Written and programmed by Jean François Streiff
Music by Michel Winogradoff
Graphics by Christophe Perrotin
Converted for the Atari ST by Dominique Billard with the original team.
Converted for the IBM-PC compatibles by Jean François Streiff and Alain Joubert.
Converted for the ZX Spectrum by Luis Jorge Garcia and J250 Group.
Converted for the MSX by J250 Group.
Converted for the Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC and IBM-PC compatibles by Fabrice Decroix, with music by François Garofalo, and released as "Pop-Up" through Infogrames in 1990.
Converted by New Frontier and released for the Nintendo Game Boy as "Pop-Up" in Europe in 1991 by Infogrames, and as "Cool Ball" in North America in 1993 by TAKARA. Coding by Zydro, Graphics by Fustor and Sounds by Mcalby.
INTRODUCTION & GAME STATUS
For the first game comparison after my time off, I have chosen a bit of an oddity, in many ways. For one, it's a rare occasion that we have a game that was originally released for the Amstrad CPC, but at the same time, was never released on the Commodore 64. To be completely honest, I searched for games from the CPC Game Reviews website, which would have a 10 out of 10 score, and pick the game that would seem like the least amount of trouble when writing a comparison. This way, perhaps, the Amstrad population of the world would have something to rejoice about, as the blog has so far been so very unfriendly towards them. As it happens, however, the game had a lot more conversions and reworks out there than at first appeared, and it gets a bit confusing at some point. So, you might have gathered that I knew nothing of the game before I started on this entry.
Anyway, you already know how CPC Game Reviews have rated the original Bumpy, but the Amstrad version of Pop-Up has only been given a 9 out of 10 for some reason. World of Spectrum users have given 32 votes to Bumpy so far, reaching a score of 8.17. The MSX version of Bumpy has 3.5 out of 5 at Generation-MSX with 10 votes. Amiga's Pop-Up has been voted only 3 times at LemonAmiga, reaching a score of 5.33 with those votes. Exactly as many votes have been given to the Atari ST version at Atarimania, but it has a more respectable 7.3 rating. Only at MobyGames could I find any score or rating for the DOS version of either Bumpy or Pop-Up, and for both games the score was 3.6 out of 5. The Game Boy version has been given a 4.0 out of 5 at MobyGames. But now it's time to give this lot a good comparison.
DESCRIPTION & REVIEW
Bumpy owns a lot to Namco's Mappy (1983) in that the main mechanics are very similar. You control a ball shaped like a head across a series of bouncy platforms, with a mission to pick up all items on any given screen. Some items will give you abilities to break down walls, jump over fire obstacles and such. Also, much like in Mappy, some platforms can only take a few jumps before collapsing, so you need to learn to work efficiently around the stages. Once all the items are collected, an exit will appear somewhere on the screen that you will need to get to in order to move on to the next area. You can control your head left and right, and how far up it will bounce - any special ability at hand is used automatically when applicable, if available. Unlike Mappy, though, there are no walking platforms here, and all you can do is bounce. Although this doesn't bother much at first, the increasing amount of diagonal platforms that make you automatically jump sideways and your need to learn the placing of each type of platform, in addition to the inevitable presence of enemies in some versions of the game will render this surprisingly troubling, but it's a good challenge if you like one.
Apparently, the game offers as many as 100 levels, but I just couldn't be bothered to put myself through more than ten levels or so, but not because the game isn't good - that it certainly is. But the way these sorts of games play are pretty constantly similar from start to finish, even if some gameplay elements are added during the journey. It's mostly trial and error, and the levels can easily be memorised once you have completed them once, although you need to learn everything differently for both Bumpy and Pop-Up. For puzzle game fanatics, I can highly recommend any of Bumpy's different versions, but if you want to know the definitive, or the most player-friendly version of Bumpy and its reincarnations, you shall have to read on.
As Bumpy is a fairly large game, it might not come as much of a surprise that it has been divided into bits, making it what I like to call a multi-loader, although I'm sure it has some more official term. Needless to say, the game feels more at home on a floppy disk, but if you really hate loading times, the DOS and Game Boy versions are the way to go. However, here are the complete tape loading times, as usual, and I have included both MSX tape loading baud rates because I have no idea which one is it in this case. As I don't own any of these versions as originals, the results are from any tape images I could find from the internet.
