I have played this game for several hours and done plenty of research, but I’m still not entirely sure what it means or why the disc exists in my hands. This is usually where I would make a joke about “the things I do for my readers,” but I honestly was less scarred after visiting the title and left more confused by it. So, this is my best take on the PS1 piece of tragically brilliant art that is, Gubble.
“It happened in outer space…”
What we have is a real-time puzzle game that utilizes mazes, adding difficulty in the form of enemies and the need to use the right tools for the job. No, I mean literal tools, but none of the words I just said really sums up the feel of actually playing. The game was developed by Mud Duck Productions, a short-lived company that focused on budget titles. Don’t bother looking them up, as their best work was coming up with that name. The intro is this bright flashing thing with big letters that is a bit goofy, but not too bad for something of that time that was obviously aimed at kids and families. There are some brief images that don’t explain much and the text does little to add to the mythos, just establishing that this adventure is taking place in space and that our character has been kidnapped. Would you like to know more? Better hope the booklet is handy, because that is the only way to learn more about Gubble D. Gleep and the world of Rennigar, but even there, not much of a story is available. I just started making up my own thing.
So, while in control of this tiny odd looking alien players attach his small pod to various large tools that undo screws, pull up nails, and get rid of bolts, among other random mechanical things that seem to be pulling bits of the world apart. I guess, that might be one of the parts I made up for my version. The controls are simple, moving with the D-pad and two different buttons can make the character jump, which is the only real defense against enemies, other than mad dodging skills. Enemies come in all different forms and sizes, but being hit by them causes the life bar to drop until the character dies and the world must be started again from the beginning. There is this horrible game over countdown where with each number this cute alien winces in pain with an ‘ow’ and what I can only assume is crying at the end. It’s a little sadistic. I would say the game really gets harder after the third world, and players will quickly realize that there is some strategy involved, as well as ways to gain more life, additional devices to help them move around the boards, and even bonus levels. So, there is some thought put in here…
The game doesn’t offer up any real options or extra modes, and there are only Novice and Expert difficulty levels to choose from. However, if anyone is enough of a masochist to 100% the game there is a snarky message at the end: “Congratulations!! You are a Gubble expert and you had WAY too much free time.” Don’t be cute, Gubble. Who would do this? There are ten worlds and one hundred and four sub-levels, but from everything I can tell there is no save feature, which seems quite odd for a game released in 1998. I think this game was designed for those with OCD or completionists though.
Gubble is nowhere close to an instant classic like Pac-Man or Tetris, but it appeared on IOS in 2010 and I imagine it would kill on tablets and phones. This is not something I would bother hooking my PS1 up for on a regular basis, but with it in my pocket; that seems like the perfect way to kill twenty minutes while waiting in the doctor’s office. A few updates could go a long way, new levels, some better graphics, for those really ugly backgrounds, and longer music. The tunes aren’t bad, just relegated to short semi-catchy loops. For what it tries to do, Gubble accomplished its goals. There just isn’t much once it is broken down, but there doesn’t need to be.
The most ridiculous thing is the setup. Did this need the story about some silly alien being kidnapped to do manual labor? For the kids I suppose. I did not hate playing this though, and the few times frustration set in, I felt like it was my fault or I simply had not explored my options enough. Though, admittedly, certain levels do feel like they have just a few too many enemies and I often found myself completely thrown out of my rhthym after that first hit. There was a sequel that was only released on PC, not very long after the first one came out on PlayStation, but the only eye-catching feature seemed to be a level editor. I doubt many will see this as a new hidden gem or one of the worst titles in the library by far, but I’m glad I got to talk about it a bit.