"Gods never need to be very bright when there are humans around
to be it for them."
Terry Pratchett, "Small Gods"
OLD STUFF REVISITED FOR FALCON USERS
by Richard Karsmakers
A new column, yes, one that I promised in the last issue. In
this column I will re-review an old (sometimes even ancient) game
that works on the Falcon, whether with or without any of the
popular "ST emulator" things available now.
This column is intended to make you aware of some really good
old stuff that works on the bird. And shut your mouth if you're
one of those "but I don't want to play old stuff on the Falcon I
want some new good stuff" people. It's always great when some old
classics work on your computer and I personally would give my
right hand for a good Commodore 64 emulator if that would mean I
could even play some even more ancient games on my Falcon (the
likes of the original "Lode Runner", "Pitstop II", "Tapper",
"Jumpman", "Wizard" and a whole host of other classics of which
mere glances fling me back into youthful reminiscence mode).
Enough of the introduction.
This time we're going to have a look at "Bubble Bobble", one of
my absolute favourite games of all time (definitely on the ST)
which works when using "Backward" with maximum compatibility.
I remember when I got "Bubble Bobble" for the first time. It was
back in 1987, possibly 1988, when ST NEWS still got quite a load
of review software via the terribly nice Sue Winslow at Telecom
Software. Telecom did the Firebird, Rainbird and Silverbird games
before they got taken over by Micriprose and Silverbird got
dropped. Things haven't been the same, and ST NEWS no longer
received the stuff either, even though I had a pretty good
contact (Julia Coombs) there, too.
Anyway, "Bubble Bobble" was a Firebird game and sent to me only
a few days before the ST NEWS deadline. It's easy to see it did,
because it didn't have an introductory novel (which was highly
unusual back then) and was quite short too. The problem was that
the game was too playable to want to write a review instead. And
when I got myself to write this small review I think I didn't
even do the game the justice is quite evidently deserved.
After resetting with "Backward" installed (setting it to
"Maximum Compatibility", though I have memory set to 1 Mb instead
of 512 Kb) the game boots from disk. It's an AUTO folder thing,
which starts up automatically. And pretty soon you find out the
one disadvantage of playing it on an unmodified Falcon: Even if
you make "Backward" switch off the internal speaker, "Bubble
Bobble" finds ways of turning it on and you get to hear the music
played A) With louse quality and B) Much too loud. The only thing
to do then is modify your Falcon (and lose warranty): Rip out the
Because I didn't want to void my warranty yet I simply put a
book on top of it. The Falcon gets warmer but the sound gets a
bit less loud.
"Bubble Bobble" is a platform game supporting either one player
or two players simultaneously. It's Japanese, which in this case
means it's fabulously playable and, of course, totally nonviolent
and flawlessly cute. There were even a few sequels but they were
quite different and not really billed as such: "Rainbow Islands"
and "Parasol Stars". I didn't like them as much either. Had
"Bubble Bobble" been an arcade game not available on any home
computer format I am quite sure I would have become quite poor.
I haven't got the manual nor its packaging anymore. I think I
threw them away or stuffed them somewhere in a box during one of
the three times I have moved house since then. All I know is that
I have a disk in one of my drawers that looks quite battered. The
label is almost worn through, but the disk still works.
I seem to recall the background story being one of Bub and Bob
(the two possible players) in a battle against Baron von Blubba.
There are 100 levels plus some bonus levels, that each have to be
rid of the monsters that walk around. If you take too long, enemy
movement speed doubles (and the music too) and on screen appears
Baron von Blubba (with an extra incarnation in two-player mode).
There are two ways to play "Bubble Bobble". First there's the
obvious way, the Try-to-get-through-the-levels-as-quickly-as-
possible-by-killing-all-monsters-right-away, more popularly known
as the Erin Way (after Ronny Hatlemark's then little sister who
played like that). It's quick but hiscores are low.
The second way is simply The Way. You can kill the monsters but
you have to make sure one of them survives. And you have to make
sure the bubbled monsters float together and then bobble them in
one fell swoop. This gives you extra bonuses (each second monster
you kill in one swoop gives you a double bonus worth, the third a
quadruple, etc.). But remember, you have to keep one of the
suckers alive. This means you don't exit the level whilst having
minimized your danger. After a while a bonus appears. After
another while another even better one. These include speed
shooters, far shooters, or simply loads of points. And if you
take a candy stick or another piece of sweet stuff you have to
make sure you make a lot of bubbles before you pop off the last
monster - a huge thing worth a lot of point will drop down the
middle of the screen and all bubbles in the air will transform in
points too. Being higher than a possible fellow player usually
helps in getting the big'un.