CPC tape: 7 minutes 31 seconds
MSX tape: 2400 baud - 4 minutes 40 seconds
1200 baud - 8 minutes 23 seconds
SPE tape: 4 minutes 49 seconds (Proein)
I should probably point out that the Proein disk version on Spectrum has some strange bugs that render it unplayable - you can't even beat the first level because any collected items will not add up to your ball's inventory, and therefore he can't use any items. Hopefully, someone can find and upload a working original Spectrum version to the WoS archive someday. As usual, we exit this section with a collage of all the loading screens from all the versions. For the first time, however, Bumpy's original loading screen is also the main menu, so it has to be counted in the Graphics section as well, but as they say, there are always exceptions to a rule.
|Loading/Title screens. Far left: Amstrad CPC screens. Second from the left, above: ZX Spectrum / below: MSX.|
Second from the right: DOS screens. Far right: Atari ST screens (Pop-Up also on Commodore Amiga).
Basically, the game is played on 6x6 rooms filled with walls and platforms of different sorts, with your objective being to collect a certain amount of certain types of items before an exit appears somewhere on the screen and you need to jump through it, either from above or below. Some walls can be broken down with a varying amount of hits, some walls can't. Some jumping platforms are flat and solid, some will only last a few jumps before they vanish, and some are tilted to some particular position, which make you jump automatically left or right. Pop-Up on the 16-bits and Cool Ball on the Game Boy add enemies and change some level layouts to make things more interesting for all the hardcore fans, so they could be considered Bumpy: the Advanced Edition in some ways. Probably due to hardware limitations, Pop-Up on the Amstrad is only a graphical overhaul of the original Bumpy, so it has no real value in the Amstrad library as such.
There isn't all too much to say about the controls in the game, since there are only three actions you can perform with Bumpy, one at any given time. These are jump left, jump right and jump higher, and every action is timed in accordance to the animation, and you can only move left or right at a certain level of height. The game also features a level restart button, which varies according to the game and its conversions. Depending on which control method you are more comfortable with - keyboard, joystick or joypad, you will likely choose your game on that basis. But is that enough?
I'm afraid not. Because all the controllability quirks have been translated to all the possible conversions, the game speed becomes a more important deciding factor. If your reaction time happens to be slower than average, you might want to stick to the SPECTRUM and MSX versions, which are still quick enough to be quite playable, but slightly slower than the original, and both of them have slight animation performance issues in that the screen always pauses for a fraction of a second when you turn the platform under the ball. Unless you have lightning-fast reaction skills or an old PC from 1989, you might want to skip on the DOS version of both Bumpy and Pop-Up, because DOSbox doesn't handle the speed issues well enough to make them comfortable to play. Otherwise, both games seem to have a slightly better playability in DOS than on the two other 16-bits. Cool Ball on the Nintendo Game Boy plays just about the same as the Spectrum and MSX versions, but the animation is smoother. The ATARI ST and AMIGA versions perform the animation bit as well as you would expect them to, but all is not as rosy on the 16-bit lane as you'd wish to.
There are some action timing issues with the 16-bit versions of Pop-Up. What I mean is, when you make a high jump, or move left or right, in a single tap of a key/joystick, depending on the point in time which you made the movement, your ball might easily repeat the action on his next jump. In the original Bumpy, there was no such problem, nor any of the other 8-bits, nor even the ST Bumpy, but both 16-bit Pop-Up games exhibit this unfortunate behaviour. Also, at least I found it rather irritating that when you are about to break down a wall, you go straight through it instead of breaking it down and then needing to go through the space previously inhabited by a piece of breakable wall. This also happens only in the 16-bit Pop-Ups. But at least you get some enemy sprites and new types of platforms (such as red ones that grab you) to compensate for all the negative aspects, which really make Pop-Up a nicely advanced challenge version of the original Bumpy.
The 16-bit versions of Bumpy are quite interesting, though. Not only is it a graphically enhanced version of the game (although you could argue that point regarding the DOS version, since only CGA is available) - it also features some scarcely scattered elements from the Infogrames' revision, not available elsewhere at that point, such as flying enemies. As such, the ATARI ST version of Bumpy is the most playable 16-bit version out there, and it even rivals the original CPC version quite effectively. The only reason why I will not give it the top spot is because it's not quite as user friendly as the original: you need to launch it from the desktop; you can't start the game immediately after it has loaded because it will always load a demo before the main menu screen; and the game loads a few seconds between every level. No such problems in the DOS version, but I have to repeat: it's painful to try and play on modern PC's.
