I recently wrote about Namco's first video game "Gee Bee", which was a combination of Breakout and pinball that really didn't work very well. "Bomb Bee" is the first of two sequels to "Gee Bee". Like the first, "Bomb Bee" is relatively obscure, which is surprising because these are Namco's first two games. Namco, as I pointed out, is one of the best video game developers in history and is still going strong today.
Anyway, when first booting it up, I noticed that the layout was a slight improvement on "Gee Bee". Things are a little more spread out in this one. There are also more blocks and obstacles. The graphics themselves are slightly more advanced, but not really.
When I first started playing, I noticed that there was a lot more going on with the sound. Not only is it better than in "Gee Bee", there are more sound effects and they're utilized more often. "Gee Bee", like most video games of that period, was relatively sparse and quiet in terms of sound. "Bomb Bee" is more sonically active, and you'd almost feel like you were at an actual pinball table if you didn't know any better. I'm speaking, of course, in comparsion to "Gee Bee".
As for gameplay, I had a much better time playing this than I did "Gee Bee". It's basically the same game, but I think the layout changes of the "table" made all the difference. The two bumpers, rather than being below the upper blocks like in "Gee Bee", are on the top right and left in "Bomb Bee". This makes it much easier to score points, and seems to be more in line in what a real pinball table might actually be designed. The gamemakers obviously saw that "Gee Bee" fell a little flat and made some changes that improved on the formula and made "Bomb Bee" a much better realized game.
There are still some problems I had with the game that were present in the original. At times, not when you lose a ball, one segment of blocks (right below the top) will reappear after you knocked them out. I don't know how this happens, but it does at times. At least it isn't the whole set of blocks like in "Gee Bee". Also, and this seems to be present in every "Breakout"-style game up until "Arkanoid", the ball will inexplicably range from slow to lightning fast. It very well might be because I suck, but I think overall a slightly faster general speed would be preferable to such a dramatic shift in speed from one extreme to another. As a result, I'm never able to clear all the blocks.
To sum things up, I had a very good time playing "Bomb Bee". I wouldn't list it in with the classics, but am somewhat surprised at how little-known and obscure it is. It's one of the first games that I have played that may not be a classic in its own right, but does add an interesting twist to a classic.