(Clu Clu Land, October 1985, Nintendo)
Now here is an strange one. This is one you'll either love to death and spend quality time daydreaming about how to conquer the next level or you're going to throw this sumbitch right off a balcony and never think twice about it. Either way, let's dig into this oddball Black Boxer, Clu Clu Land!
Most of the early games have this sort of black title screen.
Let's start with the box art. If you were a strapping young lad wishing to rent a new game, what the holy shitstain would you even think this one is about if you hadn't seen it in the arcades prior? It looks like two Rupees in between a fried egg on the left and a first year graphic designer's interpretation of Mr.Krabs holding a fried egg balanced Rupee while mentally talking to Professor Xavier via 1960's psychic wave drawings on the right. In other words, no fucking clue what is going on on the box.
Unlike the US version, the Famicom box art perfectly illustrates everything you need to know before popping it in.
Onto the meaty part of the burger. You're a fish named Bubbles trying to collect coins while avoiding the Unira, a nasty type of sea urchin. Without the game manual, I wouldn't have clue one that this was even a fish. She's fairly badass in her own way because she has these extendable arms with claws that grab onto poles and turn however you grabbed them via momentum. Black holes can suck you in and bounce walls will send you eyeballs first to your doom but your main enemy in this game? The fucking timer. That's right, you thought 8-1 of Mario forced you to haul ass through a level? This game is brutal with it's timer and even if you die, the fucker doesn't reset! Up the ass with Mobil gas I say! It's biggest comparison would be Pac-Man but in reverse. Imagine Pac-Man's mazes but instead of grabbing the power pellets, you need to uncover them while incapacitating the Unira. That's the whole of it. Recover all the coins of a level (which usually creates a picture of some sort) and you move onto the next stage.
We all live in a yellow submarine...
Graphics are nice and bright as they are in most of the launch games. There is never so much going on that you lose track of Bubbles and the Unira don't blend in to the background in any way that would lead to cheap fishy-death. The sound is my favorite part about the game as it presents some catchy bittunes that really get you bobbing in your seat like a kid again.
One red, one green? Hmm, familiar 2 player color scheme there!
Bad news for those hoping for two straight 10 scores, these controls are the drizzling shits. I spent almost 90 minutes playing through and still had trouble making a simple left turn at times. The timer is a bitch and in some levels Bubbles moves normally, and some she smokes a fat bag of crank right before the level starts, so the pacing seems screwy. It looks simple enough becomes an untamed whoredoggie to say the least. The "sound wave" she shoots always hits it's mark but ramming the Unira into the wall to kill them can take way too much valuable time. In other difficulty news, this becomes impossible around level 12, as you have to go over the coins twice to reveal them. I like impossible so stuck with it and was rewarded by having levels where if you uncovered the coin, you couldn't touch it again or it flipped over and didn't count. SADISTS!
Is this Bubbles or Meatwad from ATHF?
THE FINAL VERDICT
6/10 This really wasn't a bad game at all. The controls have a high learning curve and can run you ragged, but it wasn't Kid Kool or anything (shudder). At times it was very addicting and you get a real sense of accomplishment when you uncover the picture of the level.
Bubbles seems like she should've been more popular than she was. Cute as hell and just what NES fans seemed to love in their characters.
Those wondering what may have happened to Bubbles, she has popped up over the years in various places. The most well-known would be as a trophy in SSBM, but fuck, everyone from the Black Box era is represented there so no big suprise. Her most prominent role since Clu Clu Land was as a hidden character in the GBA game Donkey Kong : King Of Swing. Along with Ms. Pac-Man, she would be also be one of the first female starring roles in early gaming which makes me wonder why more people don't know about this game? Oh yeah, goddamned box art.
I'll just say it, BRING BACK BUBBLES!!!