Taito are my new heroes, for they've taken a wonderful game known as Puzzle Bobble (aka Bust a Move in the US), and taken the competitive multiplayer mode from the more recent versions, and added a bit of influence from Tetrinet to come up with the greatest incarnation of the game yet, Puzzle Bobble Online.

The gameplay is the same as the other versions of the game: firing colored bubbles into a descending stack to group them with similar colored bubbles thereby eliminating the group and keep the stack from crawling to the bottom of the screen. However, there's one BIG difference between the competitive mode of the other versions and PBO. When you eliminate rows or large groups of bubbles in original Puzzle Bobble, it adds to your opponents stack. This isn't the case in PBO. Instead, you have items stored in some of the bubbles, and when you eliminate the bubble with a certain item you get it for usage. This item could be positive, like bubble eliminators and line deleters, or negative like Darkness (which clouds the field of the selected player for a moment), Secret (which hides the colors of the bubbles of a selected player for a moment), or Chaos (which causes a selected player to have less control over their aiming arrow).

The game is free for download at http://www.pbo.jp. Now two things to remember: First of all the game is only available for Windows at the moment, playable on 9X/2K/XP. Second, the website and portions of the program are in Japanese. However, they do have a server set up for English-speaking players. The only bit of difficulty may be in setting up the account. There's a fine instruction page by C²cero, however, at http://www.geocities.com/c2zero/index.html. Knowing Geocities though, I'll take the liberty of relaying some of the instructions in this write-up.

  1. You should first download the latest version of the game. Now it's always recommended to check the main page first, but just in case the download link disappears due to news, the download page itself is located at http://www.pbo.jp/puzzle/15.html. 1.4.0.5 is the latest version as of June 3, 2002
  2. Next thing you want to do is create an ID for logging in. You can do this at http://www.pbo.jp/puzzle/14.html. I believe the 4th and 5th boxes are just reminder question boxes, but I'm not too sure. In any case I know they're of little importance. Also there's a box at the top that says ID, you can just leave that blank.
  3. After that you can install the game, then either double click on the PBO desktop icon or go back to the main page. Click the login button, enter your ID and Password, and scroll down to the bottom and click the button next to English Only (or the first button if you want a challenge or are pretty handy in japanese). After that it takes a minute or two for the program to load up, so be patient. And don't frantically click Retry like I did the first time. All that's left to do once you're in is have fun with it.

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