Warning: This review contains spoilers. If you haven't played the game yet, do that first!
DON'T EAT SOAP! An Educational Game Starring Bob the Hamster is, on the surface, James's take on Don't Push the Button. If this had been the entirety of the game, it would have been a great gag. Lurking underneath the soapy exterior, however, is something entirely different.
James contacted me about a month ago asking for permission to include Timpoline's Tim in his game. I was perplexed upon my first play as to how Tim could possibly make an appearance: I had successfully prevented Bob from eating any soap, which caused plotscripting errors. (I have it on good authority that these are fixed now.) I closed the window.
But the game doesn't actually start in earnest until the soap successfully reaches Bob's mouth. At that point, the true nature of the game is revealed: it's a Bubble Bobble clone. This was a wonderful surprise for me. I've been playing a lot of Bubble Bobble lately. How does this compare to the real thing?
The mechanics are recreated pretty faithfully. If you don't really know the deeper workings of Bubble Bobble, you won't notice any differences. The core gameplay is that you trap monsters in bubbles, then pop the bubbles to defeat the monsters. The more monsters you pop at once, the bigger your bonus is. True to the early days of video gaming, you're competing for top spot on the high score list. Additionally, however, you're progressing through stages with unique and interesting designs.
While the mechanics are sound, the execution is a little rough around the edges. Bubbles are very touchy when it comes to trapping the enemies -- there is very little vertical tolerance -- and it's hard to pop the slippery little devils.
Forgiving this, though, there's nothing not to love about the game. Like the game that inspired it, you can play simultaneous multiplayer (hearkening back to the old era of DOS games where you and a friend huddle around the same keyboard). The enemies are cameos from various OHR games, including the aforementioned Tim. They each have different behaviors, some of them more difficult to overcome than others. Overall, they're more aggressive than Bubble Bobble's bestiary, which makes this game slightly more difficult.
Also like Bubble Bobble, at the end of the game you'll face a large, projectile-flinging boss. This guy is much easier than Bubble Bobble's Super Drunk, but his inclusion is a great bonus.
In short, this isn't likely to replace Bubble Bobble if you already own that, but it is almost certainly the best two-player experience offered by the OHRRPGCE to date.
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