by Stephen J. Crow
Bubble Bus Software
Crash Issue 22, Nov 1985   page(s) 10,11

Producer: Bubble Bus
Retail Price: £7.95
Language: Machine code
Author: Steven Crow

Starquake from Bubble Bus sees the return of Steve Crow, programmer of the much acclaimed Wizard's Lair. Starquake revolves around a small Bio-Logically operated being named Blob, who's been landed with the menial task of saving the universe from a savage destruction.

An unstable and potentially dangerous planet is emerging from a black hole somewhere among the backwaters of the galaxy. The planet is so unstable that it'll blow into a million fragments if its Planetary Core isn't fixed. If the planet does go kaboom then the whole universe will go up too in a massive chain reaction: a Starquake. Blob has the job of rebuilding the planet's core, thereby preventing disaster. You pick up the quest, controlling Blob, after his ship has crashlanded upon the planet in question.

The game is presented in age old arcade adventure style. The screens flip between each other with the majority of the action taking place in a cave system below the planet's surface. Star of the show, Blob, is a creature of limited abilities who can go left and right and has a nice line in falling (for going down). Blob can go up too, using his platform laying device. Platforms can be used to prevent a fall or can be piled up to make a vertical stairway. One laid, they soon fade, however, crumbling to dust leaving Blob unsupported in mid air - unless he's hopped onto more solid ground meantime.

Blob enters the subterranean caves with four lives, a few platforms in stock for his laying device, a gun and some ammunition. A status display at the top of the screen provides readings on the amount of ammunition left and the number of platforms available for laying. A bar display next to a battery icon indicates Blob's energy level, which is reduced by collisions with the nasties. Should this dip below zero Blob expires and another droid has to be wheeled in. Packs of platforms, ammunition, and energy are scattered around the playing area, as are a few bonus lives. They are all picked up automatically as Blob runs over them. Collect supply packs to replenish stores, and the status display registers improvement! Other useful objects have to be deliberately picked up and are added to the limited inventory which Blob can lug around at any one time The status display also reveals what's been collected.

A veritable swarm of aliens inhabits the planetary caverns: contact with a nasty drains Blob's energy and while the aliens can be discouraged with a blast from the laser gun, avoiding them is also a good tactic. The nasties are all intelligent - some a lot smarter than others - and come to get you if hang around. The further into the system you have penetrated, the smarter the nasties, it seems.

To rebuild the Planet's Core you need to collect various items and take them to the planet's centre. A teleport system has been supplied to help you move around the vast complex of locations by the thoughtful Mr Crow. Six teleports exist throughout the planet each with their own password. When you enter a teleport, it informs you of its teleport code and asks for a destination code so it can transport you to another teleport booth. The teleport network is handy, though the clever thing is it only comes into its own once you've travelled the caves and have found the codewords to the six teleports.

Space Hopper Pads are also available which can be used to fly about on - the snag is, Blob can't pick up items while on a Pad, so frequent parking becomes a necessity. One-way transport in an upward direction is also provide by the Anti Grav Lifts. Decked out in a fetching green, the lifts can also provide a pleasant nasty-free haven as well as an effortless form of transport.

Barring your way to many essential core parts are security doors. To pass these barriers you'll need the key code card corresponding to the code of the door you want to pass. If, by chance you find a Flexible Whatsit it'll allow you pass any door but it's not reusable. The key code cards and flexible whatsits also work on Cheop Pyramids. The pyramids can be used to trade items in your inventory for more useful objects.

A whole range of devices and objects are scattered around the game, including secret passages, zap-rays, space locks and weird and wonderful artifacts, including Smash Traps - small bridges spanning some of the minor gaps in the cave system. These bridges cannot be passed from underneath, but if jumped on from a great height they yield, breaking into little pieces and allowing free passage.


Control keys: O Left, P right, A down/lay bridging platform, Q up/pick up object, M fire, break-space continuous pause. Also definable
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor and Interface 2
Keyboard play: very responsive
Use of colour: avoids attribute problems really well, excellent
Graphics: varied without much repetition. Very attractive
Sound: excellent, lots of little tunes
Skill levels: one
Screens: 512

This is one of the best games I've seen on the Spectrum for one hell of a long time. It has everything a brilliant game needs - superlative graphics, excellent sound, fabulous and unusual gameplay, real depth and addictive qualities. The game itself is really huge with heaps of screens to explore and map. There are also tons of alien things lying around which play an important part in the game and you have to discover what they do and how to use them. If you don't buy this game then your Spectrum isn't really being put to good use... miss it at your peril.

