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|Platform(s)||Arcade, FM Towns Marty, Sharp X68000, Super Famicom|
|Arcade system||Namco Libble Rabble|
|CPU||2x Motorola M6809, Motorola 68000|
|Display||Horizontal orientation, Raster, 288 x 224 resolution|
Libble Rabble[a] is a 1983 puzzle arcade game developed and published in Japan by Namco. The player is tasked with using two colored arrows, Libble and Rabble, to wrap them around pegs and surround small creatures known as Mushlins to "harvest" them under a time limit. The player can also uncover treasure chests that will have the player searching the stage for items in order to access a special bonus stage. It ran on the Namco Libble Rabble hardware, one of the only games to do so.
Described by Namco as a "bashishi game", it was designed by Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani and composed by Nobuyuki Ohnogi. Iwatani came up with the idea for the game after an experience at a crowded disco hall, where he envisoned himself tying up people with ropes and throwing them out of the way. It was also inspired by a game he played during his childhood, where the objective was to tie ropes to short metal poles on the ground. The game was known as Potato in early development as Namco considered making the game a tie-in with a potato chip manufacturer in Japan, however these plans later fell through. Iwatani soon passed off development to Makoto Sato due to being overwhelmed with other projects, who added additional ideas such as treasure chests as he felt the game was too simplistic. A North American release was planned by Midway Games but later cancelled.
In Japan, Libble Rabble was praised for its unique gameplay and colorful visuals, and is described as a cult classic. Retrospectively, it has been praised for its bizarre yet interesting premise and addictiveness, some labeling it as one of the most underappreciated games in Namco's arcade catalog. A Super Famicom version was released in 1994, followed by home ports for both the FM Towns Marty and Sharp X68000 — the Super Famicom release included a special cover slip for the d-pad to recreate the original game's twin-stick gameplay. It was digitally re-released for the Japanese Wii Virtual Console in 2009.
At first glance, the gameplay resembles Taito's Qix. The player controls two "arrows", one red (Libble) and one blue (Rabble) with a line strung between them. The object is to wrap the line around poles and surround Mushlins and enemies with it. The player can either close the loops themselves (worth more points for the Mushlins) or move both arrows to the same edge of the screen. The player clears a "season" when he or she harvests all the Mushlins.
Along the way, various enemies will appear and try to stop the player. The most common are four little hooded critters (Hobblins), which start each season in the corners. If the player catches them in a loop, they will be sent to the top of the screen for a short period of time. Other critters such as fireballs (Killers), sparks (Changers), and Demons will also appear. These can be killed by closing a loop around them. Sometimes, scissors-like enemies (Shears) appear, and if they cross the player's line, they cut it. If the player's line is ever cut by Shears or Demons, a new one is instantly made: directly between the two arrows.
Every so often when the player closes a line, a detector goes off indicating that the area he or she has closed off has a treasure chest somewhere. To actually uncover the chest, the player must surround a small enough area which covers just the chest, and no other possible hiding places. The game guides the player along that step, first by challenging him or her to uncover a chest at the start of the game (and then by revealing the locations of the chests for the first two seasons). When the player actually uncovers a chest, six bonus creatures (Topcups) will pop out, then make for the edges. The player must corral them with his or her line and then close the loop to score the bonus for them: they mean bonus letters. If the player manages to complete a bonus word, the season is automatically cleared out and the player moves to a bonus stage where he or she must try to uncover and collect chests (to collect a chest, the player needs to close a loop around an opened chest) within a time limit.
The player loses a life if any of the assorted critters touch one of the arrows or if he or she runs out of time (the border is the player's timer, and he or she can boost the time by looping Mushlins and plants), and the player gains an extra life at 40,000, 120,000, 200,000, 400,000, 600,000 and 1,000,000 points by default. After the 100th season, the season counter will stop at 99, similar to how Galaxian and King & Balloon's round indicators would stop after 48 rounds.
Libble Rabble was designed by Toru Iwatani, best known for creating the arcade game Pac-Man. Iwatani conceptualized the game based on an experience he had in a crowded disco hall in the early 1980s, where he envisioned himself using ropes to tie people up and throwing them out of the way. It was also inspired by a game that he played during his childhood, which involved tying ropes around short metal poles stuck in the ground. Early versions of the game were known as Potato due to Namco considering the game be a tie-in with a Japanese potato chip manufacturer, however these plans fell short as the company was unable to get the license. Due to the game's size and graphical effects, a new arcade board named the Namco Libble Rabble was created to fulfill these conditions, designed by hardware engineer Toru Ogawa.
Midway through development, Iwatani soon grew overwhelmed with other projects, passing duties off to designer Makoto Sato. After seeing the prototype build, Sato found the game to be too simplistic and decided to incorporate new ideas to try and add a layer of strategy to it. One of these was the concept for treasure chests and uncovering them, an idea influenced by the Apple II role-playing game Wizardry. Music was composed by Nobuyuki Ohnogi. Namco designer Kazuo Kurosu, known for his work on Rally-X and Bosconian, showed disappointment towards Sato's ideas and found them to make the game less appealing, however time constraints forced the game to be released in its initial state. Libble Rabble was officially released in Japan in October 1983. It was described by Namco as a "bashihi" game, a word derived from the player's arrows surrounding an object. Namco presented the game to North American distributor Midway Games for a possible release in the United States, however executives were lukewarm towards it and declined.
A home conversion was released for the Sharp X68000 in 1993, nearly twelve years after its original arcade release. It was then followed by versions for the Super Famicom and FM Towns Marty in 1994 — the former of which includes a special D-Pad cover that can be placed over the buttons to recreate the game's twin-stick control layout. A PC version, developed by Japanese company MediaKite, was released in 1997 and later included in the 1998 arcade game compilation Namco Collection Vol. 2. It was digitally re-released for the Japanese Wii Virtual Console in 2009. The soundtrack was released for iTunes in 2011, released under the Namco Sounds label.
Libble Rabble was a successful game in Japan, and is described as a cult classic. Japanese publication Amusement Life applauded its unique twin-stick controls and interesting gameplay, saying that it made it stick out from other games in arcades at the time. Reviewing the Super Famicom home conversion, Video Games magazine referred to it as a "politically-correct Super Bomberman", noting of its unique yet strange premise. In a retrospective review, Retro Gamer magazine stated it was a "true, underappreciated classic" of the puzzle game genre, favorably comparing it to Taito's Qix.
In Battle City, also by Namco, one of the maps resembles a Hobblin. The game's theme was used in one of the levels of the Pac-Man Vs. port to the Nintendo DS (as part of Namco Museum DS). The game's theme was also used as Shion Uzuki's cell phone ringtone in Xenosaga, a game by Namco for the Sony PlayStation 2.
Libble Rabble was ported to the Wii Virtual Console.
- Iwatani, Toru (September 2005). Introduction to Pac-Man's Game Studies (First ed.). Japan: Enterbrain. ISBN 4-7577-1752-0.
- Game Critic (November 1999). 失われた伝説を求めて 第4話 - LIBBLE RABBLE LEGEND WILL NEVER DIE!!!!. Micro Design Publishing.
- "リブルラブル" (14). Amusement Life. February 1984. pp. 35–39. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
- Constant, Nikos (November 1994). "Global Gaming: Libble Rabble" (70). Video Games. p. 126. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
- S.S. (August 2007). "Libble Rabble" (40). Retro Gamer. p. 52-53. Retrieved October 6, 2019.