Version tested: DS
Bubble Bobble: Double Shot
- Publisher: Rising Star Games
- Developer: Dreams
Disclosure time: I've never played Bubble Bobble in my life. Not the original and certainly not the previously terrible DS effort Bubble Bobble Revolution. Like a trip to Glastonbury and a decent haircut, it's one of those things that have passed me by in life. Can't say I've missed them, but my life might have been a bit more enriched if I'd had a go. That said, it at least lets me approach this game from the perspective of the modern gamer who's never heard of the bubble-blowing dinosaurs until today. So, no nostalgia to ruin my memories of the past, but fortunately - or rather unfortunately - there's plenty to ruin my present.
Initially it's clear that Double Shot is geared more towards the hardened nostalgist. Hop around platforms and trap all the enemies in bubbles to clear the level. Three lives, collecting fruit for points and a stage-by-stage structure played in single-player or co-op says something for its gnarled arcade roots. The only significant new feature in the main game sees some monsters surrounded by coloured stars that can only be defeated by selecting the dinosaur which matches its colour (stalwarts Bub and Bob being joined by a third red chum called Bubu for this adventure), integrated into proceedings without too much imbalance.
Yet all this is scuppered by some atrocious level design. Half of the levels feel like they went through a random generator, while the other half were designed by drawing pictures of things like swords out of platforms with no thought of how they would affect play. Consequently, both you and the monsters get stuck between blocks, unable to reach each other without spending time figuring out which wall will let you through or faffing around jumping on bubbles. Was this a part of the original design? I sincerely hope not. What's definitely DS-exclusive, however, is the dual screen gap of death, the bane of many a game, leading to a despair-filled demise if you're not too careful.
In another inexplicable smack to the chops, there's nothing in the way of a save system. Turn it off and you have to start all over again. And if you do decide to slog through the hundred levels and lose all your lives, the continue system insists that you play a short touch-screen mini-game in order to earn the right to get back to the main game. They're easy, but almost insulting in their incongruity. The only drawback for continuing this way is the loss of your high score. Some sacrifice that is if you can't even record it anywhere in the first place.
So I've never played Bubble Bobble in my life. If this is my first experience - a sloppily-handled misfire that ruins the original's reputation - I'm not sure I was missing anything. How awful. Both Pac-Man and Space Invaders proved that such classics can be successfully updated for the modern gamer. Bubble Bobble apparently can't. To mess up one DS remake may be regarded as a misfortune, to mess up both earns you another embarrassingly low mark.