The Game: This is an interactive documentary about the life of a Scrubbing Bubble. As a small bubble, your job is to scoot around the sink, soaking up smaller bubbles, bits of dirt, and any ants that wander into your path. As you accrete more common kitchen debris, your bubble grows bigger and begins to form a face. When your bubble is big enough to sport a big ant-eating grin, you can start to do real damage. Razor blades are always deadly; roving brushes are deadly until your bubble has a mouth, and roaches are deadly unless you can dispatch them with a broom that periodically appears. When the drain at the center of the sink flashes green, you can slide down the drain and advance a level – something which you can only otherwise accomplish by clearing the sink of “edible” items. (Williams Electronics, 1983)
Memories: Okay, and the designers at Williams were smoking what, exactly, when they dreamed this one up?
But I kid Bubbles. It’s actually a pretty cool game, and a rare example of a cutesy game from Williams, a company which usually turned out such macho, kill-’em-all shooters as Defender, Sinistar and Robotron. Williams’ only other entry in the cute game genre was Make Trax (which almost doesn’t count, since it was licensed from an obscure Japanese manufacturer).
Some of the Bubbles coin-op cabinets were round, molded out of a plastic material which didn’t survive the rigors of arcade abuse very long; a few copies of Blaster were also manufactured in this form. The plastic cabinets haven’t stood the test of time well.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve had a couple of apartments where this kitchen sink drama was played out before my eyes – sans razor blades and sentient smiling bubbles scooting around on missions of mass destruction – but I’ve never been able to get into Bubbles, not even in retrospect. I can honestly play it and judge that it has mechanics that would merit repeat play…but I’m not a fan of creepy crawly things, so it’s never really been one of my personal favorites.
But it is a good game. The graphics are surprisingly good, coming from much the same processing engine that powered Robotron and Sinistar.
Bubbles was initially ignored by cartridge and software manufacturers in the 80s, but its existence as part of Williams’ rarified stable of games made this once-hard-to-remember game a fixture on the console emulator circuit. A very good version of Bubbles is featured on Arcade’s Greatest Hits: The Williams Collection, which itself has now been translated from its original Playstation version to new editions for the N64 and Sega Dreamcast. Now, if only the Playstation version of the collection in question allowed the use of the analog joystick controllers…Bubbles would be almost perfect.