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Platform: Nintendo DS
Blimey. You wait years for a game that's not about blowing things up, but blowing things around, then two come along at once.
If I didn't know better, I'd swear that Soul Bubbles was a close cousin to LostWinds. The two games share a similar aesthetic, offer a similar mix of puzzles and action, and have the same kind of relaxed pace. One is on the Wii and one on the DS, but you suspect that LostWinds could easily have worked on the handheld platform, or Soul Bubbles on the Wii. Both focus around drawing on the screen to create air currents that will blow objects in a particular direction. Of course, in LostWinds the object was usually the youthful hero and the game was a bit more of a traditional platform affair. In Soul Bubbles the object is, well, bubbles and the action isn't quite so conventional. All the same, the games sometimes feel like two peas from the same pod.
This doesn't worry me one bit. I loved LostWinds, and I love Soul Bubbles nearly as much.
As in all great games of this type, the setup is simple. You're an apprentice shaman on some weird fantasy world, and you're tasked with escorting a collection of lost souls to their new home in the afterlife. The lost souls are too fragile to travel unprotected, so they must be enclosed in bubbles and escorted from the starting point of each level to a sacred block where they'll make their final transition. To do this, your little shaman has to blow the bubbles in the right direction, which is done just by drawing a line through the bubble. Small lines mean small puffs, big lines mean big puffs, and drawing one big line then holding the stylus in the direction you want the bubble to travel will keep a continuous stream of breath coming until the poor little chap runs out of steam.
Once you've got used to this, the game then throws in masks. By donning a mask (selected by holding the D-pad in one of three directions), the shaman can perform important operations on the bubbles. Wearing the tiger mask, he can slice bubbles into smaller bubbles with a quick swish of the stylus or drag two bubbles into one. Wearing the bird mask, he can draw new bubbles on the screen with the stylus. Finally, wearing the elephant mask, he can shrink bubbles or make them disappear entirely. The important thing to note here is that, at no point are you really controlling or worrying about the shaman. He can pop in and out of the large scrolling levels at will, even teleport to distant areas through a scrolling map accessed using down on the D-Pad. He's really just a glorified cursor. That means that all you need to worry about is the bubbles, and getting them from A to B. That's enough.