Pop Bugs Zap Review

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Title: Pop Bugs Zap
Developer: Henchmen Interactive
Game Type: PlayStation Mobile
Download:  53 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download, Direct Download

EU Availability: Digital Download, Direct Download

The Mobile gaming world has evolved a lot over the years.  The biggest part of it is the way things have gone in trends.  In recent years, there have been a lot of games that have done well, and started a trend.  Flappy Bird is a recent example of this.  Flappy Bird released and was a huge sensation.  Afterwards, many small developers made “clones” of the game, offering the same gameplay, but different design or characters.  Just small differences to avoid a copyright infringement.  Even the PlayStation Vita saw Flappy Bird clones through a custom level in LittleBigPlanet and various PlayStation Mobile games.

One trend that has come to a lot of consoles, though, is what is referred to as “Freemium” games.  These games pull people in with the fact that they are free to download and play.  The catch, however, is that they are filled with Micro-Transactions, similar to DLC.  These will offer you Micro-Transactions in the game to try to get you to spend real money for in-game bonuses, whether they can be acquired in the game or must be acquired through the purchase.

The PlayStation Vita is not an exception, either.  There are many Free-to-Play games on the Vita, both in the native library and in PlayStation Mobile.  The latter has more of these games, though.  Taking a look into some of these free games, we come to today’s review.  About a month ago, a game came out that had very simple, yet challenging gameplay.  Giving a similar stage progression as games like Angry Birds, here is our official review of the PlayStation Mobile game, Pop Bugs Zap.

Story

Much like other games of this type, there is no story or plot involved with Pop Bugs Zap.  If there ever was a story, it would be a story of a bug infestation covering the planet that you need to take care of by zapping and popping them.

But this is not a game you would play for a deep or emotional plot.  This game is all about the gameplay and progressing from stage to stage.  While some people may be turned away from this, it is what it is.

Gameplay

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This game is a stage-based game, where your goal is to pop and zap bugs to make them explode and disappear.  It’s a very simple premise, though it can get pretty tricky later on, when there are several bug times and each does a different thing when they are popped.  It’s important to always listen to the tutorials the game gives you so you can judge what to do in a sort of strategy-like fashion.

In each stage, you will see an overhead view of an environment and you will see bugs in each environment.  Your goal is to be able to pop enough bugs to reach a high enough score to clear the stage.  Like games like Angry Birds, you will want to watch the bugs’ movements carefully so you can finish in as few moves as possible.  This is important as there are only so many tries you get per stage.  Finishing with a higher score will net you Stars, which are used to buy things from the in-game shop.  You will also need to watch for bugs that leave coins behind to collect, which are also used in the shop.

The game will start out very easy, but can get very difficult very quickly.  You will be finding some stages to be very strategic where you may have to watch and think for several minutes before you can figure out what to do.  As the game progresses forward, you will have several different types of bugs that do different things.  Some bugs will explode and damage the bugs around them, while others will fly and pop a random bug on the opposite side of the stage.  Each bug has defining characteristics, and their abilities can be powered up by using Coins and Stars in the shop to upgrade them.

Upgrading Bugs can be very fast or very slow.  While the game has many stages for you to play through to collect coins and stars, the game also offers Micro-Transactions for that.  So, if you aren’t patient enough to wait, you can drop some cash on the PlayStation Store to get more stars and coins to use.  While this isn’t recommended, it is faster than playing through stages to get more coins and stars.  These Micro-Transactions are also often thrown at you, especially when you fail a stage, asking if you want to buy more pins to use in that stage.

There isn’t a whole lot to the game, other than the stages, but those are plentiful.  There are four different environments, and 25 stages in each environment.  So, if you play the game from start to finish, you will have 100 stages to complete.  While each stage can take as little as 30 seconds to complete if you know what you’re doing, it can be longer.  Combined with retries and thinking about strategies, I would estimate this game to last you at least a few hours.

Controls

Controls for this game are very simple.  Despite being a PS Mobile game for use on the PlayStation Vita, Pop Bugs Zap has no button controls, whatsoever.  Everything you do, from navigating menus to popping bugs is done with the touch screen.  While the controls certainly aren’t bad, it would have been nice to see some button options as well.

Navigating the menus is done by tapping on options or swiping and sliding your finger to cycle through menu pages or the map of stages the game has to offer.  Everything else is done with tapping.  You tap on a bug to pop it as well as tapping on coins to collect them before they fall into the water and out of your reach.  You also tap to use the on-screen controls, like pausing, retrying, or returning to the Main Menu.

All in all, the control scheme is not very hard to learn.  Many of the controls are also shown to you in the early stages of the game via the tutorial.  It’s a simple scheme to learn and, unless you hate touch controls, should be quite comfortable to use.

Presentation

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Presentation is where this game can fall flat.  To start off, let’s talk about the game’s visuals.  These are actually done really well.  There is a certain 3D element to all of the in-game renders and they all look very smooth and practically perfect.  From the waves of the ocean to the wings of the Dragonfly, the visuals of the game look very colorful and crisp.

How the game plays is where the trouble begins.  First of all are the Load Times.  When you boot this game up, you will be waiting at least 20 seconds before you can do anything.  This is extremely long for PlayStation Mobile games.  Apart from this is the frame-rate and how the game transitions from one area to another.  It is very noticeable from the very beginning of the game that there are technical issues.  Even the Title Screen that shows the game’s logo cannot maintain a steady frame-rate.  It lags and is very choppy here.

This happens on the map as well as going into stages.  With every swipe and tap, there is a noticeable delay and amount of lag.  If you are used to doing quick swiped with touch controls, this game is not for you.  You will have to swipe very slowly for it to flow very well.  The game also has a delay when loading stages and loading the menu.

Once you get into a stage, the game plays fine.  But everywhere else is showing that the developers did a poor job at optimizing this game for the Vita.

Overall

All in all, Pop Bugs Zap is an entertaining game for those wanting a pick-up-and-play game and have no money to spare.  You should be warned, though.  While the game can be fun for quick sessions, there are a lot of heavy technical issues as well as Micro-Transactions that can frustrate even the most patient of gamers.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates Pop Bugs Zap a 5/10

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