The inhabitants of the ancient city of Irkon have long been enslaved by the wizard tyrant, Vadra. To further fasten his grip about them he has now created magical bottles - bubblers - which blow mutant-releasing bubbles.
Long ago you spoke out against Vadra, and as a result were imprisoned and converted into an immobile blob. Kintor, one time assistant to Vadra, eventually joins you. Using magical powers, Kintor endows you with temporary movement and the ability to fire lethal energy. Now you have the means to overthrow the evil warlock.
The bubblers are plugged by use of magic corks, automatically collected when you pass through one of the prison's trapdoors. However, some trapdoors are corkless, and entering them leads only to death. With each bottle corked Vadra's power diminishes, and consequently Kintor's increases.
Trapdoors and bottles are found by moving along and through the prison's 3D system of platforms; towers and slopes. You can move forward in a direction defined by rotation to the right or left, and can move up slopes, roll down them under the pull of gravity, jump and catch hoists to higher structures. All manoeuvres must be precise in order to remain on the platforms and pathways, and thus avoid plunging to your death.
As you progress, prison denizens are released from flashing patches around the dungeon, these may kill you outright or try to push you off ledges - other hazards to look out for are weapons towers which fire accurate bursts of energy, and spikes which position themselves underneath as you plummet from a platform. Mystery bubbles are also blown from the bubblers, when popped these release bonus points, alarm clocks (for extra time), extra lives, or bombs. Sharp objects pierce your delicate skin and burst you, if any of your five lives are remaining reincarnation occurs near the killing point.
A time limit is set for the task and should it run out a life is lost. However, time is restored with every new life or corking of a bottle, and increased by collecting alarm clocks. The score, compass, time and lives remaining are displayed at the top and bottom of the screen.
Control keys: Z C B M left, X V N SYMBOL SHIFT right, A S D F forward, W R Y I P fire, Q E T U O jump
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Use of colour: monochromatic playing area
Graphics: smooth multi-directional scrolling and excellent character definition
Sound: a reasonable title tune, jam-packed with FX
Skill levels: one
Screens: five scrolling landscapes
'Once Ultimate was on a pedestal above all other software companies. Each release saw their cult following fill computer shops all over the country - everybody wanting to see just how far the ACG team had pushed the Spectrum this time. Sadly those glorious times are long since gone, and the once-great company now blends in unremarkably with the rest of the market. Bubbler breaks no new ground. The superbly animated graphics are very appealing, but the 3D perspective isn't as convincing as that used in previous Ultimate products and the scenery appears disjointed. Those that can master the awkward control method may find a rewarding game, but I'm left with a slight feeling of disappointment.'
'I've tried really hard to like this, but the lack of playability destroys the effect created by the more enjoyable elements. Like previous ultimate offerings, Bubbler uses the 'turn and walk' directional control which may have been fine before but with the addition of inertia and leaping it becomes very imprecise. The compass at the bottom of the screen also confuses matters.'
'After a fair amount of practice, Bubbler has turned out to be one of the most playable Marble Madness type games we've seen. The graphics are superb, with well animated characters and pretty landscapes which scroll excellently - the title screen is impressive too. The control method is a horrible rotate left or right job, and because of this it takes a while to get used to the game's workings - however, I'd recommend this as it's a slick piece of playable programming.'
Once upon a time, in a magical world called 3D Filmation, a brave adventurer called Ultimate set out on a mystic quest into the land of Mysterious Happenings And Dodgy Deals, where he was eaten alive by US Gold. Nothing was heard from Ultimate for many moons. Then, one day ...
Ahem. Sorry about that. Ultimate, after spending many moons in its Leicestershire hidey hole, has brought out a game that's, well, Ultimatish, if you get my drift. Bubbler's realy a cross between Bobby Bearing - itself an Ultimate-cum-Marble Madness derivative - and, well, soap bubbles!
Y'see, you control a little bubble, and you move it in the usual Ultimate way - forwards, backwards, left or right on a 3D grid. The graphics are wonderful, with a similar screen layout to Martianoids - the game in the middle, the info on the outside. Naturally there are no game instructions, just a list of the usual 'features' (3D scenario, cork display, automatic collection feature and so on and so forth) that we always seem to get with Ultimate games. Obviously, I thought to myself, the idea is to collect things, so off I went.
I soon found out that it's remarkably easy to die, and after my fifteenth death I decided to do something about it. In short, I went totally psychopathic and started shooting anything in sight. This worked, and the nasties didn't kill me - they barely had the time! But I was so absorbed with killing them that I forgot where I was going and fell off, and had to restart the game!
Movement and scenario are typically Ultimate, and the music is as lively as you'd expect. What's more, the graphics are excellent, every inch what you'd expect from a company with a reputation like Ultimate's. Still, it's not as good as its previous games, and the few people who haven't given up hoping that the company will produce another winner of the standard of Sabre Wulf, Knightlore or Alien 8 will be disappointed. Let's hope Ultimate does return again to its original form soon.
