Getting started with this level guide
I learned to play Bubble Bobble on an original arcade machine. Sadly there appear to be very few of those about these days, and in fact I very much doubt I'll ever see one again, which is a real shame. Instead, the closest most of us can get is emulation.
Emulation does get us very close to the original game. The emulation for Bubble Bobble is very good -- but it's not perfect. For the most part you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish between the emulated version of Bubble Bobble and the original, but I'm certain there are some differences. The most obvious thing is that occasionally some of the monsters seem to spend a lot of time standing at the top of the level, jumping aimlessly, as if they think you are above them rather than below them. I'm certain the original didn't do this, and that it is a bug in the emulation. The baddies also seem to have lost some of their attack types in the emulator: the Mightas don't roll boulders, the Drunks don't throw bottles and the Hidegons don't shoot fireballs as they did when I played in the arcades. I've not found any way to enable these attacks.
Regardless of this, being able to play this classic game is still a joy. I've experimented with the various versions supported by MAME, and have come to the decision that the "Bobble Bobble" bootleg appears to support the best emulation, and so that is the version that I've used when writing this guide. If you are playing with a different version (or even an original PCB, you lucky thing) then there may be some small differences in the way the monsters behave, but hopefully they will be similar enough that this guide will still provide some value.
I'm playing with the DIP switches set to their default values: Dificulty = Normal, Bonus Life = 30K 100K 400K, Lives = 3, Monster Speed = Normal.
Here are some hints and tips to help you keep alive when playing the game:
There are some cheat codes built into the game, the first of which allows you to have increased speed and fire-power ("Power Up!"), the second lets you more easily access the treasure rooms and level warp ("Original Game"). For information on how to use these (and a whole lot of other interesting Bubble Bobble information), take a look at my article Bubble Trouble, originally written for and published in issue eight of Retro Gamer magazine.
Personally I wouldn't play the game without these codes, and I advise you to use them too.
Know your enemy
There are eight different types of enemy that inhabit the levels within the game. In this guide I refer to them using their original names, such as "Zen-Chan" and "Mighta." Details on which is which can also be found in my Bubble Trouble article.
There are three types of special bubbles that you will frequently encounter during the course of the game: lightning, fire and water. All of these will react in a different direction depending upon which way you are facing at the time you burst them. Lightning will always fly in the opposite direction to which you are facing. Fire droplets, when they hit the ground, will extend along the floor in the opposite direction to that in which you are facing. Water also flows away from you in the opposite direction to which you are facing. Knowing how these bubbles will react, you will be able to position yourself to take maximum advantage of their effects.
There is also an extremely rare "fireball bubble" that may appear from time to time. This bubble has a pulsing red and yellow flame contained within it. When you pick this up, you will stop blowing bubbles and instead shoot fireballs for a while, even after moving betweeb levels. This is often a very useful bonus to collect, but can be a problem on levels that require you to bounce on bubbles to reach your enemies. Should you find yourself in this position, just keep shooting the fireballs as quickly as you can, they will soon run out and return back to normal bubbles.
There are many power-ups that appear within the game. Each level will have a pre-set location at which a "fruit" bonus will appear (a random item that just increases your score), and a "power up" bonus. The power up bonuses range from fairly tame items that result in additional score (such as the staves, treasure chests and engagement rings), through to items that increase your abilities (different coloured sweets provide bubble performance boosts and training shoes make you walk faster) all the way to items that clear the level instantly (potions, magic crosses, umbrellas, etc.).
During the course of this guide I have deliberately avoided collecting any bonuses which have an effect on the level. Showing you how to clear a round using a random bonus won't help much when that particular bonus doesn't appear!
One item to be aware of is the purple sweet, which makes your bubbles travel a much longer distance before they stop moving. This is the only performance boosting power up that isn't provided automatically by the "Power Up!" cheat. This item can be extremely useful, allowing you to clear out the bad guys from a distance, but it can also make it much more difficult to blow a bubble that you wish to jump upon. This means that after collecting this power up, many of the normal level strategies won't work. Personally I try to avoid this particular bonus, preferring to keep my short-range bubbles.
Aligning your score
Frequently throughout the guide I will suggest that you "align your score" before bursting the last bad guys on the level. When the 10s and 100s digits of your score both contain the same value (e.g., 123440), all of the bubbles on the screen will turn into fruit when the final bad guys are killed. This can be a great way to score substantially more points than you would otherwise be able to achieve.
To align your score, stand directly up against a wall and start blowing bubbles so that they burst immediately. Each one that bursts will score you 10 points, so repeat this until your score is aligned. When you have aligned your score, blow as many bubbles as you can so that you maximise the amount of fruit that will appear. However, make sure you keep these bubbles away from the enemies, as if they group together you will score 10 points for each empty bubble, which will knock your score back out of alignment.
Climbing the level
You will often find that bad guys or bonuses are taunting you from the top of the level, whereas you are stuck at the bottom. If there are no platforms available to allow you to jump up to them, there are two other ways of getting to the top of the level.
The first is simply to fall through one of the holes in the bottom of the screen. Not all levels have these holes, but many do. You will immediately appear at the top of the screen -- but make sure the coast is clear before dropping through as you don't want to land on top of a monster.
The second way is to climb using your bubbles. On many levels you can simply blow a bubble and then jump on top of it, keeping the jump button held down. As the bubble rises you will be gradually transported up the level. To speed up this process (or to cope with bubbles that don't ascend, as is the case on some levels), stand facing a wall with about half a bubble's-width between you and the wall. Jump in the air and as you are rising upwards, blow a bubble. The bubble should appear directly beneath you, where you can then jump on it. As your next jump ascends, repeat this to blow another bubble. Using this technique you can rapidly and easily climb up any vertical wall.
At the end of each level, after the final bad guy has been killed, you will have you have a few seconds of idle time. Make sure you use this time to your advantage -- there are three things to do during this period:
1. Collect as much fallen fruit as you can. A banana may only give you 500 points, but repeat this for bananas on all the levels of the game and your score soon adds up.
2. Make your way back to the bottom/left of the screen. When the round finishes and the next round appears, your player character will gradually float back to this position. The nearer you are, the quicker you will arrive, giving you a head-start on the level before the monsters start moving.
3. Blow bubbles directly at a wall. Every bubble you burst gives you 10 points, so spend any remaining time increasing your score as much as possible. Again, these burst bubbles can add up to a considerable amount over the course of a game.
Let's make a journey to the cave of monsters
That should be all the background information you need, now it's time to begin the fantastic story and start bursting those bubbles. I've provided a screenshot, descriptive text and a movie for every single level of the game to show you exactly how to clear them as quickly and easily as possible. With enough practise you should be able to clear them all.
If you have any comments or suggestions regarding this article, please don't hesitate to contact me.
This article is copyright © Adam Dawes,
It may not be copied or redistributed without my express written permission.