Seeing as the game in all its reincarnations is a long line of puzzles that require lots of trying and thinking, it is a wonder that nobody ever thought of putting in a password or save system until the Game Boy version, released as Cool Ball in North America. In terms of playability, I would say the Game Boy version beats the others by a good few miles due to this addition, if it wasn't already just as controllable as the original Bumpy and as evolved as Pop-Up. There is one rather significant difference to the basic gameplay mechanics - in every other version of the game, you only needed to collect the certain required items in order to open up the exit, whereas in Cool Ball, you need to collect EVERY item before the exit is opened. It's not a big deal at first, but some later levels are made a lot more difficult because of this. The only thing that the GB version is completely missing, is the level designer, but so is the case in the Spectrum and MSX versions as well. And honestly, I don't really think it even fits this sort of a game that well anyway. But, in case someone needs to argue about it, I will treat the ones without an editor with less equality, to keep the purists happy, if there are any.
Because the game has three slightly, but clearly different versions, I suppose separated placings are in order. But because we're practically speaking of the same game in any case, I will make another list with all the games and their versions on it.
1. AMSTRAD CPC
2. ATARI ST
3. ZX SPECTRUM / MSX
2. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST
3. AMSTRAD CPC
For below: * Amstrad's Bumpy and Pop-Up count pretty much as the same game.
1. Bumpy/Pop-Up (CPC)*; Cool Ball (GB)
2. Bumpy (ST)
3. Bumpy (SPE/MSX)
4. Bumpy (DOS)
5. Pop-Up (AMIGA/ST)
6. Pop-Up (DOS)
I can't tell for sure how Bumpy must have looked like to gamers in 1989, because being a C64 user at the time, I completely missed this title back then. At first glance now in 2014, it appeared slightly unimpressive for me. But when I consider the Amstrad's usual graphical output of the time, I can't really say much of it really looked as good to me the way Bumpy's graphics do. Sure, it's simplistic but charming, and every level is differently coloured, so it never gets as boring as you might think. In fact, Pop-Up with its rarely changing background images achieves that goal more efficiently.
|Menu screens. Top left: Bumpy, MSX. Top center: Bumpy, Amstrad CPC. Top right: Bumpy, ZX Spectrum.|
Bottom left: DOS. Bottom center: Pop-Up, Amstrad CPC. Bottom right: Pop-Up, Atari ST/Amiga.
Let's start with the menu screens. Bumpy's loader/title screen acts as the main menu in the original Amstrad version, as well as the Atari ST and DOS versions, and you can actually see them in the Loading section, so this will be one of those rare occasions when the loading screen has some actual use concerning graphics. But the Spectrum and MSX versions have their own main menu screen, which I think might have something to do with the graphical style and the need to avoid attribute clash... although judging by the look of Loriciels' logo, they failed at that point anyway. Pop-Up's main menus take the groovy icon-based menu idea from Bumpy and switch it to something lame and unhappy. GB's Cool Ball offers a very different looking menu screen, which fits a Nintendo game like a glove, but we'll take a look at it a bit later on.
|In-game screenshots from Bumpy - Levels 4 & 9 + editor.|
Far left: Amstrad CPC. Second left: Atari ST. Second right: ZX Spectrum/MSX. Far right: DOS.
Well, it certainly beats the MSX/SPECTRUM version's graphics, which, although effective, can't be called very atmospheric or especially pretty. It just looks like another random puzzler with little personality. The animations are good enough for the most part, but when different animations add up on the screen, your movement becomes slower.
The DOS version adds background patterns and flying enemies to the mix, but takes away all the cool colours that made the CPC original so entertaining. All the animations are as good as you would expect, but the speed problem makes it all a bit troublesome to consume.
No doubt about it - the ATARI ST version is the prettiest of the lot, but that shouldn't come as a surprise. It doesn't necessarily utilise the ST's graphic abilities to the max, but at least nothing unnecessarily pretty has been made to make the game as confusing as Pop-Up. Much like in the DOS version, the ST version has background patterns in every level, and the basic level colours are now constant, but this time it doesn't bother as much because the background stay in the background far better than in the DOS version. The animations are perfect, and you get the same flying enemies as are in the DOS version, but everything just looks superbly pretty, at least compared to every other version. But I have to say this: because the colour-themed simplistic level design in the Amstrad original is so effective, it has to be considered just as good as the ST version.
|In-game screenshots from Pop-Up - Levels 2 and 6 + editor.|
Left: Amstrad CPC. Center: DOS. Right: Atari ST/Amiga.
The AMIGA/ST and DOS versions have a very much more "at-home" look in Pop-Up, with all the upgrades intact - enemies and slightly redesigned levels. I'm not sure whether I should blame the coders or the animators for the worse playability than on the Amstrad version, so I'll leave the question floating. Although the DOS version uses only EGA at best, the animation and the basic look is mostly the same (some items are inexplicably different and the thematic colouring is sometimes quite different) as on the other 16-bits, and the ball handles slightly better than on the other two 16-bits. Too bad neither one of the games is not compatible enough with DOSbox to make the attempt worthwhile on a modern computer setup.
