There was a time when side-scrolling platform games ruled the gaming world — when a new Mario or Metroid title brought visions of frantic jump-and-run fantasies, not gratuitous 3D worlds and multiplatform launches. With the emergence of powerful console hardware, though, the side-scroller became something of a lost art, much to the frustration of fans. Thank goodness, then, for the creative freedom the PC and the Internet offer small developers, and for games like Ozzy Bubbles.
Ozzy Bubbles comes from Realore Studios, a Russian developer with a catalog of respectable casual offerings to its credit. In keeping with the sweeter and more innocent traditions of the genre, the game stars a charming turtle that makes his way through four underwater environments, collecting coins, bumping off enemies and locating the keys that open the portal to the next level.
If you’re among those who picture frustrating jumping sequences and impossible boss battles when you read about a platform game, relax; everything about Ozzy Bubbles appears to have been made with casual players in mind. For starters, there are no jumping puzzles or even a double-jump function; rather, navigating the titular turtle across the screen requires nothing more than using the arrow keys for walking and jumping.
As for the combat, Ozzy packs oxygen instead of heat. The underwater environments are teeming with cranky crustaceans and fiendish fish, all of which want to bring Ozzy’s journey to an end. When one approaches our hero, you can blow a bubble using the space key to trap the offender; Ozzy can then bump into the enemy to pop it out of existence. He can also jump on some of his opponents without getting hurt, but not all of them. Realore created 12 enemies featuring a variety of attack behaviors — octopi crawl along the ocean bottom and Bubble Fish shoot harmful projectiles at Ozzy – but none are difficult to defeat, including the four bosses.
To open the portal to the next level, you have to collect a set number of keys, which random enemies carry. In another nod to simplicity, if you get lost looking for the last key or the exit, the Tab key brings up a map of the level laid out in square segments. This is possible because the levels don’t scroll; instead, the screen switches to the next scene when Ozzy reaches the edge of the display.
Some enemies also carry letters that spell out Ozzy’s name; collect them all, and you’ll earn an extra life. And if you do well, you’ll get to play a bonus stage, where you must gather as much falling treasure as possible before it disappears. Since Ozzy prefers to walk instead of run, these brief stages lack energy.
You can’t get trigger-happy, though, as Ozzy’s air is limited. If you run out of bubbles, you’ll have to wait for his reserves to recharge before you can launch more attacks. Fortunately, Ozzy’s enemies sometimes drop one of 17 bonuses when they pass on, including one that supplies a full cache of oxygen. Our hero can die if he takes too many hits, although the odds of this happening are slim, as enemies also drop more health than even inexperienced players will need.
Other pickups allow Ozzy to run faster, jump higher and shoot quicker. The levels take advantage of the jump bonus with areas that can only be reached when Ozzy is powered up, creating some exciting moments when you realize you have just a few seconds to get past a gang of Horn Fish to reach an otherwise inaccessible platform and grab all of the goodies stored there. If you get bored with blowing bubbles, you can collect coins and other treasure for additional points.
In terms of visuals, Ozzy Bubbles is an attractive game, but I did find myself wishing there were more detail and movement in the environments. Plus, while the enemies are colorful and well-drawn, Ozzy needs a few more frames of animation to smooth out his movements.
The sound effects, on the other hand, are very satisfying, especially when you jump on the heads of several enemies and then make a nice run across a string of treasure chests, eliminating baddies and gathering up gold with a rapid series of “ka-bumps” and “ka-chings.”
All things considered, Ozzy Bubbles is worth trying. It’s 40 levels won’t last long, but you’ll have fun along the way. And while you won’t find anything resembling a challenge, the game is geared toward casual game players and younger kids looking for a simple adventure. So give Ozzy Bubbles a shot, just for the shell of it.