller soul bubbles, and send them off into different parts of the stage, illuminating new areas and squeezing through the tiniest cracks in order to find the calabashes and star dust that together, contribute to unlocking new worlds and securing S rankings for the stages, respectively.

I love how I can create empty soul bubbles in completely inaccessible, though already illuminated, areas in order to grab those extra bits of star dust that those poor spirits will never, ever be able to reach.

I love how almost every stage has a new trick, feature, gimmick, or dynamic that, layer by layer, refreshes and expands and redefines every one of the simple core rules that drive the experience.

I love how every bouncing, bounding, rebounding bubble; every swaying leaf, branch, flower, or vine; every tumbling pebble, rock, or boulder; every calm breeze or howling gust of wind; every aspect of this game comes together with exquisitely rendered and believable physics.

Finally, I love how defeated enemies turn into blossoming plants on whatever surface their careening bodies slam into... only to be blown away by an errant and innocuous puff of air. Such a useless, but cute example of meticulous attention to detail.

The music is tranquil and soothing. The graphics are lush and beautiful. The animations, compelling and believable. Combined, so gripping and immersive. The gameplay, polished to delightfully simple perfection. Soul Bubbles is an example of a stunningly acute game design matched with just the right dash of the "out-of-the-box" thinking that the Nintendo DS was created to inspire.

I cringe when I consider that the awful box art and TRU exclusivity helped to condemn this work of unabashedly joyful art to an early and tragic death. The more of this glorious game I experience, the more I find myself increasingly frustrated and incredulous at just how much it's been overlooked. Especially here at GAF, which has always prided itself on seeking out and rejoicing over those rare, system-defining gems. No hyperbole here; once the fallout from this handheld generation settles, I fully expect Soul Bubbles to stand tall with the very best the DS and PSP had to offer to us. If only we cared enough and trusted enough to give it a chance.
 

schlew

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Feb 15, 2007
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Has anyone in Canada (Toronto area would be best) been able to pick this up? I haven't come across it, and Amazon.ca lists it as available to pre-order (with a release date of November 2008). BB.ca and FS.ca don't have it listed at all.

Thanks.
 

Mejilan

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The (for now) TRU exclusivity was mentioned in the OP, and a few other times here as well. :)
 

schlew

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Mejilan said:
The (for now) TRU exclusivity was mentioned in the OP, and a few other times here as well. :)

The only reason I mentioned checking other stores is that I've found that a few games that are store exclusive in the US aren't so up here. I'm not sure how long Chibi Robo Park Patrol was a WalMart exclusive in the States, but in Canada I could find it plenty of places.
 

blu

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May 4, 2007
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schlew said:
Has anyone in Canada (Toronto area would be best) been able to pick this up? I haven't come across it, and Amazon.ca lists it as available to pre-order (with a release date of November 2008). BB.ca and FS.ca don't have it listed at all.

Thanks.
according to canadian retailers, tru or not, (except for one eb guy in whole toronto so far), this game does not exist.
 

Mejilan

Running off of Custom Firmware
Jun 9, 2004
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schlew said:
The only reason I mentioned checking other stores is that I've found that a few games that are store exclusive in the US aren't so up here. I'm not sure how long Chibi Robo Park Patrol was a WalMart exclusive in the States, but in Canada I could find it plenty of places.

I wasn't talking to you. :)