Continuing from the DOS version's colours, they are not too far off from the AMSTRAD's version of Pop-Up. Strangely, the Amstrad version tries to combine what was the graphical strength in the original Bumpy with the new features designed for the 16-bits. The end results aren't too bad, but it is a bit too much, and takes the focus away from the platforms and items, not to mention your character sprite. If something positive can be found from this, it is that the Amstrad Pop-Up uniquely features strong border colours to compliment the action screen's palette.
|Amstrad CPC: Bumpy (left) vs. Pop-Up (right)|
|Nintendo Game Boy: Cool Ball|
Finally, we have Cool Ball to take a look at, which can easily be done separately from all the others. The game was released on the original Game Boy, with no specific support for Super Game Boy or Game Boy Color, so it's a very greyscale experience. It takes all the graphical enhancements from the 16-bits and fits them in a smaller scale quite admirably. Sure, the framing art is gone, but this decision to leave them out of the conversion only worked for the better in this case. The animations are all perfectly executed and everything looks as good as you could expect from a lot more than just a Game Boy conversion. It's greyscale, but it works - perhaps not as well as either the original or the ST Bumpy, but very close.
1. AMSTRAD CPC / ATARI ST
3. ZX SPECTRUM / MSX
1. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST
3. AMSTRAD CPC
1. Bumpy (CPC/ST)
2. Cool Ball (GB)
3. Pop-Up (AMIGA/ST)
4. Pop-Up (DOS)
5. Bumpy (DOS)
6. Pop-Up (CPC)
7. Bumpy (SPE/MSX)
It's always natural to start at the point of origin, so let's get on with it. Bumpy on the AMSTRAD has a nicely rocking theme tune, which is happy and energetic, and feels very personal and tailor-made for this particular game. The music utilises two melodic channels and a drum track of sorts, and although it's not much different from Atari 800 soundtracks, it could be so much worse.
I'm not completely comfortable with the sound effects in the original Bumpy, mostly because of the default bouncing sound, which is a bit all-encompassing, and doesn't really fit the overall mood of the game. But maybe that's just my personal problem, because when I think of the game, quite a lot of the graphics feed an image of humour and cartoony feel to the player. The default bouncing sound is more metallic and serious, somehow, than what I would have expected. As for the other sound effects: picking up any normal item plays a high "tick" sound; picking up an extra life plays a Cmaj7 chord arpeggio; bouncing the ball higher gives a low bouncing sound (which fits the theme better than the default one); quenching a flaming platform plays a weird little waving "zing"; opening a wall will play one to three types of "tick" sounds, depending on the wall's strength; hammering down a row of tiles gives a very faint "ffhp"; reaching an exit throws in a sound that might imitate a crash cymbal played quickly backwards, followed by the bonus score counter's faint, but very familiar one-note repeater; and death/respawn plays a nicely downwards cascading failure-type melody bitonally. Perhaps I'm overdoing the detailing bit here, but it's a precaution of sorts. The Amstrad version of Pop-Up features all the same sound effects and even music that are in Bumpy, which gives it an even more solid status of uselessness.
Amazingly, the DOS Bumpy starts off with a brilliant sampled (I'm guessing it's a MOD tune) rendition of the title theme, and I have to say, it works even better than the original. The 16-bitness of it really brings out the real character of the game nicely. Unfortunately, the sound effects are played from the PC beeper, which include very unremarkable "pop" and "pip" noises for bouncing around on the platforms and the walls. Collecting any items will make a high-pitched "tick" sound; breaking down walls are dealt with just one high "blip" sound; dying will play a horrible high-pitched random-noted screech; exiting a level results in an ascending draw of an electronic flute or whatever you'd call it, followed by the inevitable bonus counter... and well, you know the drill. It's all quite boring and beepery. The DOS version of Pop-Up features all the same sound effects that are in Bumpy, but the title tune is missing.
The ATARI ST version of Bumpy has exactly the same title theme tune as the DOS version, so we're off to a very good start. Happily for the ST, it also delivers in the sound effects department, and considering the same team who did the original, were very much behind this conversion as well, I can only come to the conclusion that this is the definitive version of Bumpy, at least in regards to the sounds. There are so many different types of sound effects that I can scarcely get my head around them: all edible items have their own "gulp"-sound, and all the four usable items have their own sound effect; clashing with different types of walls and platforms have more sound effects... I could go on with more detail, but it would only be boring. The main difference to the Amstrad original really is that there is quite a lot more humour and character in the sounds on the ST, and that is exactly why it wins so easily.
