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Dossiers > Articles and Reviews in English > Games > [ENG] Bubble Rain (Imanok, 2001)

[ENG] Bubble Rain (Imanok, 2001)

Reviewed in January 2003

The Story:
A long time ago, two brave dragons called Bub and Bob expelled from their world the monsters that threatened their existence. From that day, the magic book protected their lives from new dangers and they lived a period of happiness, peace and prosperity.

Unfortunately the magic book has been stolen and thousands of monsters are coming from the outer space, penetrating the atmosphere into protecting bubbles. Bub and Bob are the only hope to save their world from that new menace.

Your mission consists on helping them to destroy all the bubbles and finding its origin to get the magic book back. For managing this difficult mission they'll have to make a hard and long way from their country to Rahasa desert, where the Tower of Belba raises. As the legend says, "...The one who dares climb to the top of the Tower of Belba will manage to reach the stars..." and is there where the magic book is supposed to be now.

Will you be able to succeed in this difficult mission?

The Review:
You have probably already guessed what Bubble Rain is all about when looking at the screenshots on this page but it might be useful to look at the history of the two dragons first. Bub and Bob are the two famous characters that first appeared in 1986 in Taito's Bubble Bobble, in which you had to guide the two dragons through various puzzles and at last, eventually save their girlfriend. Bubble Bobble was in fact released on almost all home computers of the time (including MSX of course) and led to numerous sequels such as Rainbow Islands, Parasol Stars or Bubble Symphony. One predecessor to the game, also released by Taito and probably better known on MSX is Chak'n'pop.

Ultimately Bubble Bobble led to Puzzle Bobble, a simple but yet very entertaining game resembling to a kind of upside-down Connect 4, where the aim is to connect more than two balls of similar color together so they explode and allows you to clear the screen. Only when the screen fills up and when a placed ball goes beneath the bottom play line, a player looses. As you can see a very simple concept that led to another five sequels released by Taito on PC, Playstation, Saturn or for example Gameboy...

Bubble Bobble for the MSX never made it further than the initial release, at least until 2001 when at last Bub and Bob re-appeared in Bubble Rain thanks to Imanok, a Puzzle Bobble clone. Behind the game and development are David Fernandez for the coding (in Nestorbasic), graphics, sound FX, disklabel, manual design and Manuel Dopico (DOP) for the various music's.


Left: Music Mode menu; Right: Level 1

If you are familiar with Puzzle Bobble or other clones (e.g. Snood), the first thing that will strike you when you launch Bubble Rain for the first time is that it does not support 2 player mode. Even if you have to play the game alone, there is enough entertainment to keep you going for hours. The game is composed by 8 different worlds which are divided each into 8 different stages. At the end of each world, a special password is given so you don't have to start over from scratch each time you start Bubble Rain, which is nice as it could take you ages before completing all 64 levels! Controlling the game is very easy, you aim the direction you want to throw the ball to by using the left/right keys and action your launcher with the spacebar. To pause, just hit F1.

Scoring depends on the number of bubbles that burst at once, 100 points for each ball and an additional 200 points per ball if you manage to make vanish one or more balls of a different color. If you are fast enough in clearing the field, you will get a special bonus up to 10,000 points.


left: Retry level; Right: High-Scores

The MSX 'conversion' in itself is well made. The game runs smoothly, each level comes with a different background (not the most extraordinary ones, but they are fine) and the one thing that is absolutely terrific is the music. It is just fantastic! The tunes are very enjoyable and diversified. As with most recent games, you need Moonsound or FM-Pac to be able to listen to it. In the main menu you have the possibility to select 'Music' and so you can relax yourself without playing and listen to the various tunes while doing other things. However the music only works with an internal FM-Pac installed on your computer (most MSX2+ have it, and all Turbo-Rs). An external FM-Pac cartridge will not work, due to a "bug" with Nestorbasic that is not able to initialise it. Imanok is currently working on a patch that will be released soon and should fix this problem (will be available on their site).



Some photos taken from a TV, courtesy of ag0ny (aamsx.org)

A few words about the game play to finish this review. Although each game is different, all in all the play is quite repetitive even though each new level brings one more colored ball to add some extra difficulty. There are no special options that you can make use of, which would have been a nice addition. Also, having played a lot another Puzzle Bobble clone - Snood (PC & Mac) - there is one thing that is very frustrating: you are not able to throw a ball through an empty 'corridor' of balls meaning it will just stick to the first ball it will touch. This is an extra difficulty to take into account but if you never played other clones of this game, you won't notice the frustration. A very last thing, there is a high-score table and since Bubble Rain comes on a single 720Kb disk, your high-scores are saved (you can erase them through MSX Basic if you wish). Also there is a possibility to retry a level you failed at so you don't have to start it all over again (nb: the passwords are only given each time you reach the beginning of a new world).

I bought my copy at the MSX Fair in Tilburg (MSX-NBNO stand) - and if you want to order the game, the best is to contact Imanok. A limited demo version is available here.

Pros:

  • Famous game, concept is all-time classic
  • Very addictive
  • Fantastic music
  • Inexpensive for such quality game


Cons:

  • Moonsound, FM-Pac needed for music. External FM-Pac bug on MSX2 computers.
  • No 2-players mode
  • Sliding through empty 'corridors' not implemented.


Game Specifications:
MSX2, MSX2+, MSX Turbo-R
FM-Pac, Moonsound or Music Module required to listen music.

Where to get if from:
Imanok, Free Demo for download. To buy the full game (9 Euros excluding shipping), contact David Fernandez or MSX-NBNO.


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