|On Wednesday 9th May 2012, Zynga launched its first true arcade game, Bubble Safari, putting a social, explosive twist on the "match 3" genre.
The game had it's debut on Wednesday 6th June on both Facebook as well as Zynga's own Zynga.com platform.
The game's story is simple: poachers have stolen the girlfriend (or monkeyfriend) of Bubbles the Monkey. It's his job to follow the trail left by the poachers, avoiding traps and other hazards scattered across a number of levels. Zynga's senior creative director, Mark Turmell who's legacy includes "NBA Jam," a 1993 Midway arcade that Turmell architected as the lead programmer and designer. Since then, of course, the arcade's importance has faded from its highs in the 1980s and 1990s, giving way to home gaming consoles and then to online games. But, like NBA Jam, if a "Bubbles" player rattles off three consecutive shots in a row, he or she will enter an "On Fire Mode", where flaming shots destroy several targets at once.
Arcade games have always been social, and Zynga is supremely positioned. Zynga has been accused before of copying games, although sources within the company have claimed that they have merely developed "genre games". Regardless, the "match 3" genre has been heavily mined by many game developers over the years.
The player controls the monkey's bubble canon, shooting bubbles at a "rack" of colored bubbles overhead. Matching the colored bubbles causing them to pop and drop any unsuported bubbles which then transform into fruits as they drop. At the bottom of the screen are three baskets, one small basket in the center worth 500 points and two (1 at each side) both worth 250 points, all awaiting the dropped fruits. Collecting dropped fruits or popping bubbles on the rack both add points to the player's points bar on the right of the screen. To complete the level, the player must both clear 10 holes in the top row of bubbles and earn enough points to be awarded at least 1 star on the points bar. Upon level completion any remaining bubbles in the shooter are rapidly fired out as "Bonus Fruit" Earn enough points to qualify for 3 stars and the player is rewarded with "Bonus Coins" again rapidly fired from the shooter and collected in the baskets below.
Bubble Safari differs from many other "match 3" type games because it is not timed. Naturally, being a Facebook game there are also social elements. Friends are required to unlock new stages, as well as send you bubbles, energy, and special gifts.
Collect enough fruit, perform enough combinations, and achieve enough "big drops" of fruit, and a "Boost Bubble" will be unlocked, offering a random additional boost bubble, including Lightning, Sticky Bombs, Paint Bubbles, Rainbow Bubbles, and Coconuts. It is the strategic use of these boost bubbles, along with the "On Fire Mode", and Power Ups that unlocks the strategic value of the game. Hazards also appear, including Beehives that can cause your monkey to launch random balls when stung, Spawners that keep popping out additional bubbles, Poacher Traps that end the game early if hit, Vines that threaten to devour all your bubbles, and Flower Blossoms that can randomly change the color of surrounding bubbles.
Bubble Safari isn't a "play-to-win" game, where users eventually need to pay for virtual items. Each level can be beaten just by using the existing bubbles. Zynga said that Bubble Safari was technically its second "action" game, following Zynga Slingo, a combination of slots and bingo.
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