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Bugaboo Review

Written by Golem
About the game Bugaboo (The Flea)
Read the original forum post here.
Posted on Feb 27, 2016


Bugaboo (The Flea) has but three elements: Bugaboo, the Dragon, and the cave. Players will pilot Bugaboo, whose strange movement requires practice to master. The irregular contours of the cave stress Bugaboo's awkward controls, and the Dragon's simple ability to fly anywhere entices the player to make good use of those controls.

The Flea

Bugaboo can do one thing: jump.

There are two jump keys, one for jumping to the left and one for jumping to the right. The left jump key is on the far left (1) and the right jump key is on the far right (0).

As you hold a key down, Bugaboo's charge meter at the bottom fills. When it reaches the maximum, it resets to empty and fills again. When you release the key, Bugaboo will jump; the meter indicates how far he will jump. However, bear in mind that the meter is not perfectly accurate. The dots are not a perfect representation of jump strength.

The meter fills extremely quickly, roughly 0.6 seconds per notch. Even a slight tap of a jump key will fill about a third of it. You need a good sense of timing to hit the jump you want.

After releasing the jump key, the Dragon will freeze until Bugaboo lands from its jump.

Additionally, Bugaboo travels the entire jump distance almost instantly. If it hits a screen boundary, the screen will scroll as Bugaboo pauses, so you can observe its position and trajectory mid-jump in that way. Otherwise, you will only get a sense of its trajectory from where it hits the ceiling or a wall. Upon hitting either, it will stop instantly and fall down.

Note that Bugaboo will fall down if it lands half-way on a ledge. It also dies when it touches the Dragon (including mid-jump).

Personally, this control scheme creates a start-stop rhythm. Because the charge is so quick, I take a second before jumping in order to recall what jump I need and how long I need to press in order to get it. And because the jump is nearly instantaneous, I need a moment to confirm Bugaboo's exact position before doing anything else.

The Dragon

The Dragon wanders the cave, trying to find its way around landmasses towards Bugaboo. The Dragon does know Bugaboo's position. However, it has trouble thinking far ahead, so it can get stuck in loops. For instance, if Bugaboo waits on the red ledge at the top-left of the cave, and the Dragon approaches from below, the Dragon will get confused and fly in circles under the red ledge.

The player must navigate Bugaboo out of the maze-like cave using a sequence of jumps. This restricts the player, since Bugaboo is dependent on the position of platforms for progress. The Dragon, though, can fly about the cave as it wishes, so long as no platform blocks it. On the other hand, its movement is slow, especially compared to Bugaboo's jump speed. In this way, the Dragon challenges the player to navigate the cave efficiently. Bugaboo has limited movement, and the Dragon has limited speed.

However, the Dragon is more than a timer. Because it moves about the cave in 2D space, it will sometimes force the player to adapt his or her route. When the Dragon approaches, the player must make a hasty retreat and cannot take time to plan jumps. (Remember that the Dragon can still move while Bugaboo charges a jump, but not while Bugaboo is in the act of jumping.) Or, if the Dragon is simply nearby, it may block off a jump the player wishes to make. But, in the player's favor, platforms will block the Dragon's flight path. As a result, the player can use the cave structure as a defense against the Dragon. The Dragon is dynamic and prevents the player from traversing the cave the same way each time.

The Cave

Click here for a map courtesy of Speccy Screenshot Maps.

The Paths Out

The cave is constructed of irregular platforms. There is no pattern to their size or location. This means that no path out of the cave is easily visible. However, the platforms also allow for multiple paths out of the cave. (Even then... isn't it mean that if you get to the top on the right side of the cave, that mushroom at the top blocks your path?)

Because of the limited field of view and the irregular platform placement, the player will need to discover and learn the layout of the cave in order to find a path out.

The Gameplay

The cave allows Bugaboo's elements to play out.

The player will have to learn where Bugaboo can jump. Its restricted movement stresses the player's knowledge. If the player is familiar with its jump arc, then that knowledge will suffice. However, the player can also memorize what jumps are possible from what positions. (I find myself memorizing what spots on the ceiling are easiest to hit, because Bugaboo will fall straight down from where it hits its head.) In this case, the player will have some knowledge of Bugaboo and some knowledge of the cave itself. Without sufficient knowledge, the player will have to make a guess and try something.

And of course, executing the jump requires timing.

This test of knowledge and timing gives the Dragon time to approach Bugaboo. Because the Dragon constantly tracks Bugaboo, it will interrupt the player as he or she attempts to analyze possible jumps. Additionally, it can block off pathways, encouraging the player to find new ways of going through the cave. The Dragon prevents the cave from becoming a static obstacle.

The player can always rely on the floor. Bugaboo cannot fall into a hopeless pit; in the worst possible scenario, Bugaboo will return to the starting floor. However, the player can put Bugaboo into a spot perfectly guarded by the Dragon, in which case the only way out is... death.


Bugaboo's jump arc is difficult to master. It's easy to launch far and hard to hop a small distance. The cave doesn't offer a friendly playground for learning it, either; its hallways are cramped, and its ledges are small. As a result, just moving around the cave can boil down to experimentation and memorization. The Dragon offers variety by danger and by opportunity. First, it poses a danger by interrupting the player when they're trying to learn or analyze their options. Second, the Dragon provides the possibility of using the cave platforms as cover. These two forces lend Bugaboo (The Flea) much-needed dynamism.
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