Product: Bubble Bobble
Publisher: Firebird
Compatibility: BBC B/B+/Master 128
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #53

Similarly to X*L*C*R, reviewed last month, the colourful bubble-blowing monsters of a piece of software bearing Firebird's logo was created as a professional title but never released as such. It's odd because Bubble Bobble, as any arcade fan worth his salt will know, is a very old game which, at one time, seemed to be on every format (from Speccy to Amiga!) except the BBC series! PD supplier 8 Bit Software hasn't got an answer either; the most likely theory tends to assume Firebird lost confidence in the 8-bit market before releasing it.

Luckily though, this 99.99% complete pre-release version found its way into BBC Land via Public Domain and the cutesy platform adventures of Bub and Bob can now be enjoyed, as indicated, if you have a BBC or a Master 128. This review marks a significant departure from previous ones in that Bubble Bobble does not run on the Electron at all!

!BOOTing up the disk (TBI-119 in the 8 Bit Software catalogue) first brings up some very sparse instructions and control key lists. Quite noticeably, these were not destined to be part of the original disk and their writer signs off with "The rest is for you to find out!". What you don't know quickly becomes obvious when the action starts though.

Entering the game format as it can be assumed it would have appeared presents the first of a over a hundred cute screens - the loader. The Mode 2 title and the two stars of it wait for SPACE before being replaced with a clever Mode 1 screen implementing each of the seven real colours. From here, it's possible to choose whether one or two players are to clean up in this classic game.

In case you've missed all appearances of Bubble Bobble (and its sequels Rainbow Islands and Parasol Stars on some 8 and 16 bit stuff), Bub and Bob are two sickeningly "we're in another predicament where we have to kill lots of monsters and collect lots of bonuses but we're having lots of fun" chappies. Their predicament in Bubble Bobble, if I remember from the original I once had correctly, is that they've been turned into cute dragons (In the sequels, they're cute little boys!) and are under attack from screens of everything from mutant parrots to bouncing teddy-bears.

If you choose the one player game, you are Bub the green dragon and begin bottom left of the first screen. There is no scrolling except when you complete it when the screen scrolls down displaying the next screen with your greeny bean on the same spot. What you have to do is run left and right then jump to get reasonably close to the three mutant tin cans on screen one. (The baddies change from screen to screen).

Blowing a bubble with "TAB" will always quickly jet a green sphere in the direction your dragon is facing and if this sphere collides at speed with the baddy then he gets encased in it. It's then the deceptively simple matter of getting close enough to headbutt the bubble (with the spike on Bub/Bob's head!) and, after buzzing supersonically around the screen in a harmless way, baddy becomes bonus to be collected.

The game is set in Mode 2 and is well laid out, fast and very colourful. The music, the keys of which to turn it on and off are listed in the new loader, is absolutely superb and one of those delightfully irritating tunes that stick in your head with lots of rude lyrics added when your plan of dealing with the seven rabid flying monsters goes wrong. In fact, there is no real difference between the BBC and Amiga version of Bubble Bobble except that the BBC one is much tougher.

This stems mainly from time. If you don't 'butt the bubbles containing your foes within a few seconds on the BBC then they escape and run amok at double speed. On the Amiga, they stay cased up considerably longer. However, the arcade machine itself ran similarly to the BBC so from a conversion point, it's spot on!

Another timing feature is the deadly spirit head that appears if the computer thinks you are taking too long to deal with the present screen. After the message "Hurry Up!", all monsters speed up and this sinister spectre appears somewhere on screen and skirts smoothly in a 'paced' direction toward you. He is invulnerable to bubbles and to be avoided at all costs.

Bubble Bobble has many bonus features which appear from time to time on random platforms. Sacrifice almost anything to grab an umbrella as these whip through at least four screens without you needing to play them. Flowers, rainbows and the red shoes also improve your playing chances by clearing screens, giving huge life bonuses and speeding up your dragon's footpower respectively and are well worth having but note you lose any advantages when you next lose a life.

As you may have gathered by now, the game itself is not particularly difficult and even the last screen will be conquered quickly by pure arcade fanatics. This is especially the case if two players work together as Bub and Bob. As the baddies don't increase in a two player game, selecting this almost guarantees many screens of progress over that of the lone player [where both are inexperienced - Ed].

Perhaps due to this disk version being a pre-release, when the last dragon loses his last life, the screen blanks but the game hangs. This appears to have been put in by Firebird on purpose for some reason but doesn't distract from the game's enjoyment, as tapping SHIFT-BREAK brings it back again.

Definitely too good to miss - and have been missed by the purchasing public of the late Eighties! - "cutesy-bashing is never as good if you're not playing Bub or Bob!"