Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Bubble Trouble'

Rating:3 User: Digital Prawn

This is a review of the 1982 game by Bruce Rutherford. It was one the few games that were bundled with the "Spectrum Emulator Games Pack" on the Atari ST and so I used to play this one under emulation back in the early '90s. It's fair to say that because I initially had less than a dozen speccy games available at the time, I spent far more time playing this than I would nowadays. "I'm not a number - I'm a free sprite" is what you may be thinking whilst playing as you are chased around Pacman type mazes whilst being pursued by man-sized bubbles, quite reminiscent of cult TV show "The Prisoner".

In this game however, there are no dots in the maze, instead there are various items which must be picked up whilst being chased by the bubbles. Your character is meant to be a burglar "on the rob". Each level is on a timer, lasting about a minute during which time the in-maze items should be collected as quickly as possible. When all items have been collected, bonus points of increasing value will start to appear in the maze, and after you have eventually grabbed the two "1000 point" bonuses, a question mark bonus will appear, allowing immediate progression to the next level even if there is still time remaining. Although to grab all of the bonuses within the allowed time isn't always easy to do.

There are three levels of difficulty, corresponding to having one, two or three bubbles chasing the player, although enabling more bubbles really slows the game down by a surprising amount. There are fifty levels in total and any of them can be selected as the starting level. Some maze layouts are difficult with dangerous dead ends some are more easy and open. INK/PAPER colours and maze wall sprites change from one level to the next. The maze wall sprites consist of trees, houses, pyramids and a variety of block shapes. The mazes made of houses look particularly good, although laughably out of scale with the player character. Many of the mazes have warp tunnels connecting the left edge of the screen to the right and some have top to bottom connections. The bubbles can follow the player through the warp tunnels in this game.

Controls are via the CURSOR key layout but Kempston joystick is also supported. Personally I find it easier to use joystick emulation than the fiddly CURSOR layout when playing arcade games like this. The game makes good use of colour with each bubble and maze item being separately coloured. Sprite animation is smooth as expected for a machine code game and sound is quite good. Although it could be said that the tune played when a life is lost is just a few notes too long.

Playability is good and certainly fun, but the game is very much of its time. After a while, it starts to seem a bit aimless and open-ended and modern day players may start to wonder if there isn't more to the game than picking items up whilst avoiding bubbles. There isn't, well apart from the challenge of attempting to complete all fifty levels in one gaming session.

So this would have been a game I'd have loved back in 1982 with a real arcade feel and reasonably well implemented, but with hindsight it lacks depth and seems the sort of game you play when you have half an hour to spare. Nice early speccy arcade title of casual interest, but not with a huge replayability factor.