theuselessgod's BUBBLE BOBBLE Neo! (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

Changes in controls make this game a frustrating mess.

The Short

Pros

- Updated version of the original Bubble Bobble with several additional new levels and modes

- Up to four players can play

- Still maintains a lot of the fun, crazy, arcade fun that the original Bubble Bobble had

- Updated music is pretty great, and all the stages are retained

Cons

- Controls are not the same (movement especially) which means some levels are damned near impossible

- Limited lives in an arcade game I paid for? This must be some Japanese bulls***

- Failure to improve in any way on the formulas

- Four player is entertaining but can also prove very frustrating

- Some level design is questionable, and not remaking the levels for the new controls makes the game pretty horrid

Get ready to Bubble, and also possibly Bobble.

The LongI freaking love Bubble Bobble, on both the NES and the arcade. It's a fun, silly little game with a unique mechanic that you can play multiplayer, and while being extremely simple still maintains a level of difficulty that is endearing. I never beat it on the NES or Arcade (confession time!) but I did get pretty dang far, and I have lots of fond memories playing it at the Nicklecade with my wife when we were dating (and one of the controllers could only go left, which added a newfound level of strategy to the game)

So when I heard they were re-releasing an updated version on XBLA (which is essentially a port of the Wii remake a few years back) I was pretty pumped. Now I could play with my wife and engage in silly, stupid antics like we did back at the arcade! Without having to drive somewhere! Ah, the convenience of modern technology!

Except one fatal flaw: Bubble Bobble Neo! is totally broken. In the worst way possible.

The new graphics are ok, but really lose the charm of the 8-bit sprites

Bubble Bobble (the original) was not an easy game, and at parts it wasn't a fair game. It was meant to lure you in with its cute and easy first couple levels, thinking your quarter was well spent, and then swiftly punches you in the face as the levels get trickier and harder. The general gist of the game is that you play a dinosaur that burps bubbles. With these bubbles (of which you can burp lots) you can use them to trap enemies, make small floating platforms to jump off of, and...that's basically it. The simple mechanic of making temporary platforms and jumping off them is pretty basic, but Bubble Bobble did a fine enough job of taking that and making a decent arcade game around it, designed to suck your money away.The problem is this: they designed every single level around a specific control scheme. One Bubble Bobble Neo! completely and utterly breaks.

One main mechanic is the fact you have to have a slight range to burp out a bubble. If you burp it too close to a wall, it'll pop instantly. This distance comes into play in some levels, where you are put into a very small box with just barely enough room to get out. In the original game, with better bubble and horizontal controls, you could tap to simply turn around and not move. This made things a lot easier.

Not so in Neo!

In this version, tapping an opposite direction also moves the character, which would be fine except there is only just enough space in the box that, with Neo!'s new mechanics, a bubble will work. Which means you can't ever just turn around without moving. Which makes it essentially near-impossible.

This isn't the level, but searching for Level 72 and you'll find plenty of irate fans.

I know it sounds like a little thing, but when you design the entire game around a system and then don't bother to adapt the levels when you change the freaking controls and mechanics, it just straight up doesn't work. To say it's frustrating would be a huge understatement: it's completely and utterly maddening. How could they let this happen? Are they complete idiots?To make matters worse, this is an arcade game designed to eat quarters, but it gives you a limited number of lives and continues and often drops you off a few floors back. Seriously? Are you being dead serious with me here? I paid $10 for this game and you limit my continues? Wasn't the point of lives to begin with to suck quarters out of people so they could earn more money? You already have my freaking money. Plus, technically this means I have less freedom than the arcade, because in an Arcade I could just pump quarters in and never stop. When you hit a Continue screen in Bubble Bobble Neo! (which, thankfully, you have unlimited continues at least) it drops you back. Freaking crap. I should have infinite lives at all times and no continues, or at least the option for infinite lives. And if both me and a partner die we should just keep going, not have to Continue. I don't want to bag on Japanese game design, but this is total and utter garbage in this day and age, and I find it completely unacceptable. Paired with the piss-poor, uncaring control changes, I can't help but be completely infuriated at this game.

No amount of bubble-burping will ease my pain in this.

As for content, there is still a hefty amount here. You have several levels including the original arcade and a few other full modes, complete with secrets and warps to uncover and find. As a bonus you can play the game with four players (if you hate that many people) which turns a somewhat precise arcade game into total madness, which actually works a lot better. Though when you get stuck (and you will get stuck) you have four pissed off people rather than just one, but at least having more bubbles makes the game a bit easier.Actually, now that I think about it, it was when we were just having complete madness that I enjoyed the game the most. My wife and I actually beat the original mode, after having to YouTube half the solutions for this "improved" version, and then replayed about half of it with two other friends. It was stupid fun, and I glean some legitimate enjoyment from it. I then put the game down and never played it ever again, because it still sucked, but hey...something positive I guess.

It still has that perfect blend of competition and co-op while playing multiplayer that makes it fun. Sort of.

Graphically it looks...decent. The updated the pixel art to low-rez sprites (much like TMNT: Turtles in Time Reshelled...isn't that an apt comparison?) which are ok and still maintain most of the charm, but ultimately didn't really do it for me. The updated music is really good at least, sounding modern while still retaining its original silliness. An option to switch back to the original graphics (or controls, gosh dang it) would have gone a long way in making this game work better for me, but sadly that is not the case. Also, as the stages were originally designed in 4:3, all the widescreen bits just add boring padding on either side. Snore.

Bubble Armageddon!

Before I hit the conclusion let me say this: Despite those levels where the game is completely and utterly broken, the rest of the game plays almost identical to the original version. It's still a fun, arcade style romp that you may or may not have fond memories of, and the majority of the levels still work decently despite the stupid control changes. It's just those few where everything goes horribly wrong that the irritation really sets in, and you wonder if anybody actually playtested this game past the first 50 levels. Maybe it was too hard for them or something. I guess that makes sense.Anyway, point being this: you are better off getting a copy of Bubble Bobble on the NES for a few bucks more and just playing that. Or going to an arcade, spending a few quarters, and getting your fix there. Or pretty much anything else aside from this version. Sure, you'll have a decent amount of fun for a while, but once the massive problems start showing up (or if you want to, I dunno, ever beat the game) than the game becomes total garbage. It's too bad, seeing as all they had to do was basically re-release the original Bubble Bobble with the "enhanced" graphics and it would have worked. Just goes to show: don't try and "fix" something that doesn't need fixing.

Which reminds me I have a Silent Hill HD Collection review to get to. But that's for another time.

If you absolutely can't live without Bubble Bobble in your life and have no other options, I guess you gotta roll with Neo! But if not, pass it up. There was no care put into this product, and it shows.

Two out of five stars.

The game developers, after realizing they duped everybody into buying their "enhanced" version.

More at http://nathanvsvideogames.blogspot.com

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