In 1986, a couple of cute dragons called Bub and Bob made an appearance in an arcade game about blowing bubbles. This adventure led to several others, including Parasol Stars, Rainbow Islands and Puzzle Bobble. Over the years, Bubble Bobble has been ported to dozens of platforms, and now with a bit of a makeover, it has arrived on Xbox LIVE Arcade.
The idea of Bubble Bobble, across a hundred different levels, is for Bub and his blue twin Bob to encase all the nasties on screen in bubbles, then burst them causing agonizing pain to whatever is inside. This pain is enough to turn monster bubbles in to fruit that can be collected for points. The more enemies burst together, the higher the reward and the better the fruit. Flavoursome grapes, yummy pineapples, mouth-watering melons; these are just a few of the succulent produce our fearsome duo get to gorge on.
To help the twosome on their way to conquering the hundredth level and beat the final level boss, power-ups are to be had. These can increase the range a bubble has, speed up the bubble production and even fill and level with water, killing all enemies on screen. Clearly Bub and Bob can hold their breath a while longer than the nasty life-forms focussed on killing the cutesy dragon double-act.
Things are not all rosy in bubble land though. The new version, whilst shiny and ever more cute, just doesn’t seem to play quite the same as the original, enemies don’t behave the same way, power-ups don’t appear as they once did, and worryingly the controls just don’t feel right, lacking the pixel precision that Bubble Bobble had. This proves particular irksome at level 72, making some believe the game is glitched. It's possible to beat it, but it is very frustrating. There is something here that’s missing the magic of the classic game, maybe this is simply nostalgia. No matter what the reason, it's still an enjoyable journey, and not only are the original maps available, but a whole new suit of remix bubbling is there to be conquered, giving one hundred additional levels. Yet there’s a longing to play the original with high-score leaderboards, and it’s a pity that it wasn’t included as part of this package.
Bubble Bobble is a game best played with a mate, not only does this make things more fun, but is almost a requirement to successfully complete all 100 levels of the game. The only problem being is you won’t be able to do this on Xbox LIVE as online multiplayer doesn’t exist, it’s local play only unfortunately. This is a massive omission, and only Taito know the reason for this, but perhaps it wasn’t technically possible to do. Whatever the reason, it is a real shame it isn’t available. To make up for this, a four player mode is available on the re-arranged maps, but for the originals, this is limited to just the two.
In the twenty three years since the original release, Bubble Bobble has aged well. It’s still a fun game to play, requiring persistence and a bit of lateral thinking in places if the player has any hope of making it to the final boss. This remix hasn’t quite got things right though, and whilst it's largely faithful to the arcade classic, there just something niggling in the back of your mind that you can't quite put your finger on. There's fun to be had in the update, and if nothing else, you'll be whistling that tune for a couple of weeks.