Sunday, June 7, 2009

Parasol Stars

Working Designs / Taito

I was late to the party on this one. PS received mediocre grades in Electronic Gaming Monthly upon its release (one guy even gave it a 4), so I didn't immediately dash out to buy it. But I heard nothing but praise for it after seeing those scores, and as I had enjoyed Bubble Bobble back in the day, I believed that I would have a good time with this similar-in-style followup.

And I did have fun with it, especially during the stages in which I had to put some thought into how exactly I'd reach/attack my enemies. The premise of bopping, heaving, and blasting on-the-scene adversaries is simple enough, but said adversaries can prove rather elusive and sequester themselves in tough-to-get-to spots. As the game goes along, it seems to focus more on stocking its levels with huge, hard-to-stun creatures than on presenting increasingly intricate board designs, which was somewhat disappointing. But the Bubble Bobble-style proceedings--which feature cartoony bosses to fight, tasty-looking treats to collect, elemental weaponry to wield, and score-boosting secrets to stumble upon--kept me entertained until I reached the adventure's conclusion.

Speaking of the conclusion, I was exasperated when I discovered that this devious game has a GNG-esque "bad ending." Thankfully, I was able to achieve the superior finish with little grief during my very next try.

I'm less forgiving of the limited soundtrack; additional good tunes certainly would've been welcome. But the biggest concern with Parasol Stars isn't the soundtrack or the bad ending or the simplistic level design; it's the price tag. The game is an enjoyable time-waster, for sure, but it won't make for a landmark experience for most people, and a price of $10-15 seems more appropriate than what I often see it go for, unless the buyer plans on logging lots of hours in two-player mode.

But to conclude with a positive, I was delighted to encounter the big boss from the original Bubble Bobble in the ninth world here. It'd been many years since I'd last seen the old goober, and the reunion was a fun one!

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