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Bubble Bobble Part 2 (NES) artwork

Bubble Bobble Part 2 (NES) review

"2 is the loneliest number."

It's difficult to talk about Bubble Bobble Part 2 without comparing it to its classic predecessor. Part 2 is just different enough from the first game to feel like it's doing its own thing (to the point where it lacks all of the five things that make the first game great) while remaining close enough in style to naturally draw comparisons between the two games.

Bubble Bobble Part 2 keeps the core gameplay of its predecessor, at least. Most stages consist of a single screen full of platforms and enemies who must be defeated before you can move onto the next challenge. Enemies can be trapped in bubbles your character shoots out of his mouth. Those bubbles can then be popped and the enemies inside turned to delicious food which can be picked up for bonus points.

The sequel adds a few new mechanics that were not present in the first Bubble Bobble, with the most important of those being the ability to store multiple bubbles inside your dinosaur. Holding B causes Bub or Bob to inflate, allowing them to slowly float into the air. Releasing B will cause them to shoot three bubbles at once. This isn't terribly useful against regular enemies that are trapped after colliding with a single bubble, but the technique is handy for one of Part 2's other new features: bosses and mini-bosses. Every tenth level is a fight with a boss who can't be trapped in a bubble at all. Most of them will go down after a series of bubble blasts, but some others require hits from various special types of bubbles. On top of the traditional lighting bubbles (which fire lightning bolts across the screen when popped) and fire bubbles that drop a flame down to the floor below that continues to burn and defeat any enemies that wander into it, Bubble Bobble Part 2 introduces a few new types of special bubbles, such as a tornado bubble that releases a tiny tornado that spins toward the top of the screen and takes out any minor enemies in its path.

Stage design offers a bit more variety this time around, too. Part 2 allows for moving platforms, stages that actually scroll across multiple screens, open ends on the left and right sides that loop around when crossed through (as seen in Pac-Man), and more. Small additions such as those don't completely revamp the core gameplay or anything, but they're all welcome.

Part 2 abandons many of the power-ups and collectables featured in the first game (where are my wands?), but adds more variety in other areas. The game is broken up into several distinct worlds with different themes. They're all functionally the same (the enemies and obstacles encountered in most stages would fit easily with nearly any theme) but the different background styles make for a nice aesthetic change every now and then. Part 2 is a very nice looking game as a whole, with detailed sprites that have been given just enough of a size increase to allow for more detail without making the stages feel crowded. Each world also comes with its own unique music, most of which is a great improvement over the first Bubble Bobble's iconic but limited soundtrack. It's suitably upbeat and energetic and it stands with the classic melodies of the NES generation.

The music is so good, actually, that it serves to highlight one of Part 2's less welcome changes. In the first game, if a player took too long to complete a stage, the invincible Baron von Blubba would appear and chase him around the level until either the stage was finished or the player lost a life. Blubba is absent from the first half of Part 2, but once he starts showing up, he's relentless. He begins to appear just a few seconds into most stages, halting the music and replacing it with silence. That means half of the songs in the game end after a few seconds and start over at the beginning of each new stage. Blubba is less of a threat than he was in the first Bubble Bobble, because he moves more slowly and predictably. That makes him also less of a nuisance than he could have been, but he still gets tiring fast.

Oh, but Blubba isn't the most disappointing thing about Bubble Bobble Part 2. That honour goes to the total lack of cooperative multiplayer. Bubble Bobble's greatest strength was its simultaneous multiplayer mode. Two friends could work together, fighting enemies and clearing stages, but that’s no longer the case. Multiplayer in Part 2 is limited to taking turns whenever a player loses a life. Players don't even progress through the game together. If player 1 makes it to level 10 before dying, player 2 starts at level 1. Bub and Bob essentially just take turns playing their individual single player campaigns in parallel. The first Bubble Bobble created many fond memories for gamers with its multiplayer mode, making it impossible not to feel let down by the lack of that mode in Part 2.

Bubble Bobble Part 2 drops the arcade-feeling score attack potential of its prequel in favour of a more focused adventure. It feels like the goal is to make it to the end of the game, rather than to collect as many points as you can along the way. With only 80 stages (compared to the first game's impressive 228), Part 2 is a game that's meant to feel like an adventure, one that can reasonably be completed in a single sitting. In some ways, it's an improvement over its prequel. It stays fresh until the end and doesn't overstay its welcome. It's sad that Bubble Bobble Part 2 abandons so many of the cool concepts of Bubble Bobble the first, but it's still a pretty fun and cute game that's worth checking out on its own merits.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (March 26, 2013)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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