- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 22, 2009

Here’s an abbreviated look at a multimedia title for the family.

Space Bust-A-Move (from Taito/Square Enix for the DS, $19.99) — A classic game franchise returns to Nintendo’s hand-held system with an abundance of options to please the puzzle fan.

Dragon brothers Bub and Bib take players on an intergalactic adventure through eight worlds to stop the evil Devilin and collect Cosmo Bubbles.

No matter the story, the dozens of levels of action still require shooting bubbles out of an arrow at a collection of multicolored orbs to connect three or more of the same color on a game board and make them disappear. To get to the next level, clear all of the bubbles on the screen before they reach the bottom.

The twist to this Bust-A-Move release is carefully extracting the sometimes-hard-to-distinguish Cosmo Bubbles hidden amid the other orbs in the story mode. Strategy excels here, as taking out bubbles around the Cosmo to get it to fall requires some quick thinking.

Boss battles are the most satisfactory of the levels and find clusters of burstable bubbles on the top and bottom screen along with a feisty enemy balanced among them.

A versus mode gives the solo player a chance to compete against a Pokemon-style roster of characters and use attack and support items such as erasing an opponent’s arrow bubble shooter.

Collecting an abundance of points for quickly clearing levels and dropping bubbles gives players the chance to buy a trio of game variations, change the design of the bubbles or shape of the bubble arrow shooter. OK, maybe that’s not too exciting, but what will catch the hard-core Bust-A-Mover is the four-player competitions shared through one game card and even available as online matches.

This latest Bust-A-Move delivers a deep bang for the buck.

Hannah Montana: Rock Out the Show (from Disney Interactive for the PlayStation Portable, $39.99) — An odd choice of gaming platforms finds pop star Miley Cyrus and her television pals inviting fans to take part in her concert productions.

Swirling around the story of pappy Robbie Ray getting sick and the player, Jackson and Lilly helping Hannah plan a seven-city tour is a challenge based on a gantlet of accessory choices and rhythm games.

Before each concert, designers must sift through an avalanche of dizzying option pinwheels to finely select such items as stage set pieces, lighting and effects, and performer outfits down to hairstyles and hats for the backup singers, bracelets for Hannah and gear for the band.

Next it’s hit the button, directional pad, analog stick or shoulder triggers to match a flowing stream of icons to incorporate drum, vocal, keyboard and guitar parts; dance moves; crowd enticements; and rock-star moments into the three-dimensional, animated event.

The cut scenes are really strange: Photo cutouts of the stars are lightly animated with narration from the stars in static environments. More bizarre is the accompanying laugh track far worse than those heard on sitcoms. Are developers making fun of the laugh track cliche or is this some sort of serious homage to the Disney show?

The best news for fans is they get about a dozen Hannah Montana songs to play along with, including “Best of Both Worlds” and three new tunes from the “Hannah Montana 3” soundtrack.

What helps the game’s replayability is the free online features, including trading a performance with a friend, listening to the Wi-Fi connection of Disney Radio and downloadable packs with more clothing and stage options.

It all sounds great for the hard-core Hannah fan, but in my neighborhood, I couldn’t find a member of the target demographic — female tween would be my guess — who actually owned a PSP.

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