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Overview and game play
Bubble Bobble is considered by some games players as being the greatest arcade game of the 20th century and the popularity of the game resulted in conversions for almost all home computers available in the mid to late 1980’s. Bubble Bobble is a platform game for 1-2 players who can play simultaneously if a coin is inserted for each player. During the attract sequence the two heroes of the game, a green dinosaur called ‘bub’ and a blue dinosaur called ‘bob’, demonstrate how to play by performing 2 basic and 2 advanced skills. The first basic skill is to trap enemies encountered inside bubbles by pressing button 1 which causes the character the player controls to open its mouth and blow a bubble in the direction it is facing. If the bubble comes into contact with an enemy, the enemy will be caught within the bubble. The next basic skill is to burst a bubble with your characters horns or fins. This can be done by moving either bub or bob left or right using the joystick to touch a bubble which will then burst and turn a trapped enemy into a tasty fruit, a sweet or some other item for our heroes to collect and gain points. Another way to burst bubbles is for one of the heroes to jump towards it by pressing button 2 and touching the bubble to burst it. Bub and bob then demonstrate some advanced skills. They proceed to burst several bubbles simultaneously and high points are awarded for this, particularly if some enemies are trapped within the bubbles. The second advanced skill shown is to jump over bubbles by pressing button 2 while on top of a bubble. This skill is very important and is necessary for some stages in the game. By jumping on a bubble, bub or bob can reach high platforms or areas not normally accessible to them. The demonstration concludes by a message stating that one stage is cleared when all enemies are destroyed.
When the game begins, a message saying bonuses will be awarded at 30,000 and 100,000 points appears. The bonuses are extra lives. There is also a mystery bonus, (a secret of the game) which is awarded to the players only if a certain mystery feat can be performed. Following this initial message, a screen appears showing bub and bob travelling inside large bubbles to the cave of monsters, where their adventure begins to make their way through 100 levels of monsters to the end of the game. The initial levels are not too taxing and have been perfectly designed to allow players to become familiar with controlling bub and bob and moving them around. Each level is displayed as a static screen and the player must move within it. However, there are levels in the game that have openings in the top and bottom of the game area and the heroes can fall through these areas to reappear at the top of the screen. This aspect of the design adds an additional element to the game play as players can escape enemies who are crowded in one area of the screen or if the player wants to move to a different area quickly.
In some stages, colourful bubbles with letters written on them float around. If all the bubbles are collected, (in any order), they spell “E-X-T-E-N-D” and a separate screen appears where the player is awarded an extra life. The is a huge amount of items available to be collected for extra points: fruits, diamonds, sweets, ice creams and many more. In some rounds a large points bonus can be obtained by destroying many enemies together, resulting in a large fruit or sweet or another item falling from the top of the screen worth thousands of points. In 2-player mode this generates a lot of fun as each player rushes to be the first to collect the prize. Another enjoyable aspect of 2-player mode is that bub and bob can cooperate to achieve an objective. Cooperation can be used in various ways, from one player blowing bubbles for another to jump over or where players divide areas of the screen to be responsible for destroying enemies or collecting items. Players can also restrain themselves from popping a lettered bubble that they don’t need but the other player does.
Another impressive aspect of Bubble Bobble’s game play is the large variety of power-ups available to the players such as a cross that allows the players character to blow fireballs instead of bubbles or a pair of shoes that makes bub or bob run faster. In addition to the bubbles with letters on them, there are also bubbles containing fire, lightening and water and the use of these items each affects and adds to the game play. Some items actually affect the game more dramatically, such as different coloured umbrellas that transport the player a few levels forward with the number of levels travelled dependant on the colour of the umbrella collected. This is a clever feature, as players may feel inclined to play the game again to enjoy the levels they skipped over in a previous game. Another item that has dramatic effects is a coloured potion bottle. When collected it fills the level with collectable items and a timer appears to start a mini-game. If the players successfully collect all the items before the time is up, a large points bonus will be awarded.
The presence of numerous collectable items whether for bonus points or to obtain a power-up is one of the most significant factors that makes Bubble Bobble an outstanding game. Players may be happily blowing bubbles one minute and then a desired item may appear on the screen for a short time to tempt the players. Players have to decide if it is safe to go after the item and whether they can outrun the other player if both are after the same item. This causes much excitement and fun and is great game play. Bubble Bobble is indeed a classic arcade game that is fun, addictive and has fantastic, timeless game play.
Taito’s designers and graphics artists created some excellent characters for Bubble Bobble, all of which are cute and well animated with their own movements and attacks. The heroes, bub and bob, are very cute and even when they have been attacked, the animation that shows them spinning around is cute and pleasing. If an enemy is trapped in a bubble for too long, it will shake and go red and eventually burst out of the bubble looking rather angry. It remains red and moves more quickly around the screen to find and attack the players. The simple addition of this extra animation and effect adds to the game play and characterisation of the enemies. There is a wide variety of enemies that encounter bub and bob to maintain the players interest ranging from clockwork faces that resemble American football helmets to ghosts. The levels have been carefully designed to provoke tactical thought in players about how they may rid the level of all the enemies safely. One superbly designed level features enemies trapped in an enclosure that resembles a frying pan and the players can pop bubbles filled with fire to roast the enemies! There are many other levels in bubble bobble that stand out as being superlative examples of level design and enhance the overall experience for the players.
One of the most endearing qualities of Bubble Bobble is its memorable theme tune that plays throughout the game. The tune is up-beat, cheerful and an all-time classic piece of music in the history of arcade games that is wholly appropriate for the game. The tune sometimes speeds up when the player must ‘hurry up’, (a message that appears when too much time has elapsed in one level accompanied by a white enemy that cannot be destroyed) to add a sense of urgency to the game play. The white enemy follows bub and bob around the screen in a series of sliding movements and will only disappear once the level is over or when it has attacked one of the players. Separate melodies play during the bonus rounds and during the introduction that add enormously to the already superb game play.
The sound effects in Bubble Bobble are well designed and implemented effectively to enhance the players’ experience. Sounds are used from the moment coins are deposited to portray every on-screen action and many of the sounds in Bubble Bobble are more memorable and enjoyable than many other games music and sound effects put together.