If you don't get killed right up to level 20 you will get a
special bonus appearing after a while: A door to a bonus level.
Enter this and you can collect loads of diamonds, worth thousands
Some of the higher levels seem only managable in two-player
mode, and I have never seen levels beyond 89 without a trainer
version (a specially hacked version allow you to start with up to
255 credits). Level 100 is a really mean bastard, where a huge
shape has to be shot continuously. It's very difficult not to
die, and you need a lot of lives there. I think it may be
impossible to pass this without a trainer. Without a trainer my
hiscore is 1,539,460. I did that a few years ago, when I was
still living at home.
Is this game all perfect then?
You have 5 or 6 lives and when they run out your score is reset
to 0. If you keep the fire button pressed you will enter your
next credit (a full new batch of lives) and continue where you
left off. However, if you don't keep the fire button pressed the
game will exit and you'll have to start anew. Often, when you're
right in the middle of the general frenzy of a playing session
and you die, it's not your first gut reaction to keep the fire
button pressed. The higher the level, the less the chance
you'll think of it, and at these levels a credit extension is
most worth its while. Even in two-player mode, when you're busy
pinching bonuses off each other and evading that last monster,
this is highly likely to happen. It has happened to me numerous
frustrating times. You still have credits left but nobody
remembers to press the fire button. I can tell you I have been
very angry and frustrated! A countdown counter would have been
Also, if you play with two people you don't get twice as many
credits. If you're a really good player and the second player
isn't, chances are you'll get to use only one credit yourself.
That's not fair.
I have played this game hundreds of times, probably for hundreds
and hundreds of hours. This probably makes for the best games
review ever, as there's really no other way you can judge long-
term interest. In total there are maybe half a dozen games that
have a long-term interest as extensive as this (and some of them
will no doubt be featured in upcoming versions of this column).
However, this tends to make sure that more accent is put on the
bad things, because those are the things that stick the mind, the
stuff that I would sincerely have liked its designers to think of
Another such drawback, but a lot smaller one this time, is that
the collision detection is slighly to the top right (or bottom
right, or whatever) of your actual shape. This means you
sometimes don't touch an enemy but you die anyway. This is
compensated by the fact that you sometimes don't die when you
should have. The nasty thing about this is the "bottle bonus".
When you take that all monsters disappear, the music changes and
you can't blow any more bubbles. The screen is filled with about
40 pies that you have to get. If you get them all, you get a
bonus of a whoppin' 100,000 (if both players in two-player mode
get an equal amount, they'll both get this, otherwise the lesser
player will get 'just' 50,000). Quite often there are levels
where you can't possible get them all. Remember, you can't blow
any more bubbles to jump on. And this can be right frustrating
when you are touching the last of the pies but collision
detection doesn't happen.
All in all, "Bubble Bobble" hasn't lost anything of its touch.
The graphics are not in any way like, for example, those of the
Bitmap Brothers, but they're good enough for the game. Joystick
response is totally perfect, even though you have to get used to
the fact of being able to jump upwards through a platform.
"Bubble Bobble" has all the ingredients a platform game needs -
hidden stuff, good bonuses, and oodles of gameplay.
I've seen the arcade version which is identical but uses
different controls and is therefore to hard to get used to if you
already know the home computer version. I have the Gameboy
version which is very difficult to play because you can't see the
whole level in one go (causing you to quite easily jump down on a
monster that is outside the screen below you). If I had known
what it was like I would never have bought the Gameboy rendition,
which also has many other levels.
"Bubble Bobble" might still be available through mail order or
in budget packages, or whatever. I can just tell you it's much
worth your while. Classic ST owners will like it, and Falcon
people (with torn out speaker) can like it just as much.
"Bubble Bobble" is quite possibly one of the very best Atari ST
game evers, if alone because it's one that sticks to mind as
Title: Bubble Bobble
Publisher: Firebird (well, it used to be)
Overall rating: 10-
Remarks: Great game. Perfect where it
Hardware: Any ST, or Falcon with
"Backward", needs joystick (2
for 2 players)
It's been a long time, but still I'd like to thank Sue Winslow
who used to work at Telecom Software for granting me the boon of
And now, at least, this classic game gets the sort of extensive
review it deserved back then. I feel thoroughly relieved.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.