Monday, 26 August 2013

Flubble & Squij - Scratching a 20-year old itch!

Greetings fellow Retronauts!

As part of the Psytronik Software 20 Year celebrations I have recently dusted off and released a game that has been languishing in the not-quite-properly-released void since around 1994.  The game is a C64 title called Flubble & Squij - a cutesy arcade platformer that was originally produced by Damian Steele & Kevin Murphy back in the day - and then a modified version was produced by Jon Wells for the Psytronik release - which never quite happened.  Want to know how come?  Then read on!

When Flubble & Squij was initially submitted to Psytronik Software I was impressed with the game with it's fast, smooth gameplay and cute graphics.  The only problem with this version was that the music for the game was made up of the demo songs from the Ubik's Music editor - which may have caused problems with them being featured in a commercial release.

To get around this problem I asked Jon Wells if he could install soundtracks by FeekZoid into the game.  This led to the idea of enhancing the game slightly for the Psytronik release.  Jon added some raster splits to the game to give the levels more colours, altered the main Flubble sprite to make him look more like a dragon and changed some of the in-game sprites.

The problem with the revised version of the game is that some of the cuteness of the original was lost somewhere along the way.  This wasn't helped by the choice of in-game tune which was a tad surreal sounding!  I ended up being torn as which version I actually preferred as I liked the overall cleaner look of the original version, but Jon had also done some nice work with the enhanced version - and had also produced artwork for the Psytronik release of the game featuring the new dragon style Flubble character.

The unused Flubble & Squij artwork by Jon Wells

The result of this dilemma left poor little Flubble in limbo - and while all this to-ing and fro-ing was happening back in 1994 all wasn't going well for Psytronik.  The release of the third Psytronik title The Shoot 'Em Destruction Set was, to be quite honest, pretty disastrous.  Despite an excellent review in Commodore Format (earning the release a very respectable 90%) the compilation literally only sold a handful of copies.  In fact, I can remember giving away more copies as compo prizes for a CF compo than I sold in the end.  As a result of this, coupled with the uncertainty of which version of Flubble to go with, Psytronik Software was laid to rest until it rose once again, like a great fiery Phoenix in 2008!

A mockup of how Flubble & Squij may have looked
if it was released by Psytronik in 1994

So where did this leave poor old Flubble?  I think by this time the game creators had given up on the game having a proper commercial release so instead the original version was released into the public domain as a Shareware title.  The enhanced version kind of vanished into obscurity ...  But for all these years Flubble has been niggling at the back of my mind.  In my opinion the game was definitely worthy of a proper release - and that's a fact I had not forgotten until ...

Flash forward to 2013!!

 Behold ... THE FUTURE!  This is where we live now ... (kinda)

And so here we are ... IN THE FUTURE!  After realising the Psytronik label has been kicking around for the last 20 years I had a think about things to do for the anniversary.  And that's when Flubble popped into my mind.  Now that I am able to do nice glossy colour artwork for Psytronik releases I thought it would be a cool idea to FINALLY give the game the properly packaged release it always deserved.  So I dug out the original two versions of the game and puzzled over which version should be released - and that's when I had a brainwave!  Why not release BOTH versions in the same package?!  So simple it's brilliant!  I sent the original version off to Richard Bayliss who concocted suitably jolly soundtracks for the game - replacing the old Ubik's Music that hampered the original release.  I also found the original artwork that Jon Wells produced for the Psytronik release.  I began work digitally restoring the artwork and produced a vectorized version to use for the packaging.

But that's when Flubble's journey took ANOTHER unexpected turn!  Realizing the original artwork was now looking a bit dated when compared to the more recent Psytronik releases I sent the pic to Trevor 'Smila' Storey to see if he could come up with something new.  The image he sent back was so darned cute it just HAD to be used!!  The only problem now was that I had already sent the original artwork to Carl 'Mase' Mason for him to base the loading bitmap on - and he had already almost finished the pic!  Luckily, he very kindly agreed to do a second bitmap screen, this time based on the new Smila design.  And this meant I had two lovely loading bitmaps, one for each version of the game!!

The never-released 1994 version of Flubble & Squij with the
'ermagherd, it has finally been released' 2013 version!

So with new artwork, new music, new loading screens and new tape masters + disk menu (expertly handled by Richard Bayliss) Flubble & Squij was FINALLY ready for a proper release after all these years - and the niggling itch at the back of my mind about not releasing it in the first place is now gone!

The original 1993 - 1994 Psytronik tape releases
along with the 2008 - 2013 new versions.

Flubble & Squij is now available in the Binary Zone RetroStore on C64 tape and disk!

Thanks for reading!

Kenz / (29/7/13)

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