Random Game Wednesdays: Bubble Bobble (NES)

Every once in a while, the random number generator gives me a game that I absolutely adore. This is one of those weeks. Bubble Bobble is a game that I spent a ton of time playing growing up, and unlike a lot of games, it’s every bit as good today as it was back then. This is one of those reviews where I had to remind myself to stop playing the game so that I could get some writing done about it.You play as Bub or Bob, depending on whether you’re player one or two. Bub and Bob were originally humans, named Bubby and Bobby, but the evil Baron Von Blubba has transformed the two into bubble-breathing dragons and kidnapped their girlfriends. I’m not really sure why he transformed our heroes, it seems like they’d have a harder time getting their girlfriends back if they were still human. But whatever, Bub and Bob must travel through the Cave of Monsters in order to defeat Von Blubba and save the girls.

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Gameplay is simple but really satisfying. The A button makes you jump, while the B button makes your dragon spit out a bubble. Hitting an enemy with a bubble will trap them, at which point you can jump on them to defeat them. That’s the basic gameplay loop, but there’s also some more advanced skills. For example, jumping on a bubble and holding down the A button will allow you to bounce on it, allowing you to reach areas that would have been harder to get to. Also, all bubbles that are touching will burst in a chain reaction when you break one of them, allowing you to set up combos.

The enemies in the game provide a good variety of different challenges. To start with, you have to fight these weird marshmallow looking guys, who mostly just run at you and jump. Then there’s flying fish looking monsters, that fly in diagonal patterns, making them difficult to hit. There’s a wizard type enemy, that will produce fireballs and push them into you. It’s all good stuff and creates several different situations that you have to solve. The last enemy standing will change color and become more aggressive. It’s actually a lot like the original Mario Bros. in that regard.

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You also have to try to defeat the enemies fairly quickly. If you start to take too long, a warning will flash on the screen. At this point all the enemies will change to their “final enemy” form. If you still take too long, a surprisingly scary white version of the flying fish monster will appear. Instead of flying in a diagonal pattern, he’ll fly directly towards you, bypassing the environment completely. He starts and stops in increments, so you have a chance, but he’s coming straight for you. The only way to stop him is to kill the other enemies, so you have to take them out quick.

Throughout the game, you’ll come across a number of different power-ups that spice up the gameplay a little. My favorite is a bubble that has a picture of a wave on it. Breaking it will cause water to fall out and rush through the level. It’ll take you for a ride, and will defeat any enemies that it comes into contact with. There’s even levels that require you to use it, with enemies that can’t be reached any other way. There’s also a bubble with a lightning bolt on it. Breaking that bubble will cause a lightning bolt to shoot out behind you, killing anything it touches. There are levels where you have to bounce on those bubbles, to get them to the right height, before breaking them and killing enemies that you couldn’t get to before. There’s also more typical power-ups, like shoes that make you move faster and an umbrella that skips you ahead a few levels.

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If I had to say something negative about the game, it would be the music. That’s not to say that it’s bad. It’s catchy and iconic. However, there’s only the one song that plays the entire game. It even plays while paused. This song will be stuck in my head the entire day, I guarantee it. Again, it’s good, but I just wish there was a little more variety.

Bubble Bobble is great. It’s simple, but really fun and addicting. It’s the kind of game that you can have anyone try and they’ll immediately understand it and enjoy it. I put in tons of time playing it as a kid, and I’m sure that I’ll put in tons more the rest of my life.

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