You are probably one of three people. 1) You might be a fan of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz fun, over-the-top arcade games masterminded by a guy named Mark Turmell. If you had to guess what his first game for his new bosses at FarmVille juggernaut Zynga would be about, you’d probably guess “something about sports” and you’d be wrong.
But to you, we’d point out, you can be “on fire” in this new game — this, uh, evolution of bubble-popping classic Bust-a-Move called Bubble Safari.
2) You might be a fan of Zynga games, in which case you’re used to games that you can play for free on Facebook and keep on paying or waiting in order to go further. Uh-uh. The rules are changing with Bubble Safari. Zynga and Turmell are calling this a Zynga Arcade game. You can play as long as you’d like, as long as you keep winning. It’ll cost energy points to play each new round of the game, but you get your energy back if you win the round. No more waiting for a recharge or paying to hurry it up.
3) The third option might be that you think Facebook games are stupid or a scam or something. You might disdain this stuff. Well, consider the following: Bubble Safari is Turmell and co.’s acknowledged riff on Bust-a-Move. They take the classic shoot-similarly-coloured-bubbles-at-other-bubbles mechanic and add in special trick shots and an NBA Jam-style “On Fire” mode. (He says to us: “Even though the genre has been around for long time there is so much room for innovation: Different ways to scroll, new hazards… when I thought about bringing the boost bubbles [think: trick shots] and the on-fire mode so you can go into the rack and do massive destruction and combine that with match-3, I think that is really magical.”)
Bubble Safari, sceptics, is the first Zynga game, they say runs at 60 frames per second.
It is indeed designed for skilled players and — you might like this best — it doesn’t coddle you. You can’t buy your way to success. Yes, Zynga will sell you bonus bubbles to shoot if you’ve fired all the pre-set bubbles that were offered in a level, but the game will only let you make one of these purchases per level. Or if you fail a level but want to spend energy to continue? You can only do that once. “I think it’s important for players to lose and be challenged,” Turmell told me. “That’s unlike a typical social game.” God bless this man.
Zynga won’t say if the game is a response to the super-popular Bubble Witch Saga, which has been tearing it up on Facebook with its own riff on Bust-a-Move. Turmell only points out that he joined Zynga last August (he’d been at EA Sports). What he will say is that this isn’t it for him. He’s loved Bust-a-Move for a long time, but we can still think of him as a sports guy, too. “It’s certainly in my core,” he says of making sports games. “That’s definitely something that’s in my future.” It’s just not in his tomorrow. Tomorrow is launch day for Bubble Safari. If you’re on Facebook then, give it a shot.