It's easy for retro gamers to put on their rose-tinted glasses and claim that old games were 'better' than their modern counterparts.
Most of the time, this isn't true, of course. There are just as many old rubbish games as there are new rubbish games, even if we don't remember it that way.
There are some classics though that will likely still be played decades on from now. Games like Tetris, Pac-Man, Bomberman and, yes, Bubble Bobble, which since its 1986 arcade debut has appeared on just about every console and home computer.
Here's a quick recap. Bubble Bobble is a 2D platform game starring two cute dragons – Bub and Bob – who enter the Cave of Monsters to look for their kidnapped girlfriends.
The caves are filled with enemies out to stop our intrepid scaly heroes. You'd think, being dragons, that Bub and Bob would breathe fiery death at their adversaries, but no. They shoot bubbles at them, which encase enemies, and then jump on top to burst them, collecting the fruit that appears as a result. When all enemies on a level are cleared, you move on to the next one.
The genius of Bubble Bobble is in the detail. The initial levels are easy enough, but playing for maximum points requires constantly changing strategies and not a little thought – for example figuring out how to pop many enemies in one go.
There's a variety of power-ups to help you out, such as Water, Lava and Lightning bubbles to wipe out enemies faster. There's seven types of enemy, and they all behave differently. Oh, and there's a time limit on some levels too.
The intuitive and simple controls and the frantic nature of the game have always made Bubble Bobble a pleasure to play, but how's this mobile version?
Well, it's clear that a lot of love has gone into it, with easily navigable menus and a helpful, ahem, help section. Graphically, the charm of the original character design is retained, and the screens are well-drawn. Everything moves smoothly, even when the number of enemies ramps up, and with 100 levels, it'll take a while to get through them all. And neatly, the game always allows you to continue play from any level you've previously cleared.
So far, so good, but there are some potential bubble bursters. Veterans of the original will miss the two-player mode, which has been left out of this mobile version at least, leaving you to only play as Bub the green dragon. Perhaps next time.
Also, on our review K750i handset the levels are too big to fit on the screen, so there's a limited amount of scrolling while you play. We assume Taito chose this route to ensure that the characters were big enough to be identifiable, but it creates problems. You can't see the top of the level, so if you fall through a hole at the bottom, to reappear at the top, there's a chance you'll land on an enemy who you didn't know was there.
Finally, the controls make it a little difficult to use bubbles to bounce your way to higher platforms – an important tactic in the original. We found this to be a bit fiddly on mobile, which can make some of the later levels a bit tricky.
Overall, though, this is a great port of a deceptively simple game, full of charm, bright colourful graphics, and that elusive 'fun' quality. It's clearly had some thought put into how users will experience it on their phones, and it's perfect for short bursts of play on the bus, or extended sessions at home.
Not all old games are good games, but a select few are so good they seem able to transcend time. Bubble Bobble largely achieves this lofty goal. Give it a go. You won't be disappointed.