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"Gubble 2 is a puzzle game for the PC. The title character, Gubble D. Gleep, has become a wild and crazy teenager! In Gubble 2, 124 all-new zymbots ("levels" to you Earthlings) will challenge your brain while making you laugh. Gubble 2 features all new tools, all new enemies and even includes a level editor."
In this sequel to the 1996 puzzle game Gubble, you guide a cheery purple alien through multiple puzzles, each one with a slightly different goal -- to unscrew nuts and bolts, get around enemies, navigate barriers, or reach a waypoint, for example. It's an action puzzle game with emphasis on play that's fun, addictive and relatively non-violent -- but you won't find it at your local software giant. Instead, Gubble 2 is directly distributed by Actual Entertainment; you can find information on their Web site.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Gubble navigates the zymbots of his world in various ways. Most of the time he walks, jumps and ducks, but there are a number of other options depending on the zymbot -- he can use power packs to fly short distances, jump on various floating tools to pilot them around, move through transporters, even transfer his essence to crystal balls. In most of the zymbots, Gubble also has to avoid enemies who thwart his efforts by dropping bombs, spouting poisonous gases, or just plain crashing into him. Yes, it's possible to "die" in this game, but don't take this to mean blood and gore -- it's more along the lines of the old Mario Bros. titles. Gubble makes little "ow" noises as he takes damage; when he's had enough punishment, he slumps on his back and the game is over. (The game automatically saves to the last zymbot you've completed.) I can't think of anything parents might find offensive about the gameplay in Gubble 2.
The controls are quite intuitive once you get used to them. Gubble is subject to the universal laws of motion -- once he starts going a particular direction, he'll keep moving that way until you or something else stops him. Get used to the Duck feature to make him stop, or you'll go nuts trying to move the little guy around tight corners. There are also a few zymbots in the game which require split-second timing to master -- and I with my less-than-perfect reflexes had some difficulty getting through these. On the whole, though, if you have even basic hand-eye coordination you shouldn't find it that difficult to control your character.
As far as the actual puzzles go, they run the gamut from very simple to devilishly difficult. Gubble 2 offers at least two challenges in each puzzle -- simple arcade "twitch skills" and critical thinking skills. While you bob and weave to avoid dangers, you're also looking over the structure of the puzzle to understand the objective and how to achieve it. For me, this was the most attractive feature of the game. Additionally, for those who just can't get enough zymbots, Gubble 2 ships with a level editor called ZymEdit which allows players to create their own rough puzzles.
The interface is what you'd expect of a puzzle game, simple and straightforward. You can control Gubble via the keyboard, or use a joystick or gamepad. The default keyboard setup is simple and intuitive -- arrow keys to move, space bar to jump, etc. -- but if anything feels awkward, you can configure the settings to your liking.
Standard graphics at 640x480 resolution -- no 3D card is necessary here. The brightly-colored alien landscapes of each level are attractive eye candy, reminiscent of arcade games of the early '90s -- no eye-popping water effects or motion-capture technology, but they aren't necessary in a game like this.
I did notice that once I quit the game and returned to Windows 95, I'd get weird visual glitches every now and then until I powered down -- nothing that should interfere with computer use, but a little annoying. I've noticed that a number of games which make use of DirectX drivers will do the same thing.
Gubble is a chattery little guy -- throughout the game, he makes frequent comments in high-pitched alien gibberish. Imagine a perky Jawa on a whole lot of caffeine, and you'll get the general idea. Other noises of enemy creatures, cannons firing, machinery working and so forth are adequate, but not particularly notable.
The background MIDI music, while bouncy and suitable for the arcade-like feel of the game, began to get on my nerves after a while. Luckily, both voice audio and background music can be turned off from the main menu.
Pentium-90, Windows 95/98, 16 MB RAM, 24 MB free hard drive space (156 MB for full installation), CD-ROM drive, DirectDraw-compatible video card and monitor (640x480 resolution), DirectX-compatible sound card. Supports gamepad or joystick.
Gubble 2 offers the sparest printed documentation I've ever seen -- a fold-over insert in the jewel case with basic installation instructions, system requirements, how to access the electronic user's manual, and contact information for Actual Entertainment. I would expect this from shareware or a beta copy, but not a finished product from an established game developer. Come on, people, is it really that much more expensive to slip a black-and-white text manual in with the game?
Despite all the bells and whistles available these days, a game is still only as good as its basic fun factor. On this point, Gubble 2 delivers -- it is fun, addictive old-school action/puzzle gameplay at its best, a great little time-waster that should appeal to both kids and adults. Unlike some other titles I've reviewed recently, Gubble 2 will stay on my hard drive for some time to come. It may not appeal to hard-core action fans or RPG junkies, and it doesn't break any technological boundaries, but it does score a solid 85 for fun and enjoyment.