I have a strange relationship with Bubble Popping Puzzle games. Initially I will love them, enjoying every aspect of the latest incarnation of bursting goodness. Slowly however, I will gradually remember why I got bored of the last bubble destroying title I played.
Germinator adds a couple of twists to the gameplay that are aimed squarely at bringing something new to this style of game, although neither are a huge leap forward in the genre. The first being that you are shooting from top to bottom rather than the other way round. The second is that instead of matching three bubbles together you shoot bubbles – in the form of germs – at other bubbles of the same colour to make them expand and eventually burst.
As the Germs expand they absorb any germs of the same colour that they touch around them. Once there are no more of the same colour they burst, destroying both themselves as well as any nearby black germs. Destroying these annoying black germs in this way before they reach the top of the screen is the aim of the game.
The different coloured germs also have individual special abilities attached to them which you can activate when you fill the aptly named “Special” meter. Yellow germs, for example, will burst into flames destroying anything either side of it. Whilst the Green germs destroy all green germs on the screen regardless of their position in relation to the exploding germ.
As you progress throughout the game you will be challenged by a variety of obstacles which both aid and hinder you. The spike ball may instantly destroy black germs for example but it will also destroy your coloured germs if they touch it.
The difficulty of Germinator is a bit hit and miss and although there is an obvious difficulty curve it also seems to peak and trough from stage to stage which can cause some degree of frustration. Unfortunately this isn’t in a nice just-one-more-go way either. A couple of times I got so frustrated that I actually had to go and do something else before returning for another try. I’m not saying it’s not addictive however. I never found myself wanting to stop in-between levels, just when I had failed at a level for the tenth time.
One thing Creat have managed to implement well is the number of modes. The (roughly) 75 levels of Story mode are backed up by a Puzzle Mode. Although it feels strange to highlight a puzzle mode in a puzzle game, “Puzzle Mode” stretches the mental factor a little farther as you are given a set number of germs to complete each stage. Use all the germs without ridding the stage of those pesky black germs – Game Over.
There is also “Duel” mode which has various game modes included, all with either a local or online head-to-head gameplay style at the root of them. Finally there is “Arcade Mode” which is effectively an endless onslaught of bubble popping which proves to be quite a challenge when you reach the latter stages.
Presentation is not Germinators forte. The graphics are colourful, the sound is adequate and it all works, but there is nothing special here. It is exactly what you would expect of any bubble popping title. The level designs sometimes attempt to be too clever for their own good as they try and create a picture on screen, the size of the objects on screen however make this a little bit too messy – think Peggle but with much less finesse and you won’t be too far off the mark.
The ability to upload clips of your gameplay to YouTube initially feels like an excellent touch and will certainly encourage a few one-upmanship battles in the future. This however could also break Germinator.
Looking past the presentation flaws, Germinator is a lot of fun bar one major sticking point. The one thing that keeps Puzzle games fresh is randomness. The best bubble popper – and in fact the best puzzlers in general – give you a different experience each time you play them. That doesn’t happen in Germinator. The same germs are in the same place when you load the level and the exact same coloured germs are waiting in line to be shot somewhere on the screen. This makes germinator less about puzzling and more about finding the perfect solution. When you consider that the top scores (and solutions) are actively encouraged to be posted on YouTube, the desire to succeed may soon outweigh the desire to be challenged for some players.
All in all Germinator can be a fun title but also an annoying one as well. Whether the titles true home should be on a console or a mobile device is certainly up for debate. Personally I prefer to play these types of games whilst sat on the toilet. As such I find it hard to recommend as a must buy purchase but if you have some spare credit that you don’t know what to do with then Germinator may help you spend it.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Platform: PS3 Release Date: 13/2/13
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Germinator for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of three days on a PlayStation 3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.