Mixing puzzle and music games sounds like it should be a recipe for success. Toss in some striking visuals, and you should have a game that be completely engrossing. Somehow though, Bebop Puzzle Beat manages to take it component parts and make something underwhelming.
A familiar chorus
Starting out Bebop Puzzle Beat sets a great tone. Beautifully designed characters and art leap from the screen, so that the moment the story is set in motion – with your band’s lead singer, Mila, being kidnapped – you are eager to get in to the action. And, within moments, your gang of distinctive silhouetted Jazz musicians sets off to rescue her from evil.
This strong opening continues, laying out the simple but filled-with-possibilities puzzle mechanics. There are four colors of block, and touching from one to another of the same color anywhere on the screen makes them pop. Any other blocks of the same color touched by the line connecting the two when they pop also burst, creating larger combos.
It is simple, but more layers are quickly added. These include spinning boards, exploding tiles that clear more of the grid, and achieving specific goals to advance – such as clearing 120 blocks in 120 seconds.
Unfortunately, these wrinkles often just get in the way of the purity of the gameplay. The best puzzle games - Puyo-Puyo, Tetris, Lumines, Threes!, Puzzle Quest… the list goes on – all offer variety in their modes, but they are sure enough in their base mechanic to allow you to just play endlessly.
With Bebop Puzzle Beat, you are forced to constantly jump between their 10 different game types in a way that suggests the developer lacked confidence in its foundation.
The frenetic spinning levels, for example, need you to hold the screen to slow the spin or utilize special blocks to stop it completely – but this adds arbitrary difficulty to the equation. Especially when tapping stationary blocks can be unreliable, moving ones prove near impossible.
But the greater problem is in levels that set goals that hinge on random block generation. One level set the goal "destroy 20 blue blocks in a minute", but between slow spawns, inaccurate taps, and bad block spawns, this became literally impossible.
Still, at least it made me realize that when I run out of lives from failing levels – Bebop Puzzle Beat's in-app purchase – my frustration level usually means I am better off taking a break an letting them recharge naturally.
Waiting for the next verse…
Filled with promising ideas and deeper mechanics than some similar games, I have hopes that future updates of Bebop Puzzle Beat could solve my issues with it. In its current form though, there are just better puzzle games out there – even if they are less stylish.