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As a child I always enjoyed visiting amusement arcades. Living near the sea I had plenty of opportunities to take a trip to the local arcade, but it was when I was on holiday that I spent the most time playing arcade games. I must have played hundreds of games over the course of many years, but the one that always kept me coming back for more was Bubble Bobble.

I was immediately attracted to this game from the very first time I played it. The game appeared to be so simple, but some of the levels seemed to prove virtually impossible to complete. It also offered such a huge variety of power-ups and bonuses that you never knew what was going to happen next. The graphical style and music also really appealed to me.

Several years later I was starting to think I was quite good at the game, but I still hadn't mastered it by any means. A school-friend of mine one day revealed that he knew some cheat codes for the game. That must have been the first time I had ever heard of cheat codes for an arcade game, I was much more used to entering POKE commands into my Commodore 64 than entering sequences of joystick moves and button presses. He wrote the codes down for me, but it was several months before I had an opportunity to try them out. To my complete and utter surprise, they worked exactly as he had said they would.

That was the turning point for me. Whilst I loved collecting the power-ups, I always found the slow movement and slow bubbling speed at the start of the game to be very frustrating. One of the cheats, named "Power Up!", immediately gives you the training shoe (for extra speed) and the yellow and blue sweets (for rapid fire power and fast-moving bubbles) the whole time you are playing. This makes the game a lot more playable in my opinion.

The other cheat, "Original Game," allows you easy access to all of Bubble Bobble's treasure rooms, secret rounds accessed from levels 20, 30 and 40 that are packed full of diamonds, and a secret warp on level 50 that takes you forward 20 whole levels through the game. These secret doors can be accessed without cheating, but they require you not to lose any lives before reaching those stages. The cheat made it possible to enjoy the additional scoring possibilities without having to worry about that first all-important life.

Together these transformed the game for me. Now, on a single 10 pence piece, I could play the game for literally an hour or more. I often joked that it must have cost the arcades more in electricity to run the machine than they made from me playing on it. I regularly had a group of people standing around watching me playing, eager to see how I would clear the next level or what would happen when I reached level 100.

In addition to providing a lot more gameplay on my limited budget than I would otherwise have had, the cheats also set me on a new challenge. I frequently achieved scores into the millions of points, but I needed to know what happened when I reached 10,000,000 -- as the score did not display enough digits to represent this number. It took me several annual holidays to reach this target, but one afternoon as my score ticked over the 9,500,000 mark I knew I was getting close. Finally, later that game, my score hit the magic 9,999,990 mark, and stopped there. I had finally maxed out the score. It was with great pride that I eventually entered "A.D" into the high score table, watching as the scores were displayed with my literally unbeatable score on show for all to see.

From that point on I was happy that I had effectively mastered the game. I still played it at every opportunity, and even equalled my earlier top score a few times, but the main challenges offered by the game seemed to have been overcome. I tended to spend more of my time exploring other games instead (and I would particularly recommend The New Zealand Story and Mega Twins -- two other games I eventually felt I had mastered, but I'll save those stories for another day).


Time passed and I grew up. I no longer visited amusement arcades. I spent my time instead going to university and later getting a job. But the Bubble Bobble bug never went away.

In the late 1990s, soon after I started working and earning some money, I decided that I would like to own a Bubble Bobble arcade cabinet. I had dreamed of owning one throughout most of my childhood, but naturally they were completely unattainable at the time (although I had so nearly won one in a Zzap!64 competition -- getting a runner's up prize instead). I looked through some trade newspapers to try to find anyone selling a cabinet, but there didn't seem to be any available. At about the same time I was introduced to the joys of MAME.

At the time I really could not believe what I was seeing. Real arcade games, the actual games I had played in my youth, running on a PC in my very own house. And among them was my very favourite game of all, Bubble Bobble! Hearing the sound effects after all that time, seeing the attract mode playing, somehow it didn't seem possible. But possible it was, and finally I had a way of playing this classic game once again.

It was quite a few more years before I finally got my own arcade cabinet. Using it to play Bubble Bobble finally fulfilled my childhood wish of being able to own my own Bubble Bobble machine. Despite not having played the game properly for many years, I found that I could still play the game fairly well. Nothing like as well as I had been able to, but I still remembered all the old tricks and strategies.

As I played the game over and over again I decided to see if I could improve some of the techniques for clearing the more difficult levels, and I started to write them down. I ultimately decided that it would be great to share these techniques with the rest of the world, to finally give something back to Bubble Bobble, to the game that occupied so much of my time and provided me with so much enjoyment.

So here it is, my strategy guide to all 100 levels of Bubble Bobble. I have spent a lot of time putting this together, and I hope you enjoy reading through it. Why not fire up your copy of MAME, get Bubble Bobble running and see if you can beat some of those levels that had you stumped whenever you last played it?

Happy bubbling!

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding this article, please don't hesitate to contact me.

This article is copyright © Adam Dawes, 2006.
It may not be copied or redistributed without my express written permission.