• Graphics
  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Lastability
FormatSinclair Spectrum
DeveloperCEZ Game Studio
PublisherCEZ Game Studio
ReviewShaun B. and Shaun C.

Main review

Shiver me timbers! New Speccy game ahoy, and this one hails from the south-European Seas of the Mediterranean, shipmates, and goes by the name of Cannon Bubble. This buxom beauty is a 128k-only affair in which ye take on the might of the perilous pirate Black Beard, whose grog-swigging rabble have been looting and plundering from many a passing trade ship. In their wake, they have left explosives which will halt ye from passing safely. As a new deck hand on the good ship Saint Clair, your Captain (who by chance is the sworn enemy of Black Beard) has ordered ye to man the cannons to clear the waters ahead of explosives. With not a moment of skulduggery, ye must duly attend thy post and begin thy graft. Arrr!

The game in question is something not too dissimilar to the classic arcade game Puzzle Bobble, with your cannon angling left and right firing the projectiles upwards at a trajectory according to the position of which it is set. The strewn explosives which block your path will only detonate if they’re linked by three or more of the same type denoted by their colours, and there are thirty levels to play through to get the valuable booty and defeat Black Beard once and for all. There’s a set time limit in which you must decide the direction of the cannon; if you don’t make it in time, the cannonball will shoot anyway, though early levels ease you as you learn your new trade. It steadily becomes more challenging as excess explosives are dispatched intermittently on later levels. The game is over when you are unable to fire another cannonball, though you are given one more chance to prove your worth. There is also a two-player mode, which is played as best of three, so you must either clear the screen before your opponent, or force cannonballs into his path and hope that this will mean that he will be unable to fire again. A final note is that there are three types of cannonballs to dispatch. These are normal coloured ones, as mentioned, super-cannonballs which will detonate the surrounding balls they come in contact with, and finally skulls which will only eliminate the colour that it comes into contact with. These latter two are rather handy if the screen is not allowing room to manoeuvre.

This is one of those games that perhaps should have been released twenty years ago; a pirate game before it had been pirated no less. However, it’s extremely refreshing to see such a slick production released today. My only real complaint is that the angles can be a bit difficult to predict (especially if you’re wearing a patch over your left eye), but otherwise this is simply a joy to behold. The musical scores that play throughout are both varied and ear-catching, rather aptly taking your imagination to a place of high seas and scurvy. The graphics are beautifully drawn right from the loading screen, and it just begs you to have one more go once you’re done. Cannon Bubble is a thoroughly recommended, free and perfectly legal pirate game for your collection. Download it now.

Second opinion

There are a couple of key factors that make Cannon Bubble not quite the straight case of ‘Puzzle Bobble with a peg leg’ that it appears to be. The first is the speed. The game plays noticeably slower than your typical game of Puzzle Bobble and, although sedate players might actually welcome this slower pace, impatient gamers could easily find themselves getting … well impatient. The next factor concerns the single player game only. Consider Puzzle Bobble‘s single player mode: After a certain amount of time spent on any one stage, the top of the playfield begins to shift downwards at intervals, pushing the remaining bubbles down one row at a time towards that game-ending baseline. Cannon Bubble changes this. Instead of having the playfield shift down a row, a handful of random bubbles come zipping up from below to stick to the remaining bubbles in a manner similar to what you’d normally encounter in Puzzle Bobble‘s two player mode when your opponent drops a cluster of freed bubbles from his screen. The effect of this change is to drag out the endgame stage of each level, meaning that you’ll often wind up spending more time mopping up the final few bubbles than you spent clearing the bulk of the playfield. To be frank, I found this off-putting, as when I’m so close to clearing a stage, having more bubbles arrive on the scene is just an unwelcome delay – not so much a challenge, more of an inconvenient setback. Having said that, it does tend to make for a more forgiving game, particularly as it means there’s less risk involved in dumping your unwanted bubbles lower on the playfield, so I can see how some players might conceivably prefer this change.

Of course, this criticism doesn’t apply to Cannon Bubble‘s two-player mode, as the approach outlined above is exactly how the two-player mode in Puzzle Bobble works. And it works well, because having your mate mess you up by sending bubbles over to you screen is fun and imminent victory is a fragile thing, easily popped. At any moment your failing opponent might bring himself back from the brink by clearing a large cluster of bubbles, so sending a bunch over to your side and turning the tables in a flash. Even if it becomes a protracted struggle, it’s enjoyable because of the fact that you’re battling with a live opponent. It also helps that you can punch that live opponent if you so feel the need.

In the single player mode, however, the experience of having a pre-programmed routine repeatedly mess you around just when you’re about to clear a stage can wear thin. Still, as I said, some players might embrace this change, and there are certainly plenty of trimmings here to help win those players over. The graphics are bright and colourful and do the job well. Admittedly, attribute clash can cause a little confusion when the bubbles have collected within reach of your targeting reticule, but this isn’t a major problem. Two tunes accompany the action, one a jaunty piece of music that quickly got stuck in my head, the other a slow dirge-like affair that prompted me to make use of the option to stick to sound effects only, the effects being the kind of pleasing poppy, bubbly sounds you’d expect in a game like this. And I’m pleased to report that the actual business of launching bubbles works just as it should, meaning that if a bubble doesn’t end up where you wanted it to go, you’ll usually only have yourself to blame. All up, I found Cannon Bubble‘s two player mode to be plenty of fun, and although I’m not so keen on the single player mode, those looking for a more methodical Puzzle Bobble-like experience might like to check it out to see if it’s their cup of tea. Or barrel of rum. Arr.