Why are Bubble Bus games so rare? Perhaps some of them have slipped through my sticky reviewing claws, but to the best of my knowledge they haven't released a game since Wizards Lair which was ages ago. This game is an improvement on Wizards Lair, with better sound and graphics - it's a lot more playable and addictive. There are so many different nasties that do different things to you that you lose track of which are the nastier nasties. All the graphics are very well animated with no attribute clash at all and the game is full of little tunes which are surprisingly good. I love all the little surprises built into the game and I'm completely addicted to Starquake. I can't see myself putting it down until I'm convinced I can complete it.

After the worthy Wizard's Lair, Bubble Bus have surely come up with a worthy successor with Starquake. I'd definitely rate this as an all time great. Starquake's main appeal lies with its design. It's so well thought out. The graphics are very good indeed, both the movement and backgrounds. The content of the graphics is amazing - they don't get very repetitive even over the 512 screens. Though the game is very Ultimatesque you soon find that things are a lot more professional, taking the route that ACG should have gone presentationwise. Overall one of the best Spectrum games to date, both from a gameplay and technical point of view. Well worth a place in your games library.

Use of Computer: 95%
Graphics: 96%
Playability: 94%
Getting Started: 94%
Addictive Qualities: 95%
Value For Money: 92%
Overall: 96%

Summary: General Rating: One of the best Spectrum games currently available.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 56, Sep 1988   page(s) 86


Practically every software shop now sports row upon row of irresistibly shiny, incredibly tempting re-releases. If this array of gorgeous goodies leaves you breathless and confused (even £1.99 is a waste if it's spent on something truly bad), never fear. With years of experience on their side, a metaphorical teacup soothingly poised and plenty of calming advice, MARK CASWELL and KATI HAMZA are about to cool your troubled brow. Pause before you squander all your silver pennies. Collapse into a comfortable chair and peruse our guide to a few of the better re-releases...

Producer: Ricochet
Price: £1.99
Original Rating: 96%

Produced by Bubble Bus and written by Steve Crow, programmer of Wizard's Lair (94% Issue 14), Starquake turned out to be very reminiscent of its predecessor in terms of graphics and sound. The addictive gameplay, however, has a flavour all of its own.

Blob, a small biologically operated little chap, is charged with the mission of stabilising a potentially explosive planet of subterranean passages. As he waddles around the underground environment, he spends most of his precious time picking up objects and travelling, by means of a system of teleport pads. The essential stabilising parts of the planet's core must be collected and reassembled. Various parts of the complex are blocked off by security doors for which appropriate key code cards are necessary. Items, ranging from zap rays to space locks and Smash Traps, can be collected and swapped at Cheops Pyramids.

Colourful graphics and incredibly complex gameplay earned Starquake an extremely high Smash rating in its day. The underground environment, pitted with secret passages and hidden rooms, demands extensive exploration and the depth of the puzzles provides an amazingly engrossing challenge, even now. If Starquake were released at full-price tomorrow it would probably just miss out on a Smash. At a budget price it deserves almost all the points it can get.

Overall: 91%

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Spectrum Issue 21, Dec 1985   page(s) 51

Dougie: Great galactic gargleblasters, an unstable planet has just emerged from a black hole and the galaxy is gonna go Boom unless you stop it!

As BLOB (Bio-Logically Operated Being) you're the man for the job, the man in the know, so off you go. Starquake is a mega-massive arcade adventure in the Sabrewulfe/Nodes of Yesod mould. All you have to do is save the galaxy from total destruction - so c'mon, by now that should be a complete doddle.

For openers, you must find your way about the inside of the planet, locate the missing pieces of the core and rebuild it. En route, you'll come across a whole host of objects that'll come in handy including your flexible friend - Axes or sumfin!

I'm reliably informed that there are 512 different screens in Starquake, but I can't verify this as I ran out of fingers and tootsies! There are also over twenty different monsters and fifteen teleports - only one problem, you have to find the correct teleport codes and I've been sworn to secrecy. (Used notes only please, in a plain brown wrapper.)

