She’s a captain, and she’s an astronaut. She’s Captain Bubblenaut! And in this new iOS game, by Dean Tate of BioShock/Dance Central fame, you will become an astronaut too. Will it rein your universe, or get lost in space?

Captain Bubblenaut is not only an astronaut, she’s an alien and daughter of the war-mongering alien Admiral Pop. Any respectable offspring of a war-mongering alien needs to follow in their father’s footsteps to make him proud, so Bubblenaut sets out in a spaceship to invade Planet Erf (which is square shaped), and destroy all the Erflings in order to gain her father’s approval. First of all, I wholeheartedly approve of naming the planet Erf and people Erflings. It’s a simple touch, but it makes me think that the game is set on the same planet that Independence Day was, with Will Smith greeting his alien invaders with a punch and a, “Welcome to Erf.”


When you arrive to Erf, the goal is to “swoop” through the lands and knock over all the citizens. While most games give the player control over their the character, here the player controls the ground. All it takes is one touch of the finger to slide the ground left or right to position it where you want Captain Bubblenaut to hit. The terrain is full of hills perfect for swooping… if you can land the spaceship just right. This proves to be harder than it sounds. The spaceship doesn’t seem inclined to swoop; it seems inclined to bounce all over the damn place.


It’s very difficult to get a handle on the controls since you’re moving the ground and not the character. Since, if you hit the top of a hill, Captain Bubblenaut will bounce, you try to her it up so that she’ll hit the slope and swoop, but it just bounces again. Moving the ground while Captain Bubblenaut is on it will increase her speed and can change her direction. Again, it sounds really simple and intuitive, but when you actually get to it, you often find the spaceship moving in the opposite direction you expected because it hit a weird part of the slope. It will absolutely take some time to get used to. Some may pick up on the controls quickly, while others will struggle.


Each time you play the enemies and levels are randomly generated. You are allotted a certain amount of time in one area before lifting off to the next, and have three lives to see how high of a score you can accumulate. Points are awarded for knocking over the Erflings, and only a high score will impress Admiral Pop. Some of the enemies are protected by hats, horns, or shields requiring you to pay attention to your method of attack lest you lose a life.


Kudos to the developers for creating a new and different spin sloping, score-attacking games like Tim Surfer. It’s a bold move, but does it really work? If you can master the controls, it’s a lot of fun to try to beat your high score and check off the achievements linked to GameCenter. But, with as finicky as these controls are, most players will find more aggravation than fun here.


App Store Link: Captain Bubblenaut for iPhone & iPad | By Dean Tate | Price: $1.99 | Version: 1.1.0 | 38.2 MB | Rating 9+

6.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating