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Bubble and Squeak

Genre: Platformer: Developer: Fox Williams Publisher: Sunsoft Players: 1 Released: 1994

My first look at Bubble and Squeak came in a Sega magazine shortly before its release in 1994. It didn’t interest me at the time but as is often the way, a friend ended up owning it and I ended up playing it. It is a puzzle/platformer where you control a boy named Bubble who has to guide his blue-alien-monkey friend Squeak get to the end of each stage. It is perhaps best compared to the Lost Vikings except that you only ever control one character.

At first glance, Bubble and Squeak appears to be yet another colourful ’90s platformer. The Genesis and Amiga box art even has some of that painful “attititude” imagery gamers saw far too much of thanks to Bart Simpson and Sonic, among others. Despite appearances, this is one of those very cute games that is far deeper than it looks.

You start off with Bubble alone. He can jump, shoot stars and collect gems and coins. This all changes near the end of the short first level when you meet Squeak. From then on, the true nature of the game becomes clear. Squeak moves himself (and quite well). He can jump (though not quite as high as Bubble) and is luckily immune to enemy attacks and not prone to falling off platforms. He can help Bubble by throwing him to higher levels and can get some other powers from gum ball machines. Bubble can command him to follow and wait and also give him a kick to send him up ramps to otherwise unreachable areas. The goal is to get both characters to the end of level which looks like a barber pole.

The platforming mechanics of the game are very easy to grasp and the puzzle aspect are mostly paced so that you have usually mastered new abilities before a different scenario requires new thinking. The game does have a sense of urgency about it though. Right from the first level you can see water at the bottom area of the level. In some stages you have to act immediately before Squeak drowns. You usually have plenty of time to avoid the water but as levels get more complicated, the rising water will become a much bigger issue. Like most games in the genre, it will often come down to a lot of trial and error and players will sometimes just have to scout out the level, plan and start again to move on.

In between levels there are shooter stages you can earn by finding a submarine icon. These stages give you bonuses and add a little variety to the game. In replaying the game, I never had much interest in finding the icon and usually desired to go on with the main game.

Bubble and Squeak in a very colourful game but after getting a few levels in, you will find that there is very little variety and the levels get old fast (there are only five or so unique areas). Once you go through once, it is doubtful you’ll want to play on a higher difficulty level and there really isn’t much else to see or do. The characters (even the enemies) are mostly very cute with little worms and ducks with baseball bats out to get you. The problem is mostly with the lack of detail in each environment. I have similar issues with the music which I enjoyed a lot at first but gets old due to repetition.

Apart from a few issues with variety, I have little to complain about. It is a fairly unique platformer but not so unique that you would necessarily go back and play it today. Although I played through it very quickly when it was new, it was unable to keep my attention today. Its certainly long and challenging enough, it just doesn’t have the same appeal today as so many other Genesis titles. So overall, if you enjoy puzzle/platforming or even just platforming, there is fun to be had here but I doubt you’ll be playing it again or recommending it to anyone. The one extra thing I can say in its defense is that it so easily could have been a simplistic platformer and probably had the same appeal. At the very least I can appreciate the spark of originality.

SCORE: 7 out of 10

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