Evercade Game of the Month 2023 #9: Bubble Seahorse Adventures

Written by Pete Davison

Tags bubble seahorse adventures, EVERCADE, indie heroes 3

We made it to the end of the year! These days, that definitely feels like cause for celebration — and to help you have some fun as the ever-frantic holiday season looms, we present the final Game of the Month for 2023!

Game of the Month is a programme for Evercade VS and Evercade EXP owners where you can download a free game every month between April and December of 2023. You can enjoy the full version of each game without limits for a month. In February 2024, all of the Game of the Month titles from 2023 will be collected together for the Indie Heroes 3 cartridge, together with a few cartridge-exclusive games to sweeten the deal even further, and you’ll be able to add them to your Evercade library permanently!

This month, we bring you Bubble Seahorse Adventures, which is a tricky platformer running natively on Evercade hardware rather than being an emulated “modern retro” game originally designed for vintage gaming hardware.

Please note: This update is live for Evercade VS only at the time of writing. Evercade EXP will follow later in the week.

Bubble Seahorse Adventures began its life in 2007, when a collective of developers calling themselves The Old Battleaxe decided to enter the PyWeek game jam. This is a bi-annual event that continues to run to this day, in which entrants are invited to write a game in one week completely from scratch, either as an individual or part of a team.

The only restrictions on PyWeek projects are the time limit, the fact they must be developed using the programming language Python, and that they must follow a vague theme. PyWeek 4, which is what eventually gave us Bubble Seahorse Adventures, was themed around the concept “the only way is up”.

The original pitch for the game that would become Bubble Seahorse Adventures was that it would be “sort of a Mario 3 clone” and that it would be “oldschool and low-res and using just a few colours”. Developer Phil Hassey went into the game jam with coding and sound pretty well-covered by both himself and some contacts he already had, but immediately set about recruiting assistance from the community for pixel graphics artists and level designers — common practice during game jam events like this.

The game was originally known as Barbie Seahorse Adventures, before temporarily being renamed Bubble Kong for its submission to PyWeek. After the game jam, Hassey and company decided to polish up the game with, in Hassey’s words, “a bazillion bug fixes, about 10 new levels and all the lousy levels removed” to create a release initially known as Bubble Kong Deluxe before switching back to Barbie Seahorse Adventures.

Besides Hassey acting as the project director and working on both code and levels, the project also included contributions from developers known as Trick (tiles and sprites), Pekuja (code and levels), Tim (music and levels), DrPetter (backgrounds and sound effects), Fydo (level design), Lerc (graphics) and Tee (level design). According to Hassey, Trick has “vanished into the vortex of the Internet”, but he appears to still be in contact with most of the others, some of whom went on to work in the video games and tech sectors following their contributions to the project.

The game evidently remained on Hassey’s mind, because in 2015 he revealed a teaser trailer for an enhanced Apple TV version of the game, now known as Bubble Seahorse Adventures, presumably to avoid any awkward conversations with a certain doll manufacturer. That version forms the basis for this brand new native Evercade release.

In Bubble Seahorse Adventures, you play the role of a seahorse and you have to get to the moon. The exact reason for this has never been made entirely clear at any point during the game’s long history, but this is the world of video games and things don’t always have to make sense.

In order to get to the moon, you’ll need to traverse several different environments a stage at a time, blowing bubbles and collecting shiny things along the way. Your bubbles can be used both to defeat enemies and to help you traverse the levels — enemies trapped in your bubbles can be used as floating platforms! Normally it takes three bubbles to defeat an enemy, but find a power-up and you’ll not only sprout a rather fetching quiff, you’ll be able to bubble enemies with just one shot. Your quiff will also protect you against a single hit from an enemy, but it will power you back down to baby seahorse status.

The game is simple to control, in keeping with its retro inspirations. You move the seahorse with the D-Pad, jump or enter doors with the button and fire bubbles with the button. And that’s about all you need to know! Watch out for special blocks: blue blocks will fall when you stand on them, and red blocks can be destroyed if you shoot them with a bubble.

Be prepared for a stiff challenge! Bubble Seahorse Adventures is old-school hard in places, and perseverance is very much the key. Remember that you don’t have to collect every shiny thing on your way to the level exit — you can always save that for an additional challenge once you’ve managed to clear the game once!

Best of luck, then; you’ve got a tricky quest ahead of you, but we think you’ll enjoy this bouncy, cheerful slice of old-school fun.

To get started with Bubble Seahorse Adventures and the Game of the Month programme for 2023, connect your Evercade VS or EXP to the Internet via the Network option in Settings, then perform a system update to the latest available firmware version.

When you’re all updated, you’re ready to go — start the game through the VS or EXP logo on the left of the main Evercade menu and get ready to begin your moon-chasing adventure!

Note that we always recommend Evercade users keep their consoles up to date as a matter of course to ensure maximum compatibility with new cartridge releases and implement fixes to known issues. Please see the Evercade support pages for full patch notes; all new firmware updates are cumulative, so update once and you’ll see all the benefits, including new features and even sometimes new secret games to enjoy! This update includes new features, so please see our separate blog post explaining these.

Please note that saves from the Game of the Month edition of Bubble Seahorse Adventures will not carry across to the Indie Heroes Collection 3 cartridge when that releases in February of 2024.


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