Sawbuck Gamer

Sawbuck Gamer: Buggle

The Bear Necessities

The bubble-shooter game Buggle is free, unless you want to win.

By Samantha Nelson • June 11, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

Winnie The Pooh is always getting into misadventures in his search for honey, and the bear in Buggle is no different. He may be armed with a cannon and a variety of cute costumes, but the game’s arbitrary difficulty means that his quest often ends in tears.

The puzzle game is very similar to Bubble Witch Saga, with players attempting to clear a board by matching groups of three or more bubbles of the same color. Victory in Buggle comes from causing all of the level’s bees to fall into your waiting honey pots by clearing all the bubbles above them.

There’s plenty getting in the way of this simple objective. Some bubbles contain trapped insects that will make your life more difficult, including a bee that tries to obstruct your shots, and ants that carry away some of your honey buckets, causing you to lose points. These clever elements force you to strategize, deciding when to pop the insects’ bubbles or figuring out how to avoid them altogether.

You have a limited number of bubbles to fire on each level, and you can only choose between two randomly generated bubbles at a time, which are sometimes the same color. It’s incredibly frustrating when you get down to your last handful of shots and lose a level because you just didn’t get the colors you needed. Worse still, the wrong colors are often a liability, since if you put them in the wrong place they can make the level more difficult or unwinnable. Fail enough times and you have to take a break to wait for your lives to refresh.

That’s where the game tries to get you to pay. It regularly reminds players that they can shell out for more bubbles or for a guide that will show you where your ricocheted bubbles will land when you fire them off the walls, a process that is otherwise based largely on luck and trial and error. Unless you pay up, Buggle isn’t challenging, it’s just infuriating.

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  • George_Liquor

    “Infuriating” effectively sums up pay-to-play games for me.

    • BarbleBapkins

       I hate this kind of crap. Facebook games could have potential, but instead it is always used as a “harass your friends, wait a week, or pay the low, low price of only 5 bucks to progress!” con game.

    • http://thewavefunctionjunction.blogspot.com/ trilobiter

       Much agreed.  Either a game is free or it isn’t.  There’s nothing wrong with making a game that you are going to sell to people, but if you make one and try to convince people they’re not being sold to, then you’re being disingenuous. 

      They probably think they’re being clever, or even artistic, exploring new ways to make money off of people.  But sneaky is not the same as subtle.

  • Raging Bear

    Exploited for microtransaction chicanery? Is it any wonder we rage?

    • HobbesMkii

       Has it gotten so bad that people are now trying to charge for games PopCap put online for free (minus the “Deluxe” version) years ago?

      http://www.popcap.com/games/dynomite/online

      • TheGameroomBlitz

        Bust-A-Move with actual dinosaurs?  Man, that’s so lame even the guy from My Left Foot complained.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Oh man, I was Dynomite addict back in the day. I used to rock at that game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BeyondTheImpossible Kevin Koeser

    “Bubble Witch Saga”? Don’t you mean Puzzle Bobble? 

    Man I love me some Puzzle Bobble.

    • http://twitter.com/itisdancing djur

      I know it as “Bust-A-Move” but I must agree. Death to false false Puzzle Bobbles (Snood gets grandfathered in, though).

      • TheGameroomBlitz

        Hey, remember when they released a Bust-A-Move game in one of Taito’s game collections, with all the fun stuff taken out?  

        I actually saw “Bust-A-Move Again” in arcades back in the 1990s, and facepalmed so hard that I woke up with a splitting headache three hours later.  Where did they get off replacing Bub and Bob with a pair of crappy hands?  Seriously!

    • Cornell_University

      yeah, with all the iterations of Bust A Move, I can’t understand the temptation to get suckered into paying to game genie an inferior clone (NO ADORABLE DINOSAURS for one).  though I don’t understand playing lotto or slot machines either.

      • TheGameroomBlitz

        But you do get a mascot that looks disturbingly like Pedo Bear’s caveman cousin!

        Wait, that’s not a plus.  That’s not a plus at all!

