12 January 1988
My name is John Walker and I am 11 years old. This is my review of Bubble Bobble for the Atari ST.
On Tuesdays my friend Alastair Caple and his sister Sarah come to our house for tea after school because his mum works late and so there is no one to look after him anywhere else. We used to play Ghostbusters in the garden but now we are too grown up for Ghostbusters so instead we play on my dad's computer in the kitchen. Games we like include Outrun and Buggy Boy but best of all Bubble Bobble.
We like Bubble Bobble because it is two-player and when you play it as two players you get Continues which you don't get if you play on your own so we can get further. What you do is you control the dragon man who can burp bubbles out of his mouth to catch the baddies which move around the screen. When you have popped the bubbles of all the catched baddies then the level is over and move to the next one.
Alastair is not as good at Buggy Boy as me but he is better at Outrun but we are both as good at Bubble Bobble so it is good to play together. It is best when you get a magic potion and all the screen fills with stuff to collect or when you get an umbrella so that you can jump forward some levels.
There are other good things that you can collect that make you go faster or jump higher. If you go too slow then the game tells you to hurry up and the Hurry Up Monster appears. The Hurry Up Monster is very scary and can move without having to stand on the platforms and so he can attack you really fast and you can't attack him back. You have to pop all the rest of the baddies before the Hurry Up Monster gets you. I once had a scary dream which had the Hurry Up Monster in it.
Bubble Bobble is really really good and I would recommend it to anyone to play as it is great fun and best when you are playing it with a friend. The only problem with it is that our copy of Bubble Bobble is one that my dad copied off a friend and it always crashes on level 65. Me and Alastair really hope that one day we will get an umbrella on level 64 and see if we can skip past the bit where it breaks but we never have.
12 January 2006
My name is John Walker and I am 28 years old. This is my review of Bubble Bobble Revolution for the DS.
It's funny how playing Bubble Bobble, unlike so many other games we falsely romanticise from our childhoods, is still as immediately fun and challenging. It remained fun and challenging on the twelve different systems the game has been ported to over the last nineteen years. Can we really be so old? And as appears to now be traditional, the arrival of a new console ensures its appearance on the thirteenth. (It gets to fourteen next month with the PSP version).
Revolution, however, is not all about the port of the original - of course not. Here, were are assured, the Dreams development studio set up by Space Invaders creator Tomohiro Nishikado has built a whole new game using the Bubble Bobble template. Which leaves me wondering why this release doesn't include the original game as a hidden bonus or extra feature, but as the initial choice on the menu? And why is this the only review of the game on the internet? Something's amiss.
The port of the original is pretty complete. Everything appears to be in place, and it was freakish how quickly seventeen-year-old techniques immediately sprang forward. I realised I wasn't consciously thinking about where to position my guy at the beginning of a level; so much childhood practise has built a permanent neuron pathway that no amount of aging could corrupt. The bubbles seem to have a fraction more reach than I remember, but this might be my imagination, and should I be right, it's a welcome extension for the continue-less difficulty of a single-player game. The only fault, and it's a fairly major one, is that the levels don't quite fit on the screen, nudging up and down a couple of millimetres in an irritating fashion whenever you climb or descend to extremities - something that surely could have been easily fixed. Beyond that, yup, a fairly adequate port.
The 'New Age' mode, however, is a soulless and miserable travesty.
It's such a wantonly stupid design that it defies the notion that human beings can have been responsible. My best theory is that all the elements of Bubble Bobble were fed into a blinking, beeping computer of the sort that they had in the big room in Time Tunnel, along with the specifications of a Gameboy Colour, and this was the result it splurted out before whirring madly and pumping out grey smoke from the side.
It's much the same idea: you play a dragon-man, who must leap the platforms, blowing bubbles at bads before popping them, and then dashing about collecting fruit and cake for points. But now the screen is four times as big, without containing four times the playing area. They've just zoomed in a lot, so that you have to have to scroll painfully left and right around the play area (the top half is on the top screen) for no apparent reason, unable to see what's going on.
Which is never worse than when crossing the gap between the two screens. There's no acknowledgement of the 2cm gap between, meaning that no matter how hard your brain tries, it's constantly fooled by the sudden appearance of enemies, or the possibility of reaching a platform. It's disastrously arranged, frustrating in the extreme, and has just a fraction of the image missing to ensure constant unnecessary failure.
Not that failure seems to matter in the least, with the infinite continues it offers you for trudging through the 100 levels. Two lives, with three hearts of damage each, are there to be lost by random bumps and broken code on the platforms letting you 'hit' spikes affixed to the opposite side. But once they're lost it immediately offers another continue, with no loss but for your score, which doesn't appear to count for anything anywhere.
This means that there's no bonus lives or means of gaining extra health to seek. In fact, all the bonus items are gone, but for some abysmal touch-screen challenges that appear incredibly rarely. One involved tapping buttons to turn fans to keep bubbles in the air. What a treat. Umbrellas, potions, and all the other exciting extras are removed, while feathers and other apparent bonus items have no discernable effect but for the time freeze, which appeared on one level once, and didn't last long enough to be interesting.
Oh, and you can blow on the mic to turn some fans in about five of the levels, but mostly it's not necessary.
The new ingredients include the super bubble, which is blown by holding down the button for about five seconds, and releases a giant bubble in which many enemies can be caught, or can be briefly ridden inside. This might be fun if standing still for five seconds at any position didn't almost always mean death. And then there's a 'ghost bubble', which allows you to transfer to a mirrored position on the screen in what implies it might create puzzles, but is only ever a tedious means of reaching the final bad.
The whole dreary affair can be plodded through in about three uninteresting hours, never showing a discernable growth in difficulty. I remember level 65 being a bit tricky, but then it all got really easy again. And the bosses every ten levels remain tiresomely simple to defeat, never requiring any ingenuity, but a brief barrage of bubbles. Get to level 90 and you'll get stuck. It says something about needing more letters. But doesn't tell you what they are. Each time you defeat a boss it gives you an obscure sentence that presumably is meant to be a clue to something, but it's unclear what.
And then, after finding a reference on a website, it turns out you're supposed to be trying to capture four baddies at once in one super bubble in each set of ten levels, which gives you a key, which means the boss drops a letter instead of the giant diamond. Really? Huh? Really that's the best they could do? In fact, the manual boasts of how it's not going to tell you this secret. The trouble is, trying to catch four enemies at once in this manner is totally counter-intuitive to playing effectively, and while eminently possible, ridiculous in its necessity. You wouldn't stumble upon it. It wouldn't come to mind. What were they thinking?
I sat there, grumbling, ploughing through it without a glimmer of fun, a glimmer of amusement. I worried for the forthcoming Rainbow Islands reinvention. And at how everyone's forgotten about Parasol Stars.
So, I'm not going to award any marks for the inclusion of the thirteenth incarnation of Bubble Bobble. The DS's wireless abilities means that it's able to offer two-player mode on a handheld, which would be tremendous, if it didn't require two copies of the game to play. A ridiculous rip-off for a game nearly two decades old.
The 'New Age' mode also has two-player, and a boring VS mode, but you'd no more want to play two-player poison-swallowing than you would want to on your own. There's no fun to be gained, and no point in purchasing.
1988 was a long time ago. The last I heard was that Alastair is a skilled cabinetmaker, but we haven't been in contact for ten years now.