Thursday, 31 December 2015

Baluba-Louk no Densetsu (Arcade)

So, Balouba-Louk no Densetsu is a 1986 platformer that combines ideas from an earlier age of arcade games, along with ideas shared by its contempories. From the earlier age, it has a lot of mechanics that you'll recognise from Pac-Man and its imitators: your goal in each stage is to collect all the points items and avoid the enemies chasing you (in this case, they appear to be brightly coloured octopodes). Also, there's an item in each stage that turns the enemies into points items for a short time, which double in value for each one you manage to collect.

Its more contempory influences are more widespread but mainly, they appear to be Super Mario Bros and Bubble Bobble. From Mario, the game takes the idea of hitting blocks from below: hitting a treasure chest from below causes it to open, and opened treasure chests are worth more points when collected. Furthermore, an opened treasure chest might sprout a flower, and hitting it again will cause the flower to bloom. Obviously, bloomed flower chests are worth even more points. Opened chests will also leave a bomb in their place, and if the player jumps from a block with a bomb on top, the bomb will be lit, and any enemies caught in the explosion will be paralysed for a few seconds. Bloomed flowers, when collected, leave a different item, and when this item is jumped from, it fires shots to the left and right, which turn enemies into one of eight different power-ups, each with different effects, like adding portals or an extra "power pill" item to the stage, or just giving the player a few extra points.

It's this whole business with the flowers and opening chests and so on that I'm considering the influence of Bubble Bobble (and other arcade games of the time), that is, that though the game seems simple on the surface, there are various hidden and semi-hidden ways of scoring extra points, doing away with enemies, and so on. I often find myself saying on this blog the phrase "it's a shame this game wasn't more popular", and it applies to this game, too, as though it did get a Famicom-only sequel, had it been more popular, there might be more documentation around of the various secrets that might be hidden within (or maybe I'm just assuming too much of the game, and the reason it never took off in a big way, despite being a fun, well made game,  is because there aren't any secrets and it didn't hold players' attention for long).

Balouba-Louk no Densetsu is a decent enough little game, and I recommend you give it a shot. As an aside, the text on the title screen "Baluba-Louk was discovered in 1985" made me wonder if it was inspired by some real ruins or something that might have been discovered that year, but no, that's just regular old flavour text.

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