Bubble Bobble


Source // Wikipedia

I have definitely played Bubble Bobble in an arcade, on an actual arcade machine, with bloopy blingy lights and sounds an- no, wait, no, I'm thinking of Puzzle Bobble. The one with the bubble cannon. Yeah, that's right. Sorry. We're going in blind ladies and gentlemen.

Fun Times

Oh joy of joys, do I love games that catch me completely unaware before leaving me hooked. Bubble Bobble is a platformer of sorts, a puzzler of sorts, a shoot em up of sorts. You control Bub or Bob, depending on which player you are, as you blow bubbles out of your mouths. These bubbles will hopefully trap enemies, allowing you to safely dispose of them by popping the bubbles, turning those enemies into food, and finally eating the food for points. As you do.

Taito's arcade game was ported all over the place, and I'm playing the NES port which Taito developed themselves. Bar an obvious visual downgrade compared to the arcade footage I've seen, there's not much to separate the actual gameplay, which is exactly what we like to hear.

You can move, jump and blow bubbles, and you'll need to think about how to deal with each level quickly, because the enemies waste no time in heading your way. Sometimes they'll come at you all at once, one after the other, essentially walking into your bubbles. Pop them quickly enough (and together for more points) and those helpless enemies are scattered across the level in the form of food for you to gather for yet more points. Dispatch every enemy and the stage is clear.

Stages offer different amounts of complexity, with some looking simple at first glance but proving to be tricky to navigate. You can jump up to a platform but can only drop down through holes in platforms. This does include the bottom of the screen however, where you wrap back around to fall from the ceiling, and you can also hitch a ride on bubbles for an extra boost.

Enemies also vary, some moving about as you'd expect, with others bouncing around the stage. If you manage to bubble them up but not pop them, they'll eventually free themselves but become enraged in the process, tearing around the stages much faster than before. You do have some extra tools at your disposal, including the ability to use fire and water against enemies, so keep an eye out for the power-ups. Take too long on a stage as a whole and an invincible ghost-skeleton type thing appears and menacingly tracks you down - better finish the stage before he finishes you.

I don't know what's going on, and I'm scared to touch anything to find out


Bubble Bobble is easy to dive right into, but it can catch you out and trip you up from time to time. I found the movement to be a little slow sometimes, with some stages being tricky to navigate successfully. A number of times I found myself accidentally jumping up to a platform I didn't want to be on, but that's just getting used to the mechanics.

So long as all enemies are defeated the stage is complete, no matter how bumbly a Bub or a Bob you were. Any remaining items of food and so on are just for bonus points, but if that's the whole point of the game then you'd want to be able to get a good grasp of the movement mechanics and almost plan out your time in a stage, if such a thing is possible.

Getting points isn't actually the whole point of the game (though really it is). The paper thin plot to Bubble Bobble is that your girlfriend(s) have been kidnapped by Baron von Blubba, the man thing (turns out he is the ghost skeleton thing who appears when you take too long on a stage) who turned you and your brother into dragons, so you've got to do the manly thing and rescue them before it's too late.

Sorry, Betty. I got to level 16 out of 100 though. You should be proud. Kidnapped and proud.

Final Word

Welcoming and cheerful, yet hiding some tricky little stages, Bubble Bobble is fully deserving of its status on the list of 1001 Video Games You Must Play. It's a bit bloody cheeky to require two players to be in on the action to get the 'true ending', which isn't worth it from what I've seen, but it's such a good game for one player that a two player run must have some good times associated with it.

Whether with a friend or with nobody but your lonesome, I encourage you to play Bubble Bobble, if even for a lil bit.

Fun Facts

Own a graphing calculator from the TI-8x series? Guess what you can play on it thanks to some very dedicated fans...

Bubble Bobble, developed by Taito, first released in 1986.
Version played: NES, 1988, via emulation.
Version watched: Arcade, 1986 (World of Longplays)