Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bobby Bearing (C64, 1986)

This time around you're a metallic ball named Bobby Bearing. Sadly, your four brothers have gone missing in the Metaplanes and you have to go and save them. That was the plot done with, so let's move on to the game. Take a look at the screenshots. That's right, it's a Marble Madness variant and it bears more than a passing resemblance to Spindizzy. And honestly, it does play like something in between these two games.

But first things first. You won't get far in this without a map. So either you make one, or you download one - here's one published in Zzap aeons ago (thanks Dohi). Now, when you start playing this you'll probably think that it's a bit pointless and there's not much happening. It's true. As you wander round the 3D landscape trying to locate your brother balls, your only worries is trying to avoid moving-blocks (that can crush you), and not getting lost. So you do need that map. All the while, it's not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the tricky elements of this 3D world, like lifts - usually activated by floor switches, air ducts that lift you off the ground, enemy balls, magnets that can trap you temporarily etc.

The game really comes into it's own when you do find one of your brothers and you have to guide him to safety, aka to the start of the game - which is also the exit. Suddenly, it's not so straightforward choosing which route to take. Say, what do you do when you're at some crossroads of passages? You might just have to leave your brother there in the middle - with some block moving threateningly towards him, while you take some other road and join back the room where you left him from the opposite side so that you can push him and move on. All of a sudden, what seemed like a pointless exploration game turns to an intriguing little puzzler. Oh, and did i mention the time limit? That's right, there is one. At first it seems generous, with 999 seconds to spare, but you might start to panic when there's 300 seconds left and, say, two brothers left unsaved.

It all sounds like an excellent game, doesn't it? A thinking man's Marble Madness? A more easy and less complex Spindizzy? It could well be but sadly there's two big problems to deal with. Firstly, the C64's eternal malaise when it comes to isometric 3D games. Busy screens slow the game considerably. So much that it makes it a chore. Secondly, and more importantly, the sluggish controls. They're so bad that it's a nightmare having to push two balls in more difficult rooms.

What a shame! It could have been a star if only it was better programmed. But it seems that for the time being, Red LED is is no danger of being dethroned as the best Marble Madness variant on the C64.


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