Pop-Up does have its own title tune, which can be heard only on AMIGA and ATARI ST. At least it reflects the more overall sci-fi feel of the game, even if it's not nearly as catchy and memorable as the original Bumpy tune. The sound effects are more sci-fi based as well, which is a good fit, but feels kind of stock. It's high quality, but mostly boring. Both the Amiga and ST share all the same sounds and are of similar quality, and I have no interest in getting into technicalities any further than that - for all I care, they can be considered equal in this case.
Cool Ball is a unique conversion in yet another way: we get a constantly playing theme tune, which is nice and bouncy, if not quite as happy as the original, but it's definitely more to endure. At least it doesn't sound like a bloopy bulk Nintendo tune, but instead takes on a SID-like characteristic, which is always nice. However, the game plays all the sound effects on top of the music, which makes a bit of a tonal mess occasionally, but you can always turn off the volume. It is nice that the Game Boy's hardware is able to produce such an amount of simultaneous sounds, but sometimes too much is just too damn much.
To keep the Amstrad people more at ease, let's end the Bumpy comparison on a low note. Neither of the J250 Group conversions (SPE/MSX) have a title tune, and their sound effects library is poorer than on the Amstrad. On the SPECTRUM, the beeper sounds have a more mechanic overall feel, and on the MSX, the YM-chip sounds have a more metallic feel. I can't really comment one way or the other, which one is the better one, since neither of them really feel proper for the game.
1. ATARI ST
2. AMSTRAD CPC
4. ZX SPECTRUM / MSX
1. AMIGA / ATARI ST
2. AMSTRAD CPC
1. Bumpy (ST)
2. Bumpy (CPC)
3. Pop-Up (AMIGA/ST)
4. Cool Ball (GB)
5. Pop-Up (CPC)
6. Bumpy (DOS)
7. Bumpy (SPE/MSX)
8. Pop-Up (DOS)
In my quest to find the first win for the Amstrad team, this one has been a curious adventure, and took a lot more work than I originally thought it would. Not only was I somewhat successful in completing my quest, but I found a rather good puzzle game that I had previously no idea of whatsoever, and I heartily recommend it to all you others who have never played the original Bumpy. Now for the official mathematical results, which are again a bit curious, featuring three different lists as seen in the above sections...
1. AMSTRAD CPC: Playability 4, Graphics 3, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 10
1. ATARI ST: Playability 3, Graphics 3, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 10
2. DOS: Playability 1, Graphics 2, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 5
3. ZX SPECTRUM: Playability 2, Graphics 1, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 4
3. MSX: Playability 2, Graphics 1, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 4
1. COMMODORE AMIGA: Playability 2, Graphics 3, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 8
1. ATARI ST: Playability 2, Graphics 3, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 8
2. DOS: Playability 3, Graphics 2, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 6
3. AMSTRAD CPC: Playability 1*, Graphics 1, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 4
* Playability for Pop-Up is exactly the same as in Bumpy, not what it's supposed to be.
1. BUMPY / AMSTRAD CPC: Playability 6, Graphics 7, Sounds 7 = TOTAL 20
1. BUMPY / ATARI ST: Playability 5, Graphics 7, Sounds 8 = TOTAL 20
2. COOL BALL / GAME BOY: Playability 6, Graphics 6, Sounds 5 = TOTAL 17
3. POP-UP / AMIGA & ST: Playability 2, Graphics 5, Sounds 6 = TOTAL 13
4. POP-UP / AMSTRAD CPC: Playability 6, Graphics 2, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 12
5. BUMPY / DOS: Playability 3, Graphics 3, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 9
6. BUMPY / SPE & MSX: Playability 4, Graphics 1, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 7
7. POP-UP / DOS: Playability 1, Graphics 4, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 6
Well, that's as close to a fair overall score as I can make them with the current system. The only really questionable result (at least from my point of view) is for the CPC version of Pop-Up, but I'd say the top 3 or perhaps top 4 is pretty close to the truth, whatever it may be. For the first time ever, the Amstrad version actually landed on the number one spot, but lo and behold, the number one spot is big enough for two contestants this time.
this review at Interactive Dreams, the game appears to be otherwise very similar to the Bumpy games, but you get some quizes to help you on your way as an option. Also, if you can understand French, you can read about the game series here at GROS Pixels.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it!
Comments, suggestions and corrections are always welcome, but please, keep it civilized.