Is it just me, or did mobile games kinda fade into the background somewhat? Like, rewind say 5 years or so and I was getting mobile game recommendations from everyone, even people who didn’t really consider themselves gamers at all. These days though? Nothing, and whenever I’ve gone through the play store to find something I’ve always come up empty handed. Even stranger too is the behaviour that went along with them (I.E. whipping out your phone to whittle away 5 to 10 minute chunks whenever you had them spare) is gone too, possibly filled with idle Reddit and YouTube scrolling. All this is to say that I find myself back in that era today, having been playing Tiny Bubbles whenever I had a moment spare or when I needed to force myself to take a short break from something and I had already mined my usual content fixes. Honestly I’m kind of glad I did too as whilst Tiny Bubbles isn’t really much in the mechanics department it hits that right note of time wasting vs not requiring you to play too much to get that dopamine hit we’re all after.
There’s bubbles, you need to pop them in new and interesting ways. This can be done by mixing colours together (4+ touching each other will shrink and pop them), using scissors to cut one side or any other raft of mechanics that the game gives you. To spice things up a bit they’ve divided sections of the overworld up into different areas, each of which has a certain theme around its mechanics that you’ll need to master in order to beat alol the puzzles. Like any good time waster game the mechanics are very easy to understand from the get go and slowly ramp up in difficulty as you progress through the various worlds.
It’s also something of a physics based puzzler too, which I found very interesting. You see the bubbles are simulated based off the developers “molecular dynamics engine” giving them semi-realistic physics properties. This is an exploitable characteristic, enabling you to solve some puzzles in unintended ways by leveraging off how they shrink, pop and reorganise themselves. Of course just how inventive you can be is limited by what you have to deal with, but for the larger puzzles there’s definitely some interesting trickery you can get up to.
The game’s aesthetic is great, all light and bright colours that are sure to keep the visual fatigue to a minimum. There’s even a colour blind option available too although, for someone like me who only has a slight red/green deficiency, that mode was more harmful than it was helpful. Still though the developers have gone out of their way to make the game accessible, as there’s long-press tips available that will show exactly what will happen before you commit to something. That being said it’s not like making the wrong move will cost you much, given how short the puzzles are and the instantaneous resets.
I’m not a massive fan of the way the game is setup commercially, I.E. the game is free to play with everything unlocked but you’ll have to watch a 30 second ad every so often and other game elements are locked away behind time gates (unless you pay). I definitely think the game is worth the $5 asking price for the full thing though, and after getting frustrated with the state of mobile advertising these days (just how many shovelware tower defense clones can the market sustain, really?!) it wasn’t a hard choice to give the devs a few bucks for what they’ve made.
The hints/tips system could also be improved as there doesn’t seem to be a way to replay a tip once you’ve unlocked it. I kept clicking the button to try and see it again and I ended up triggering the ad view again which, unfortunately, locked me into watching it again. Also the hints, whilst useful, are tied to an in-game currency system which also doesn’t sit particularly well for me. Sure you probably don’t really need them, and you can always watch ads, but still these mechanics are what drove a lot of people away from these games in the first place (and kept a precious few percent addicted to them).
But my bellyaching about the greater concerns of addictive products aside Tiny Bubbles was a great reminder of why these games existed in the first place and what niche they can fill now. Sitting down with it for 10 minutes felt like the good kind of forced break, one that pulled me well out of whatever it was I was doing for a bit to focus on semi-mindless fun. Will I continue to play it much beyond the review? Possibly, none of the other games I’ve had on my phone for the past few years have seen anywhere near the same amount of action Tiny Bubbles has and I have to admit, being only halfway through does seem like more of a challenge than a chore.
Tiny Bubbles is available on PC, iOS and Android right now for free ($4.99 for the ad free experience). Total play time was approximately 3 hours.