Candy Crush Saga has been a phenomenal success for King Entertainment, leaving many gamers (and investors) to wonder if the company will be able to follow it up with another hit. They’ve just announced their next game, and given us a first-hand look at it. The next title from King will be Bubble Witch Saga 2, a bubble shooter that shares many of the same qualities as Candy Crush Saga.
Bubble shooters, in case you’re not familiar, put clusters of colorful bubbles on the screen. Your job is to shoot bubbles at the clusters to create like-colored groups of three or more. Like in Match-3 games, once you make a match, the bubbles pop — but here they also dislodge any bubbles that were connected to them.
That’s what the original Bubble Witch Saga was all about, and the sequel builds outward from there. The new game is more colorful than the original, with cartoonish graphics, a much more appealing main character, and lots of visual flair. It was also made with mobile in mind, so you can play the game one-handed.
We played through a scattering of levels between one and 60 and saw the difficulty progress just like Candy Crush. The tutorial is built into the early stages, so each level toward the start of the game teaches you new mechanics as you play. It starts off with basic moves like bouncing shots off walls, and as you progress you’ll encounter obstacles like black bubbles that can’t be popped and vortexes that swallow your shots.
The levels come in three varieties, indicated by their icons on the map. First is the classic “Clear the Top” mode, where you have to clear a certain number of bubbles from the top row of the screen to progress. Next is “Save the Animals,” where mice are trapped in bubbles, and to free them you must remove those bubbles from the board. The last is “Free the Ghost,” in which a cartoon ghost is in the center of the screen, with a wheel of bubbles surrounding him. Pop the bubbles around the ghost, and he’s free. The twist here is that the entire wheel spins as you pelt it with bubbles, which lends those levels some extra strategy.
Once bubbles are dislodged, they tumble down into a set of cauldrons at the bottom of the screen. Each cauldron has a different score value, just like the chutes that appear when you beat a level in Peggle. If you play well, spiders can appear above the cauldrons. These arachnids act like pinball pins, making your dislodged bubbles bounce around, racking up extra points before falling into a cauldron.
Three power-ups will be available in the game, but only two had been implemented in the build we played. One was a rainbow bubble that pops all of the bubbles surrounding where it lands. The other is a fire bubble, which blazes through the level, popping every bubble it touches. One later level seemed to require players to use at least one power-up to complete it. It’s unclear how many special bubbles you’ll rack up on your own without buying them.
Which of course brings us to the freemium aspect of the game. First off, you have a limited number of lives. Lose them all by failing levels, and you’ll either have to wait for your lives to be replenished by a countdown timer, or you can buy more using gold. You get some gold just by playing the game, but you can buy more to speed up the process. You can also spend gold to get five extra bubbles if you run out before clearing a level. It’s pretty much like how it works in Candy Crush Saga.
Will Bubble Witch Saga 2 see the same level of success as Candy Crush? Who knows, but it seems like the new game will appeal to the Candy Crush crowd just fine. Expect a soft-launch in certain countries soon, with a worldwide release to follow.
Disclosure: King Entertainment arranged and paid for a trip to Barcelona so we could play the game and meet the development team.