Zynga has unveiled its latest Facebook game, Bubble Safari, which bears a more than passing resemblance to Taito's Puzzle Bobble, known in the west as Bust-A-Move.
Revealed by VentureBeat, Bubble Safari is set to launch on Facebook and Zynga.com today. Its development team was led by Mark Turmell, creator of NBA Jam, who left EA for Zynga last summer.
Given Turmell's roots it's perhaps unsurprising that one of Bubble Safari's mechanics riffs on Midway's fourplayer basketball classic. Match three sets of coloured bubbles in a row and you activate "on fire mode", enabling you to clear obstructions using explosive bubbles. It's free to play, of course, but players must spend energy to do so, and when the meter runs dry the player either waits or pays up for more.
"We're super-excited to bring new experiences to our users," Tramell said, explaining that despite its obvious similarity to Taito's 1994 classic and the hundreds of Flash games that it inspired, Bubble Safari has "unique gameplay and is more social." In a separate interview with Joystiq he praised Zynga's focus on user metrics, saying: "I don't want to throw stones at the traditional business, but this is clearly the future."
Zynga's motivations are clear – the top five match-three bubble-busters on Facebook have a combined total of 41.7 million active users, according to AppData – but it'd be nice if the runaway market leader were to lead by example and innovate every so often. Bubble Safari's launch comes months after Zynga was accused of cloning Tiny Tower, Apple US' iPhone game of 2011, with its mobile game Dream Heights.
Meanwhile, GamesIndustry International reports that Zynga is suing French social game developer Kobojo over its game Pyramidville. Zynga claims Kobojo is violating its 'Ville' trademark despite the fact that it doesn't own it – the USPTO recently suspended Zynga's trademark application.