Ultimate's return: Phase 2. I hated Bubbler when I first loaded it. It had a naff title screen which is often a sure sign of grottyness and it looks like a cross between Amaurote and Marble Madness.
It's also played on a small playing area which occupies less than half the screen - this presumably saves on screen memory but is damn irritating. Pretty soon games are going to have all the action going on in a tiny postage stamp-sized hole in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.
But when I started playing I changed my mind a bit.
Bubbler isn't particularly easy to describe. Imagine a vaguely Marble Madness-esque landscape where variously sized flat areas are interlinked by thin slopes and dips along which you - a bubble (surprisingly like a ball really) can carefully roll or indeed, fall off. Here and there are holes, linked by drainpipe chute arrangements to other sections of the landscape. There are a large number of things zipping at you and some particularly unpleasant bouncing crabs which land on top of you at crucial moments. And more - the air is filled with other bubbles which variously drop bombs, drop corks, offer bonus points or bonus time or extra lives and increase your ability to bounce higher.
The plot involves getting corks and using them to put stoppers in five poison bottles from which all the unpleasant objects are being released. In the unlikely event that you manage to put a stopper in all five bottles in a particular level you are allowed to exit to the next level for more of the same.
This game is difficult!
It's possibly the most difficult Ultimate game to play initially since Lunar Jetman. You'll die and die again and, as ever, there are no instructions of any use whatsoever to help you.
A large part of the difficulty of the game is figuring out how to steer your stupid bubble - it uses directional movement controls like Knight Lore eg Left and Right on the joystick turns you clockwise or anticlockwise. Up moves you forward and Down makes you bounce. This means, for example, that to bounce forward you have to pull the joystick backwards and then push it forwards. If your joystick is a smidgen dodgy you may find that during this process you also manage to head off in the wrong direction because of spurious left and right joystick messages.
Another bizarre aspect of this directional stuff is that, since the bubble doesn't have a discernible 'front', Ultimate has had to include a direction wheel icon which tells you what way you are facing. All in all I can't help thinking Ultimate could have saved everybody a lot of misery by using some other kind of movement system.
These complaints aside there is something very addictive about this game. Just as you're about to give up entirely you succeed in getting a cork on a bottle and well, you just have to have one more go...
You start to develop different techniques. Bouncing up and down on the spot where it's safe to get a cork. Staying away from sheer drops. Being accurate about direction controls. And learning how to leap on to the top of a bottle without falling down into the sheer drop on the other side.
I still haven't been able to get very far with it though... By that you can assume there's lots of playing time in this before you get anywhere near finishing it.
This isn't one of Ultimate's most original efforts. It doesn't even look that good (no better than a dozen other rolling ball games). But it is addictive and you will want to play it.
Pretty soon I'm sure people will be pleading for Pokes and tips from Jon Riglar.
And that's got to be a good sign.
Label: US Gold
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
PRICE: £8.00 (Spectrum)/(£9.99)/Amstrad/MSX
VERSION TESTED: Amstrad/Spectrum
Quite honestly I'm at a loss. Mystified. Confused. Stumped. How the hell do you get off the first screen of this game?
Since the latest offering from the tight-lipped mystery men from Ashby de la Zouch arrived in the office, I've kept returning to it every few days. And I get absolutely nowhere. I've watched other people try to play it. And guess what? I've still not seen anything other then the opening screen.
There a whole new game lurking in my computer but I can't find it. So this "review" will tell you the game's about and what happens on the first screen.
The evil wizard Vadra controls the ancient city of Irkon. The inhabitants have been imprisoned and you have been turned into a blob. Huge bottles have been constructed which ooze bubbles - which turn into strange mutant creatures, Hence the title Bubbler.
But life's not all bad for you as a blob. You can move and spit fire globules at your foe.
Around the city are magic corks, hidden under trapdoors. Find all these corks, to bung in the bubblers and Vadra's powers will be ended.
The game is - as far as I can judge - like Marble Madness and Spindizzy to look at, all ramps, causeways and platforms over which you must guide the blob. The starting point of the game is a platform with what appear to be two exit ramps, up which you must travel to exit the location. The trouble was that I just couldn't get any control over the blob. It seemed to have a mind of its own and a sense of direction which kept taking it off the platform and into the black void beneath. Losing lives as quick as I did meant Game Over coming up with tedious regularity. I did actually manage to get halfway up each ramp but just couldn't make it to the top. Very frustrating.
Meanwhile a strange array of creatures floated through the screen including crabs, mystery bubbles and various spinning objects.
Bubbler looks nice, sounds intriguing and is certainly challenging.
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