Bubble Bobble’s Deep Dark Secret

Bubble Bobble’s Deep Dark Secret
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Bubble Bobble is one of the all-time classic arcade games — and my own personal favourite. But not everyone who played the venerable classic truly understood how it works.

I told Mark that if I was given editorial power at Kotaku, I’d rapidly turn it into an all-Bubble Bobble site, all of the time. He thought I was joking.

OK, OK, I was joking. You can disarm the cruise missiles, Mark. Sheesh!

In any case, my love of Taito’s bubble blowing dragons is rather well known, and I’ll personally take on anyone who dares disparage it. INSIDE THE STEEL CAGE!

But be warned: I’m going to quickly tag out to this guy.

It’s also obviously a title that Kotaku’s written about a whole lot in the past, right? Well… when I went searching, I found that this wasn’t so, and that got me more than a little concerned. Because Bubble Bobble hides a secret, and it’s one that I’ve found not all that many people know. There’s a strong suspicion that almost everything that happens in Bubble Bobble is randomly generated, because, hey, who had the power for complex AI back in 1986?

Bubble Bobble’s particular secret — and pat yourself on the back if you knew this, but at least anecdotally it seems there’s a lot of folk who don’t — is that almost everything that happens in the game isn’t random at all, and if you know what you’re doing, you can do very well out of its predictability.

You can’t play it for all that long without working that chained bubbles give you high scores, but bubble control also allows you to control your score, which lets you get extra fruit at the end of each level, as long as the tens and hundreds column of your score is identical, unless you’re playing two player, in which case they’ve got to both match (but don’t need to match within your score). Got that? Good — you’re learning!

Want more of those sweet, sweet powerups? Again, they’re not random, but appear based on a set of constant counters that tick over relating to your game actions. Blow 35 bubbles in a level, and in the next you’ll get a long range bubble sweet at normal difficulty. Pop 35 or more, and it’ll be the fast bubble sweet instead. There’s an excellent breakdown of all of the code, which you can read here if you’re so inclined, and it’s a good thing it’s been done, given that Taito itself apparently lost the source code back in the mid 1990s.

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