Originality is a rare and unlikely commodity in games. Whether intentionally or not, most innovations are extensions of older concepts, and as such we've been trying to think where we've seen the seeds of Soul Bubbles in the past. Loco Roco on PSP is the closest thing, but even in that light Soul Bubbles seems unique. A true original, perhaps?
The aim is to transport a bubble - filled with souls, of course - to the end of a long maze.1 You do this by swiping across it with the stylus to generate a puff of air that wafts the bubble through its zero-gravity world. The bubble bounces and ripples as you squeeze it through narrow gaps, away from sharp objects and over sticky organic hazards. It's convincingly surreal.
You can create as many bubbles as you like to recapture the spirits if the main one bursts, or to transport water to put out fires. Bubbles can be joined together, drained of excess air or cut into smaller ones. The stylus controls are easy to get used to and the graphics are great.
There's potential for a really good puzzler here, but a tendency towards predictable level design means the best thing about it is really the mechanics of moving the bubbles - and as impressive as that may be, it's not quite enough to sustain the early momentum over the full length of the game.
You rarely need to split the bubbles up, as the main one can be coaxed through the tiniest of gaps, and too many levels rely on forcing you to navigate against the flow of strong air currents, which can be an arduous task. Most of the problems involve cutting or tapping pieces of scenery to clear a path rather than manipulating the bubble in any clever ways.
Despite our misgivings about the game's long-term appeal, Soul Bubbles is still considerably more polished and better produced than the vast majority of DS software. As such, it's well worth a look, especially if you enjoyed Kuru Kuru Kururin or Super Monkey Ball - two other games with which it might share just the tiniest bit of DNA.
Technically brilliant, great to look at and with one of the most satisfying control systems on DS. Short but quite sweet.