Bubble Safari Ocean pops up on Facebook, bubbles over on iOS [Exclusive Preview]

Bubble Safari Ocean
Bubble Safari Ocean

It seems that Zynga has struck gold with Bubble Safari, the bubble shooter developed by its San Diego studio led by senior creative director Mark Turmell (of NBA Jam fame), Zynga VP of games Tom Casey and art director Shane Nakamura. You have two options when confronted with the shiny stuff: Either walk away with bags full or dig deeper. With Bubble Safari Ocean on Facebook and a mobile version of the original Bubble Safari both launching today, the studio has clearly gone with the latter.
For starters, Bubble Safari hits iOS with a brand new interface, Facebook Connect features and a number of new puzzles to master. Because of the nature of bubble shooters, coupled with the restrictive dimensions of iOS devices, Turmell and crew opted to custom build Bubble Safari for the platform, which means a few features hit the cutting room floor.

Bubble Safari iOS
Bubble Safari iOS

Namely, this version of the puzzler has fewer hazards to overcome than its predecessor, not to mention its use of Facebook Connect is limited to iOS. (Zynga's other iOS puzzle game, Ruby Blast, offers full connectivity with the Facebook version.) But such is life when faced with constraints, and Turmell promises that much more is in store for Bubble Safari on iOS. What--89 new levels and redesigned racks of bubbles aren't enough for you?

But today, the star of the show is Bubble Safari Ocean, an attempt to breathe new life into the series with an all new take. In this version of the bubble shooter, players are sent to the bottom of the ocean to help Crabby Joe--a new crustacean protagonist--save his baby crabs. They've been trapped among racks of bubbles after a powerful current sends them across the sea. On top of a different setting and characters, Bubble Safari Ocean sees players engaging in a new play hook.

Rather than attempting to clear every bubble in each level, players are tasked with breaking free a set number of baby crabs by knocking loose bubbles with matching ones. Also unlike the original is the fact that there is only one fail state in Bubble Safari Ocean: running out of bubbles. Instead of looking to earn three stars in one go in each level, players can return to a level multiple times to gradually earn those stars. And just like that, stars become a completionist hook rather than a victory condition.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Bubble Safari Ocean and the original is that this version features much wider racks of bubbles, which has allowed Zynga San Diego to create new arrangements of bubbles and thus new kinds of puzzles. To keep things in the family, fan favorite features return, like the On Fire mode (now dubbed "Bubble Frenzy"), Bonus Bubbles and Friend Bubbles.
For all of the differences listed between Bubble Safari and Bubble Safari Ocean, the two seem as if they feel quite similar under the mouse. But that's the point: to build a franchise. When asked whether Bubble Safari Ocean would somehow communicate with the original or the new iOS version, Turmell responded with, "That's an interesting idea," but nothing like that is in the cards just yet.

Bubble Safari Ocean screens
Bubble Safari Ocean screens

It's interesting to see Zynga finally establishing franchises this year, with direct sequels to not one, but now three games in 2012 alone. Whether this strategy will pan out has yet to be seen, but if Zynga can create a recognizable--nay, lovable--cast of characters a la PopCap, then maybe it's as good as gold. Keep on diggin', Zynga. Keep on diggin'.

Click here to play Bubble Safari Ocean on Facebook Now >

Click here to download Bubble Safari on iOS Now >

Which version of Bubble Safari are you more psyched about: Bubble Safari Ocean or Bubble Safari on iOS? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.

Originally published