Monday 28 October 2019

Bubble Trouble (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Keith Harvey
Publisher: Players
Released: 1986

Bubble Trouble is an Arcade-style game that was also released on Commodore 16 and Plus/4 computers (1986).

You control a small bubble (with five lives) and the objective is to collect nine other bubbles to float out of the bathtub, while avoiding small dots that deduct from your total. There's 60 seconds to complete each level and danger comes in the form of nail brushes, shampoo and other bathroom accessories that either move around the water, or fall into the tub at high speed. The first thing of note is the cramped playfield and how cluttered the screen is with enemies, bubbles and dots. Likewise, the controls can take a few moments to adjust to, as the water pressure constantly forces your bubble to rise unless you pull it downwards. These features do make for some challenging gameplay from the get-to, but once you adjust and focus on delicate movements the action becomes highly enjoyable, and you always need to strategise and react quickly. The confined nature of the gameplay adds to the intensity, as does the timer which forces you to play aggressively instead of camping out in one area. The action could easily have become stale, but additional hazards are introduced such as rubber ducks that stalk the top of the water, and spiders that cast webs that halve the playfield; the latter is a clever idea, as while it can force you into even tighter quarters with deadly foes, you can also use it to your advantage by trapping them on one side of the bathtub! There are some neat high score mechanics too, including moving into perilous territory at the top of the water to catch soap for extra points (compared to if you collect it at the bottom). My only minor complaints are that the bottle item looks too similar to the soap (leading to a few cheap deaths), and the repetitive SFX can be overly harsh on the ears.

Bubble Trouble is a terrific game that nails its Arcade style approach perfectly thanks to its fast-paced action, compelling scoring mechanics and intense risk-reward gameplay. It does just enough to mix things up too, ensuring that you remained thoroughly entertained and suitably challenged from level to level.

Random trivia: Keith Harvey also developed Excelsor (1986) and Stratosphere (1987) for Atari 8-bit computers.

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