Review by Dave Giarrusso



Graphics: 7

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Believe it or not, when I was a kid, I was introduced to exactly three different “Bubbles” at a local Chuck E. Cheese.  The first was a chimp, aptly named Bubbles because she (so I’m told) once grabbed a bottle of children’s bubbles (with free wand!) and drank the entire thing.  Then she hiccuped bubbles for thirty minutes.  Later, she vomited almost silently under the cover of night.  Still later, her owner found a nice present on the living room carpet, which, upon closer inspection, contained the wand.  I’m not sure if she’s the same Bubbles who later hung out with Michael Jackson and subsequently turned up in Sega’s pair of Moonwalker video games.  The second “Bubbles” I met was an appropriately named female “entertainer” with some seriously big, beautiful bubbles of her own.  The final, and my personal favorite of the three (I was a kid, remember?) was a little blue coin-op by Williams.

Some gamers might have you believe that Bubbles is a less than stellar William’s coin-op.  As evidence to support their claim, they’d offer up Bubbles’ absence from the SNES and Genesis versions of the original WAGH compilation.  They’d try to convince you that it’s just a game where you clean out a sink.

I, on the other hand, would say that Bubbles is awesome.  ‘Cause it’s awesome.

There’s much more to Bubbles than first meets the eye, and it easily holds its own right along side juggernauts like Robotron, Sinistar and Joust.  Have you ever seen a soap bubble floating through the air?  You must have, whether it was as a kid, blowing bubbles through a wand with one of those fifty-cent plastic bottles o’ suds, or last week as you squirted dish soap into the sink.  What didja think as you watched the bubbles soar majestically through the air?  I’d guess it was something like, “well, there goes a bubble.  Neat.  Now, what’s for dinner...”  It’s a bubble, big deal, right?  The thing is, on closer inspection, a soap bubble is a beautiful thing, really.  It’s spherical, it’s almost invisible, and yet, it contains every color of the rainbow, swirling and twirling across its surface.

Like its namesake, the Bubbles coin-op is equally beautiful.  If you’ve never given it a chance, it might be time to take a closer look.  True, the object of Bubbles is to clean out sinks while avoiding a slew of items guaranteed to burst your bubble, but the beauty of the game lies in its insidious attention to detail.  Not one pixel, not one sound effect is wasted.  Everything in Bubbles is there for a reason, and the whole package is a superb example of brilliant game design.

Clean up the crumbs, ants and grease stains, dodge the brushes, sponges, razor blades and cockroaches, and move on the next round.  As the bubble cleans up dirt, it grows.  The larger it gets, the more cumbersome it is to effectively wrangle around the sink, but a larger bubble also scores MUCH higher than a small bubble upon completion of a round.  The bubble develops a face as it grows, first a pair of eyes, then a mouth, and finally, a million-dollar smile.  Better still, the facial features are a key facet of the gameplay, and are the key to your success in racking up big points.

A bubble equipped with eyes can pick up a broom from the oft-visiting cleaning lady, and use it to wipe out the otherwise deadly cockroaches.  The drain is deadly to a bubble without a mouth, but safe for a bubble with a mouth.  Once the bubble has a mouth, it can also slam the brushes and sponges around the sink, and if you’re on the money, right down the drain for more bonus points.  Playing bumper cars with the enemies has its price though: each hit knocks the bubble’s size down a notch.  Hit too many enemies and you’ll wind up not only faceless, but also defenseless.

Entering the drain without clearing the remaining dirt from the sink sends you two boards ahead in the game, and is the quickest way to rack up lots of bonus points.  The cleaning lady is another source of extra points – as she sweeps her way around the sink, she’ll clean up any bits of dirt she runs across.  As she cleans up, the points earned for running her over also increase.  Remember: you have to touch the broom in order to grab it.  If you run over the cleaning lady without touching the broom first, you won’t pick it up.

Bubbles’ audio and visuals are as fantastic as the gameplay.  Its cool blue color scheme makes you feel right at home, despite the fact that you’re in a filthy sink.  The water effects, faucet handle animation and characters are all outstanding.  The faucet even drips a bit as you play, and can nudge the bubble down toward the drain should you dally underneath it.  The drain also flashes red if a cockroach is about to crawl up out of it, and green when it’s safe for you to steer the bubble on down.

Like so many of the “classics,” Bubbles excels on every level.  Controlled by a single joystick, the bubble has exactly the right feel, as though you’re maneuvering a real-life slippery soap bubble.  Losing the game prompts a “nyeah nyeah nyeah nyeah nyeah” theme song, followed by the final “down the drain…pop!” sound effect.  The next time you see Bubbles, don’t just let it float past you.  Stop and check it out, just like you might stop and check out that other “Bubbles” I once encountered at the arcade so many years ago.  And no, I’m not talking about the chimp.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 03:16 PM