Bubble Safari Ocean on Facebook: A pearl still trapped in the clam

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Bubble Safari Ocean reviewWhen it comes to sequels, Zynga has been on a bit of a tear as of late. Next in line to get the treatment is Bubble Safari, but perhaps Zynga San Diego chased the original's success too hastily. The result is Bubble Safari Ocean, an all-new entry that takes players under the sea to help a crab rescue his babies by--how else--blowing up bubbles in matches of three or more.

Zynga took this chance to mix up the core hook to Bubble Safari. While players essentially carry out the same primary function as before: shoot bubbles, match bubbles, rinse and repeat, the playing field for each level is much wider than before. This let the development team create new, not-before-seen grids of bubbles to throw players more than a few curve balls.
Bubble Safari Ocean on Facebook
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Bubble Safari Ocean on Facebook: A pearl still trapped in the clam

The goal that players match away toward has changed as well. Rather than simply reach the top and eliminate all the bubbles with as few bubbles as possible, your job is to simply rescue those trapped baby crabs. (But again, using as few bubbles as possible.) Like in its predecessor, bubbles are a precious, finite resource in Bubble Safari Ocean, but sadly for this sequel, so is the fun.

While the following issues are easily fixable, it's tough not to leave Bubble Safari Ocean without a bad aftertaste not to mention a sense of fear that future Zynga releases suffer from the same issues. For one--yes, the comparisons are unavoidable--this rendition of Bubble Safari looks far less smooth. (Literally, the textures are mighty jagged along with the fonts and other graphical elements.) But the concept behind what drives player progression is also terribly rough and this game's fatal flaw.
Bubble Safari Ocean screensFor instance, players cannot continue along through each set of levels without either bugging their friends for assistance with no reason at all or ponying up a few Pearls (the paid currency in Bubble Safari Ocean, ironically enough). When you're just getting into a new game, free or not, the last thing you want to see is a giant gate that reads, "Nope, no more fun for you until you do this arbitrary task that will help us make money."

These gates are littered throughout Bubble Safari Ocean right down to the bubbles which you use to play. Sure, this is an unfortunate reality in all Facebook games, especially those of the Zynga variety. But impediments to your progress in Bubble Safari Ocean are far more pronounced and limiting than seen in most social games to date. At every turn, you're prompted with ultimatums to either annoy your friends or pay up with little incentive other than getting on with the damn game.Bubble Safari Ocean imagesAnd frankly, the "damn game" arguably won't be enough to get most players to keep either bugging their friends and waiting to move on. Again, these are all issues that could be shined off with a heavy duty polish, but for the time being, this is a pearl behind the locked mouth of a clam.

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