"I knew that I was getting into trouble the moment I saw the box art. What happened to Bub and Bob? The cuddly little dragons I had come to love over the years had been turned into repulsive, bucktoothed, sacks of lard."
Every so often, old-school enthusiasts are treated to revamped versions of their favorite 8-bit and 16-bit era games. While some of them are just weak attempts at cashing in on recognizable titles, others become classics in their own right. When talking about some of these classics-made-modern, like Contra: Shattered Soldier, R-Type Final, or Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins, it’s almost mandatory to mention their fist-clenching, teeth-grinding difficulty. In a twisted sense, I suppose one could say that Bubble Bobble Revolution (BBR) tops them all. It’s not that BBR is all that difficult. It is just impossible to beat.
Apparently, no one at Codemasters bothered with the final, all-important phase of quality assurance testing. If they had, the Codemasters folks would have realized that out of 100 levels, it is impossible to get past level 30. The boss for that level simply never shows up for the fight. I tried rebooting three times before hitting the online forums. As it turns out, every North American copy of BBR is faulty, and although Codemasters is aware of the problem, they haven’t bothered pulling existing copies from store shelves. The upside of this fiasco is that I’ll be able to swap my defective BBR for a good one in a few months. The downside is that BBR is hardly worth the effort of going to the post office.
I knew that I was getting into trouble the moment I saw the box art. What happened to Bub and Bob? The cuddly little dragons I had come to love over the years had been turned into repulsive, bucktoothed, sacks of lard. Something was askew, but I pressed on. Looking through the manual, I was relieved to find that not much had changed. Bub and Bob still travel through (a supposed) 100 levels while blowing bubbles to bounce to higher platforms and trap enemies. Capture every enemy in bubbles, pop them, and you progress to the next level. The additions of a powerful charged bubble and a ghost bubble that lets you switch places on the screen seemed like welcome techniques, but most often they’re used for feeble attempts at survival.
From the very first level, one thing is obvious. BBR is cheap. The early enemies, Doranku, travel briskly across the screen, following you from platform to platform, while shooting unidentified projectiles that bounce off walls. The levels are a little wider than the screen, so the projectiles are constantly coming from unseen enemies, and they come fast. Sure you can jump over them, but they will still catch you as they bounce back. It’s even worse when eight Doranku are crammed into a space fit for five. Neither regular bubbles nor the charged bubbles can be shot in any direction besides horizontally. Your only chance in these cases is to dive in with a charged bubble, hope you can take out a few before dying, and repeat as necessary, level after level. This explains the unlimited continues.
I love a good challenge, but there’s a huge difference between a game that requires skill and one that requires dumb luck. For those like me, the saving grace of BBR is the inclusion of the classic Bubble Bobble in perfect, untouched form. It may be twenty years old, but it is still every bit as charming, unyieldingly difficult, and addictive as I remembered. Classic Bubble Bobble is the only conceivable reason that anyone should have for owning BBR.
Staff review by Brian Rowe (November 09, 2006)
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