If you're into arcade adventures, Starquake's one of the best around at the moment. And you don't even have to take your brain out of neutral to play it. 7/10

Ross: If it weren't for Ultimate. I'd say this game was totally original - but then Ultimate does exist! 5/10

Rick: This matches, even beats the standards of most games. Now it's cracked the technique, perhaps Bubble Bus'll have a go at coming up with some fresh ideas. 7/10

Ross: 5/10
Rick: 7/10
Dougie: 7/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 44, Nov 1985   page(s) 21

Publisher: Bubble Bus
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Kempston, cursor, Sinclair

Right. There's this planet popping out of a black hole somewhere and, as you might be in similar circumstances, it's unstable. Rotten to the core, in fact. So Blob, the Bio-Logically Operated Being - groan - is sent out to repair the core before it blows up.

All of which is a rather thin excuse for 500 screens of Ultimate-style mayhem as Blob battles a colourful mob of inventive nasties - giant fleas, small spiky birds, who cares as long as they're fast and deadly? - while collecting the various bits needed.

Starquake is not just an Underwurlde clone. There's a profusion of special features to suss out. A teleport system is of great use in moving swiftly from one set of caverns to another, but you have to know the codename of the appropriate teleport. Blob has a set of little platforms which he can use like a ladder and there is a number of flying pads about. But... you can't use a teleport if you have a pad, and you can only leave a pad where a pad should be left, so... life gets hairy.

Add to that the ubiquitous credit card which gives you access to various doors and special swapshop pyramids where you can exchange objects, and there's a bewildering variety of strategies to explore to win.

The graphics are of the highest quality - fast, flicker free and attractively detailed. The ingredients needed to repair the core vary from game to game so it's always a challenge. Fortunately there are extra lives available so you can get your head down for a long game once you gain a little cavern-credibility. We love it, and if Ultimate hadn't done most of it yonks ago we'd have given it a Classic. Buy and enjoy.

Overall: 5/5

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 74, May 1988   page(s) 47

Label: Ricochet
Author: Stephen Crowe
Price: £1.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

This re-release of a Bubble Bus oldie is well deserved. Starquake is one of the most enjoyable and well-designed collect-the-objects-and-zap-the-nasties titles. You control BLOB - Bio Logically Operated Being - through a complex of caverns, in search of the components of a planetary core, which are needed to stop it from exploding.

There are flying platforms which help you to speed through some of the more slimy and fast moving baddies, and a transporter network which will allow you to access other to otherwise hidden parts of the cave complex. Unfortunately, the packaging for the review copy omits to mention any of this - it just gives you the control keys and tells you to get on with it. This is either a printing error or an indication of great faith in the ability of Mastertronic's customers to puzzle out how to play the game.

Nice graphics, plenty of challenge and a great bargain. Buy.

Overall: 8/10

Summary: A complex and enjoyable arcade-adventure ideal for mapping freaks.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 49, Nov 1985   page(s) 14,15

MACHINE: Spectrum/Amstrad/C64
SUPPLIER: Bubble Bus
PRICE: £7.95

When was the last time you really had fun playing a game? And we mean F.U.N.! Well, here's the answer to every jaded games player's prayer - just the thing to lift the spirits in the dark winter days to come.

Starquake is the brainchild of Stephen "Wizard's Lair" Crow and features an odd little character called BLOB - or Bio-Logically Operated Being. Despite his name, BLOB will soon find a place in your heart.

But what about the game - you cry! Well it goes like this. Earth has just received news of an unstable planet emerging from a black hole somewhere at the edge of the galaxy. If the core of this planet is not quickly rebuilt it will explode.

BLOB has been chosen for this deadly mission. Why? Because all the other droids are bigger than him! Ho, hum, So BLOB sets off in his spacecraft with just an A-Z to the Galaxy for company. His spacecraft comes down with a bit of a bump leaving BLOB high and dry on a planet, which is about to explode and with only a short time to rebuild the core.

Still, with your help he'll soon be zapping around the underground caverns collecting objects, discovering secrets and solving puzzles - meanwhile you'll be having a great time!

The planet is inhabited by alien creatures who drain poor old BLOB's energy on contact. But he can zap them if he's quick enough! To help him get about, BLOB has platforms which he can drop and stand on. Useful for getting over tall obstacles when you haven't got one of the space-hoppers which you can use to fly about on, You'll find Hoppers dotted about in the caverns along with teleports, weapons packs, key codes and cards.

Lots of puzzles, great graphics over 400 screens, some of the best sound ever from the Spectrum and a cute hero. What more could you ask for? The money to buy the game of course!

Whatever you do, DON'T miss out on Starquake. Rush out and beg, borrow or steal a copy now!

Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 9/10
Value: 10/10
Playability: 10/10

Award: C+VG Game of the Month

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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