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Bugaboo The Flea

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Released: 1983

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Quicksilver

Developer: Paco & Paco

Submitted by: Retro Gamer

When John Donne wrote, ‘Mark but this flea, and mark in this, how little that which thou deniest me is; It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee,’ was he referring to Bugaboo, the star of this unique Spectrum title? No, because he was a 17th Century poet using rhyming couplets to try to get into his mistress’s knickers. However, his words were strangely prescient, as Bugaboo sucked many hours of my young life while denying me any reward for my efforts.

The premise was beautifully simple: help Bugaboo escape from the depths of an alien cave system by jumping upward from ledge to ledge towards the surface and freedom. The strength of your skip was determined by how long you held down left or right, allowing much subtlety from the two-key control system. It also led to frequent leaps of faith and many frustrating tumbles downward.

Things would have been tough enough even without the roaming dragon that invariably gobbled up poor Bugaboo when he was but a hop away from success. It remains one of the Speccy’s sternest tests, yet there was something about the flea that made you persist, experimenting with new routes and strategies.

Our featured map is from the original Spectrum game, courtesy of Dean from project64.c64.org, though I actually spent my hours failing on the Commodore 64 version, which added a little faux-3D to the visuals and made them look especially unearthly. I am also contractually bound by my editor to mention the Amstrad port, rebranded as Roland In The Caves, which our Darran describes as “vastly superior” in his usual non-partisan manner. Whichever version ‘sucks thee’, I hope you make it out alive. Then tell me how.

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