Unreleased NUON Game Info
NOTE: Please do not email me asking for a copy of this game. Thank you.
Bust A Move 4 was one of many games planned for the NUON platform that never made it to a commercial release. I received a call sometime around October of 2001 from VM Labs asking if I would pitch in and help out with playtesting on the game, since they were running short on employees available to do such things at the time. Enthusiastically I replied "yes" and was sent a copy of the game on DVD-R.
Much to my suprise, the game was nearly 100% complete. Essentially, the plan was to clean up any remaining bugs and ship the game. One problem with that was that the game takes a huge hit in framerate when 2 players go head to head (human or CPU). This was one of my major complaints when I submitted my playtesting reports, along with other minor issues such as garbled text, typos, etc. The game was playable in two player, but it was noticeably slow. Thankfully, from what I understand the game did undergo revision to improve the framerate (and get my name in the credits!), but I've yet to see that version. Needless to say that VML's situation was such a mess that the game never got released, but that's pretty obvious at this point.
As a side note, the demo and the controller setup screen feature the Hot Products, Inc "Pro Elite", the NUON standard controller that never was.
Getting into the game, there are a LOT of gameplay variations. The standard arcade, survival, story, vs CPU, vs 2p modes are all present, along with a special mode not in the US Playstation release which features levels created by Japanese gamers in a contest. This is easily one of the most in-depth puzzle games I've ever seen, regardless of platform. Take a look at some of the menu screenshots and you'll see what I mean. Also new to this version of the game are pulleys and chain reactions, which add to the strategy necessary for succeeding.
Visually, the game is a paradise of 2D sprites, all very colorful and animated well. Aside from the aforementioned framerate issues in VS modes, the game moves along at a brisk pace and is as good as any other version of BAM I'd seen to date. Compared to the lackluster presentations in The Next Tetris and Ballistic for NUON, BAM4 is a downright knock-out, graphically.
Sounds in the game, especially the music, do tend to get repetitive - especially when playing two players. If you've ever played any of the previous BAM games, then you know what type of aural experience to expect - cute and happy. There are a few audio glitches as well, as the music will sometimes skip after unpausing the game and there's an "echo" of the ringing bell after you finish a round. Otherwise the sound is solid, there are a ton of SFX that you can sample in the menu options, and each character has a specific personality. With a bit of cleaning-up, the game could've sounded great, but is decent as-is.
It's truly a shame that this game never saw the light of day, because it would've provided an exceptional addition to the paltry NUON game lineup. It destroys the other pathetic attempts at puzzle games on the platform, and provides addicting, fun, varied gameplay in single and head-to-head modes. Yet another gem of a game lost to the masses...
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