  • Aaron Riccio

    The worst offender, I think, is the Bubble Safari one released by Zynga (which, I know, is obvious): it’s actually linked into a series of *other* Zynga games, so if you want to unlock things in, say, Hidden Chronicles (which got an “A” here, back in the AV Club days), you have to complete a certain number of levels in the other one. Most of which, as is pointed out here, are all but unbeatable if you aren’t “buying” power-ups or pestering your friends to send you “iron” or “bonus” bubbles and other such stuff. 

    I will say, though: I’ll never *buy* anything from them, but I will play every now and again — the core concept, sadly, is still a good one. 

    (The one exception, incidentally, is You Don’t Know Jack on Facebook. Yes, there are some annoying features, but the new stuff [and returning stuff] is terrific, and if this leads Jellyvision into bringing back Acrophobia, I’ll basically pay them whatever they want/need.)

    • TheGameroomBlitz

      Zynga owns You Don’t Know Jack now?  Oh, fuck them.

      • Aaron Riccio

        No, You Don’t Know Jack is still owned and run, as far as I know, by Jellyvision. I meant more that they’d turned their attention to a free-to-play Facebook version. I mean, it’s not the ACTUALLY free-to-play Net Show, but it’s the YDKJ you know-and-love, and the quicker-to-produce five-question format allows them to come up with some really topical material for their “episodes.” 

  • Captain_Internet

    I’m not sure I want to play a game that demands that I let it “post on my behalf”. 

  • Aurora Boreanaz

    “Here, play our annoying and poorly designed game!  What, it’s too annoying or poorly designed?  Just pay us $5 and we’ll make it…slightly less annoying!”

    Yeah, no thank you.  The only social game I’ve given money to in the past year was Dragon Age: Legends, because they made it a fun game without pestering me to buy stuff.

  • caspiancomic

    “You have a limited number of bubbles to fire on each level, and you can
    only choose between two randomly generated bubbles at a time, which are
    sometimes the same color. It’s incredibly frustrating when you get down
    to your last handful of shots and lose a level because you just didn’t
    get the colors you needed.”

    You know, I’ve always wondered this about puzzle games that are actually good- Tetris, Bejeweled, whatever. Are the pieces/jewels/whatever determined randomly, or is there some kind of algorithm that dictates what piece/colour jewel/whatever that you get next? Like, is there something in the code of Tetris that looks at the board and determines, based on your needs and the difficulty level or whatever, whether or not you get an I-block or another goddamn useless O-block? Same with Bejewled- does the game look at the board and give you some jewels you can actually use? Or purposefully give you jewels you can’t use, depending on certain factors?

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       I’m not sure, but I know people have made versions of Tetris that explicitly determine what your lest useful piece will be, and give you that.

      Behold, Bastard Tetris:

      http://blahg.res0l.net/2009/01/bastet-bastard-tetris/

      • caspiancomic

         OH GOD ALMIGHTY WHY WOULD THIS HAPPEN.

        Still, at least now I know that it’s possible for a game to determine its pieces based on the needs of the player, even if I don’t know exactly how such a thing would be done.

      • TheGameroomBlitz

        Wouldn’t they just give you squiggle pieces forever, though?

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          It gave me a long piece when I was very close to the top, and once when I had several one-square holes, meaning I had to either put it vertically and gain a lot of height, or horizontally and leave gaps.

          But yes, the vast majority are one or the other squiggle piece.

      • stakkalee

        Holy shit that is frustrating and addicting in equal measure.  I keep replaying out of spite, hoping to DEFEAT THE MACHINE!

      • StephenM3

         I’ve seen things like this before, but this one is doubly evil because the up key rotates the piece COUNTERCLOCKWISE.  Why would you do this? All of my tetris instincts are useless!

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/X6P7NISYCMJ5N2NG3ICDRQY5LA Czechmate

        I’m 100% positive that games like Zuma and Luxor know exactly what you need and dish out balls based on that.  If you play those games enough, you can actually see this in motion.  I’m also nearly positive that Bejeweled does this as well, although Bejeweled 3 was easy enough that it didn’t matter much.