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Released: 1987

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Ultimate

Developer: US GOld

Submitted by: Ian Marks

It’s always sad to see the decline of a great games company, particularly one as great as Ultimate – a company I revered all through my childhood… heck I still play Jetpac, Jetman and Knight Lore to this day. It is a sad fact though that Bubbler (along with Martianoids) really is the final nail in the coffin of Ultimate Play the Game.

Let’s look on the bright side though, because it wasn’t really Ultimate was it, it was just US Gold under a pseudonym. All the good programmers (including the Stampers) had gone off to form Rare and write NES games. But sadly it used the Ultimate name, and is still a stain on the great companies history.

If you’ve never played Bubbler, you will want to know what is wrong with it. Quite a lot is the answer.

Firstly it is a Marble Madness clone, on a computer already blessed with two brilliant ones (Gyroscope and Bobby Bearing). Secondly it isn’t a very good Marble Madness clone.

The screen size is tiny – about a quarter of the screen is the play area, the rest being oversized score boards and direction indicators. These direction indicators also point towards the next major problem with Bubbler, the control system. It is not just bad, it is almost impossibly bad. You have to rotate your bubble, and then move forward in that direction. Sadly a bubble looks the same whatever direction it is pointing, so you have to rely on looking at the direction arrow to see which way it will go. It just isn’t intuitive and leads to you constantly falling off ledges or crashing into enemies.

The graphics aren’t bad, even if they are not up to the old Ultimate standards. The game scrolls smoothly and quickly, and the character design of the enemies is not bad. Sound effects are ok, but nothing spectacular.

To me it has the feel of a budget release, a Mastertronic or Firebird game, and at £1.99 it would probably be acceptable. At just under ten pounds though and sporting the hallowed Ultimate label, it just wasn’t anywhere near good enough.