Parasol Stars: The Story of Bubble Bobble III Review

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The launch of Parasol Stars: The Story of Bubble Bobble III on PlayStation means that for the first time in many, many years, all three Bubble Bobble games are available on one platform. Both Rainbow Islands and Bubble Bobble were released as part of the Arcade Archives series, direct ports of the arcade games, but Parasol Stars has had a few extra tweaks thanks to developers ININ and this one is actually published by the original arcade machine manufacture, Taito.

The game – also confusing known as Rainbow Islands II even though there are no rainbows – features the same elements as the previous two instalments but with an added twist. The basic gameplay is still the same, with mostly single screen levels that have a bunch of enemies moving in fairly predictable paths, where one touch from any of them will cause you to lose a life. The twist here is that Bub and Bob (still in human form) have parasols which they can use  in a number of ways.

Get close to an enemy and flourish you parasol and you can stun the creature, pick it up and throw at other enemies. You can also use the parasol to block incoming attacks, and collect bubbles that drop from the ceiling. Throw a single bubble and it will knock out an enemy, but collect five and it will turn into a super weapon – either a pool of fire, an electric bolt, or a torrent of water – which you can use to knock out multiple bad guys at once.

Parasol Stars

Like all the Bubble Bobble games the premise is quite simple, and unlike it’s predecessors, Parasol Stars is actually much easier and you can breeze through the first couple of levels without much thought. However, thinking is exactly what you need to do if you want to score the big points.  Hitting multiple enemies at once brings showers of point giving fruit, and there many secrets hidden in the levels, just throwing a bubble in a certain direction may produce enough ice creams and eclairs to keep anyone happy. As the enemies always start in the same position and you have just a brief second before they start moving, the key is to work out the best path through the level, hitting as many enemies at once and uncovering all the delicious goodies.

At the end of each of the eight levels you will face a boss fight and the mechanics change. Now you can spawn bubbles by floating around, charge up a super burst and hit the boss. There are also two hidden bonus levels that can be unlocked… if you know how.

Parasol Stars

As mentioned this isn’t a direct port of the arcade game, and while the core game is exactly the same ININ have tweaked a few things. The control scheme has been modified for our modern controllers and I have to say it works like a dream, so much better than the controls from the previous games. The graphics, while still in the 16-bit pixel glory, are superbly crisp and colourful and make Rainbow Islands look rather washed out in comparison. The colours also help make the game look a lot less dated; it could be an indie game from 2024.

The game also has the usual modern features including a rewind button, load and saves, and filters. There’s also options for those who are colour blind and a hilarious if totally useless feature to change the screen size to the original GameBoy version, which results in the game running in a 3cm square in the middle of a 4K screen.

The jewel in the crown is the two player mode, as unlike the previous games you can work together, or be a dick. Do you help the second player, giving them a boost up on your brolly and working together to clear the screen, or do you hide on your side and throw enemies at your pal, stunning them so they can’t move and get smacked in the face by a sentient trombone?

So the big question, is as good as the the other two games? Well yes and no. It’s still a brilliant game but perhaps lacks the “one more go” factor of Rainbow Islands, but if you have two players then this is by far the best in the series.

Summary
A superb, crisp version of the arcade classic with plenty of replayability and tonnes of secrets to uncover. An absolute must for fans who want to complete the trilogy.
Good
  • A faultless version of the classic game
  • Superbly crisp and bright graphics
  • Fight or cooperate two player mode
Bad
  • Lacks that "one more go" factor
8
Written by
News Editor, very inappropriate, probs fancies your dad.

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