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Bubble Bobble: Double Shot (DS) artwork

Bubble Bobble: Double Shot (DS) review


"When you consider the process of remaking a classic, it's surprising how many times the new & improved product eventually disappoints. In a perfect world, developers would cautiously add a fresh lick of paint, fine tune the controls, then ship the game without burying it under a pile of noxious, modern thinking crap. Take note Taito, that was your first mistake. "



"Now, it is beginning of a fantastic story!! Let's make a journey to the cave of monsters! Good luck!"

Bubble Bobble's nostalgic appeal goes beyond that simple introduction, though there's no denying the charms of Taito's broken English. Perhaps it's the title's iconic soundtrack and its refusal to move beyond the same, two dozen keys that warms the heart. But then again, perhaps not. Saying the game's appeal is a combination of such things will get you closer to the truth, while mentioning its old school aesthetics might even win you the argument. Personally though, I think its the way the action still feels fresh today that gives Bubble Bobble an edge, and easily earns it a place in gaming's hall of fame.

When you consider the process of remaking a classic, it's surprising how many times the new & improved product eventually disappoints. In a perfect world, developers would cautiously add a fresh lick of paint, fine tune the controls, then ship the game without burying it under a pile of noxious, modern thinking crap. Take note Taito, that was your first mistake. Rather than following the path of least resistance, Bubble Bobble DS has been redesigned from the ground up. And while this remake still resembles your favorite, 1986 platform hopper, don't let those rose tinted glasses fool you - that old, bubble blowing magic is finally dead.

But first, back to basics...

Bubble Bobble is the story of Bub and Bob, twin dinosaurs (who aren't really dinosaurs) that have set off to rescue a maiden from the clutches of your standard, vile old wizard. Confused? Don't be, it gets worse. You see, not being a dinosaur has its benefits, and our heroes have found themselves with the ability to shoot bubbles from their mouths in order to capture enemies... ... ... it's a Japanese game. Any-hoo, as fans of the arcade original will testify, Bubble Bobble's unique blend of platform hopping had players working against the clock in order to clear the screen of enemies, while simultaneously dealing with some minor puzzle elements.

With all that in mind, loading Bubble Bobble DS for the first time proves to be surprisingly sterile experience. Indeed, having looked over the updated visuals, it's hard to find an affinity with any particular element outside of our now reluctant heroes, Bub and Bob. The backgrounds, while obviously hand painted, lack even a semblance of charm, and often muddy the action with their drab color tones and soulless designs. It's clear from the very beginning that Bubble Bobble DS was intended to be a quick nostalgia grab, a point evidenced by the way enemies occasionally blend-in with the aforementioned visuals. Where was the play-testing, Taito? And why didn't you invoke the original's preference for bright, colorful characters on a simple, black backdrop as a result? Enquiring minds want to know...

Taken in perspective, it's questions like those that hint at a few of Bubble Bobble DS' underlying issues. Developers are quick to update their classics in order to meet modern standards, but they rarely consider how change is going to influence the action. A prime example of this neglect can be found in Taito's decision to drop the static, single screen action in favor of a scrolling playfield. Sounds intriguing? Wrong answer! In doing so, Bubble Bobble DS has limited what players can see at any given time, and with that the ability to combo-pop captured enemies becomes redundant. And to add further insult to injury, additional changes appear almost random in nature. The absence of a time limit hurts the game no end, as does the lack of power ups. Now, who would have thought that possible?

Believe it or not though, Bubble Bobble DS' biggest disappointment is what should have been its most obvious success. With two leading heroes, a co-operative quest to rescue the princess was naturally a given, and the arcade original succeeded by allowing players the opportunity to work together while enforcing a competitive mindset. Not so here. Instead, Taito have thrown together a limited versus mode that simply asks players to compete for points, and offers a mere 10 stages with which to do so. Monsters re-spawn, you blow bubbles, and the time limit (welcome back old friend!) counts down until a winner is found. To say that the whole thing feels weak would be an understatement, and the absence of co-operative play, particularly in this age of Wi-Fi gaming, makes for one disappointment too many.

For what it's worth then, Bubble Bobble DS is a blight, but it's one with a carefully concealed ace. In their infinite wisdom (I'm not kidding, it was actually a smart move!), Taito have included a pixel-perfect replica of the arcade original. And voila, if you're a fan of the series with the cash to spare, Bubble Bobble DS has just become a priority. I won't lie to you, my disappointment with the remake was immense. At the end of the day however, I found myself replaying the classic for extended periods of time, and that's got to mean something. If like me, you're stupid enough to pay today's prices for a 20 year old game, you won't go far wrong with Bubble Bobble DS. If you've got an ounce of smarts though, you'll do well to pass this one by.


Pros
----

* You're getting two games for the price of one
* The original Bubble Bobble has been included...
* ... and it's just as good as ever
* The remixed soundtrack actually works

Cons
----

* Redesigned gameplay fails on multiple levels
* Power ups are MIA...
* ... as are time limits for each stage
* Multiplayer modes feel forced
* Ugly backdrops cloud the action
* This isn't Bubble Bobble

Rating: 4/10

midwinter's avatar
Staff review by Michael Scott (February 03, 2006)

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