Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
It’s sad to see what’s happened to Bubble Bobble in recent years, whether it’s the descent into match-3 blandness, or the absolutely atrocious remakes that farted their way onto Nintendo DS. But the original was a wonder, released in 1986 and since ported to every platform ever.
It was of course a precursor to the more forgotten but absolutely fantastic Rainbow Islands, where heroes Bub and Bob had finally shed their dragon form to be cherub-faced young boys once again. But theirs is a fate to always return to their scaly origins.
I remember so many, many hours sat at the kitchen counter, playing on my dad’s Atari ST before he got back from work (and would take over to play grown up games like Dungeon Master and Civilisation), desperately trying to get farther through the game than before. My best chances of this were when my friend Alastair Caple would come over too, as the two-player mode afforded a lot more opportunities to survive. And one day, ONE DAY, we would get past level 60-something.
Why the difficulty? Because our copy of Bubble Bobble was on a hand-scrawled floppy disc, that might not have been purchased from a shop. You cant’ arrest me officer, I was 9. And my dad’s dead, so good luck getting a confession out of him. But it seemed that somewhere in the piracy of the game, it introduced a bug that meant it always crashed on a particular level in the 60s.
The dream was getting an umbrella at just the right moment, such that we would skip past the bugged level, and move beyond. It never happened. I’ll never know if it would have worked. But damn did we try.