Bubble Bobble’s Deep Dark Secret

Bubble Bobble’s Deep Dark Secret

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.


  • Retro Gamer has had some awesome Bubble Bubble and sequel/spinoffs retrospectives. According to them best ports are c64 and sharp x6800. The worst is amstrad CPC. They also list 23 various spinoffs and sequels including its predecessor CHACK N’ POP.

    • And to those with the PCB – you can acess super mode by inputting start – jump – bubble – left – right – jump – start – right on title screen

  • I was weened on Rainbow Islands on my Spectrum from the age of 5 or 6 and didn’t join the Bubble Bobble craze until it was released on psone. Still, great times

  • Sorry Mark, Alex is my king of kotaku au! Less Spectrum and more Bubble Bobble, that’s a winning combination!

  • Rainbow Islands can be brutal at times. I once played an arcade where the jump button was deliberately broken on RI in order to cheat people out of money faster. Lame!

  • o how I coveted bub and bob for a long time till I could even find a copy, and when i did i played it for a VERY long time on master system

  • I always loved Puzzle Bubble, I still have a copy on PSone…only they called it Bust-A-Move 2 Arcade Edition.

    It’s the most addicting puzzle game ever!

  • The saddest thing about discussing Bubble Bobble is that its creator died a few years back. We’ll never get a decent interview from him about this most incredible of the late golden-era arcade titles.

    Oh, and as for Taito losing the source code, what a disaster.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!