Bullion Blitz Review—It’s, it’s, a Bullion Blitz
I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting old or what, but I find so-called “casual” games more and more appealing. Things like matching games and hidden object games. Yet there really weren’t all that many on the PSP, and the Vita seems to be even worse so far. But Bullion Blitz, a matching game, is one of those rare exceptions, and what is even more exceptional, it’s about as professional as a game gets.
Most casual games tend to be developed on the cheap in developing nations, which results in games ranging from somewhat quirky to being very odd indeed. In this case, though, Bullion Blitz is from a developer based in the UK, Heavy Spectrum Entertainment Labs.
Bullion Blitz is theoretically a free game, but only one mode is free (Quick Play); you have to buy the other two (Quest and Puzzle), either separately or together. But the basics are the same: you have a vertical grid with a bunch of colored blocks on it, in this case, bullion blocks (or bars) of precious metals, gold, silver, and platinum. You tap one of the bars on the screen, and it disappears and the bars above it fall, sometimes combining with the blocks they fall on. How they combine isn’t obvious, but it’s based on the size of the border of each bar. If they are the same size, they fuse, but if not, they stack.
The bigger the bar is, the higher the score you get from tapping on it, increasing exponentially, rather than just doubling. Score is a very big factor in most modes, so you really do want to construct as big a bar as possible. In Quick Play Mode, it is what moves you on to another round. You have to reach a certain score in every stage, and if you don’t, game over. It’s also very important in Puzzle Mode, where you are given a certain layout of bars and have to find the optimal way to combine them, reaching a target score.
Besides just the bullion bricks themselves, there are also a number of power-ups. These don’t really matter all that much in Quick Play but are part of the puzzle in Puzzle mode. Usually they factor into how you solve the puzzle. For instance, there are power-ups that smush all the bricks to the left or right. Another one will break up all the bars back into bricks. And some seem to just give you more money.
Quest Mode, though, is very different. Money matters, but you also have to do other things. For instance, form the bricks into a certain shape or collect them in a certain order. Sometimes you have to not do something, like let them fall too far or select single blocks. There’s quite a large amount of variety in this. Some quite simple, some very complicated indeed.
In both Puzzle and Quest Modes, you don’t have to progress through the levels linearly, because if you finish one level, multiple levels are opened up for you. To me, that’s a sign of a carefully designed puzzle game. You can also restart a level if you’ve screwed it up, but this is not obvious at first—there’s a very faint pause symbol at the top of the screen. I missed it at first. There don’t seem to be all that many puzzles in Puzzle Mode, only 30, and I guess about the same in Quest Mode.
For the most part, Bullion Blitz seems to run well enough. There is some sluggishness to the graphics at times when the bars are dropping, but the controls are responsive enough. I had to use my pinky to select the single blocks, though, which I guess would be easier on a tablet for people like me with big hands.
Bullion Blitz is a very slickly done game, both in design and presentation. It’s also a slightly different spin on a standard type of game, familiar yet different. It is also, as near as I can tell, an original PS Mobile game (and seems to be published by Sony). I enjoyed it a lot.
On the other hand, I think it probably suffers from being a casual game on a device marketed as a hardcore gaming device. I have to think its audience is fairly small. I certainly liked it, but then I like casual games a lot and yearn to trade in my Vita for a tablet just to play more of them (well, those and FPSes. And Real Racing. And RPGs). That said, I would have liked to have had more puzzles in Puzzle and Quest Modes, but that’s about my only knock on the game. They are very entertaining modes, but I’m not sure they provide enough value as is.