Bubbles (video game)

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A tan, vertical rectangular poster. The poster depicts two arcade cabinets side-by-side. The left cabinet is blue and taller than the right one, which is brown. Above the cabinets read the text "Williams" and "Bubbles".
Promotional flyer showing the wooden upright and cocktail cabinets
Developer(s)Williams Electronics
Publisher(s)Williams Electronics
Designer(s)John Kotlarik
Tim Murphy
Python Anghelo
Mode(s)Up to 2 players alternating

Bubbles is a 2D action game developed by Williams Electronics and released arcades in 1982. The player uses a joystick to control a bubble in a kitchen sink. The object is to progress through levels by cleaning the sink while avoiding enemies.

It was developed by John Kotlarik and Python Anghelo. Kotlarik wanted to create a non-violent game inspired by Pac-Man. Anghelo designed the game's artwork and scenario as well as a special plastic cabinet that saw limited use. The game was later released as a web-based version and on home consoles as part of arcade compilations.


A horizontal rectangular video game screenshot that is an overhead view of a digital representation of a blue sink with a drain in the center. Scattered in the sink are brushes, razors, ants, crumbs, and grease. A small, light blue bubble is located to the right of the drain.
The light blue bubble (center right) avoids brushes and razors to clean up ants, crumbs, and grease within the sink. The score and level number is tracked in the top left corner of the screen.

Bubbles is an action game where the player controls a soap bubble from a top-down perspective. The object is to clean a kitchen sink by maneuvering over ants, crumbs, and grease spots to absorb them before they slide into the drain. As the bubble absorbs more objects, it grows in size, eventually acquiring first eyes and then a smiling mouth. At the same time, sponges and scrub brushes slowly move around the sink, cleaning it on their own in competition with the player. Touching either of these enemies costs a player one life unless the bubble is large enough to have a complete face. In this case, the enemy will be knocked away and the bubble will shrink. Sponges and brushes can be knocked into the drain for bonus points, eliminating them from play. Two other enemies in the sink are stationary razor blades and roaches that crawl out of the drain. Contact with a blade is always fatal, while the bubble can safely touch the roach only while carrying a broom, which will kill the roach with one hit. The broom can be acquired by running over a cleaning lady who appears in the sink from time to time.[1][2]

A level ends when all of the point-scoring objects are gone - either lost down the drain, cleaned by sponges/brushes, eaten by roaches, or absorbed by the bubble. At this point, if the bubble is large enough to have a complete face, the player moves on to the next level; otherwise, one life is lost and the level must be replayed. In addition, whenever the bubble has a face, the drain flashes green, giving the player a chance to enter it and skip the next level. Entering the drain while the bubble is too small costs one life.[1][2]


The game uses monaural sound and raster graphics on a 19 inch CRT monitor.[3] The initial concept was conceived by John Kotlarik, who aimed to create a non-violent game. Inspired by Pac-Man, he envisioned similar gameplay in an open playing field rather than in a maze. Python Anghelo furthered the concept by creating artwork and a scenario. Kotlarik designed the protagonist to have fluid movement like it was traveling on a slick surface. The control scheme allows the digital input to operate similar to an analogue one. He programmed the bubble to accelerate in the direction the joystick is held. Once the joystick returns to its neutral position, the bubble will coast as the velocity slowly decreases.[4]

Anghelo designed the artwork for the wooden cabinets as well as a new cylindrical, plastic cabinet. This plastic model was dubbed the "Duramold" unit. Gary Berge, a mechanical engineer, created the new cabinets with a rotational molding process.[4] Though the plastic cabinets were durable, they would shrink over time, sometimes causing the device to become inoperable. Williams Electronics used this cabinet for only two other games, Blaster[5] and Sinistar.[6]


Author John Sellers listed it among the weirder arcade games released.[7] Clare Edgeley of Computer and Video Games echoed similar statements. She criticized the game, stating that the constant blue background was dull and the game lacked longevity.[1] Retro Gamer's Darran Jones described the game as engrossing and obscure. He also expressed disappointment that few people remember it.[2] Bubbles arcade cabinets have varying degrees of rarity. The cocktail and cabaret are the rarest, followed by the plastic and upright versions; the plastic models are more valuable among collectors.[8]


In 2000, a web-based version of Bubbles, along with nine other classic arcade games, was published on Shockwave.com.[9] Four years later, Midway Games[Note 1] launched a website featuring the Shockwave versions.[10] Williams Electronics included Bubbles in several of its arcade compilations: the 1996 Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits, the 2000 Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits (Dreamcast version only), the 2003 Midway Arcade Treasures, the 2012 Midway Arcade Origins, and the 2022 Midway Legacy Edition Arcade1Up cabinet.[2][11][12][13][14][15]


  1. ^ Williams Electronics purchased Midway in 1988 and later transferred its games to the Midway Games subsidiary.


  1. ^ a b c Edgeley, Clare (November 1985). "Arcade Action". Computer and Video Games (49). Emap International Limited: 80.
  2. ^ a b c d Jones, Darran (March 2009). "Retrorevival: Bubbles". Retro Gamer. No. 60. Imagine Publishing. p. 96.
  3. ^ "Bubbles - Videogame by Williams (1982)". Killer List of Videogames. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  4. ^ a b Digital Eclipse (2003-11-18). Midway Arcade Treasures (PlayStation 2). Midway Games. Level/area: The Inside Story On Bubbles.
  5. ^ Digital Eclipse (2003-11-18). Midway Arcade Treasures (PlayStation 2). Midway Games. Level/area: Blaster Trivia.
  6. ^ "Ken Graham (Williams Programmer) Interview". Nantucket E-Books. Retrieved 2022-01-26.
  7. ^ Sellers, John (August 2001). Arcade Fever: The Fan's Guide to The Golden Age of Video Games. Running Press. pp. 88–89. ISBN 0-7624-0937-1.
  8. ^ Ellis, David (2004). "Arcade Classics". Official Price Guide to Classic Video Games. Random House. p. 405. ISBN 0-375-72038-3.
  9. ^ Parker, Sam (2000-05-05). "Midway Coming Back At You". GameSpot. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  10. ^ Kohler, Chris (2004-09-24). "Midway Arcade Treasures Web site goes live". GameSpot. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  11. ^ Weiss, Brett Alan. "Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits - Overview". Allgame. Archived from the original on 2009-07-01. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  12. ^ "Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits: Vol. 1 - Overview". Allgame. Archived from the original on 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  13. ^ Harris, Craig (2003-08-11). "Midway Arcade Treasures". IGN. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  14. ^ Claiborn, Samuel (2012-11-13). "Squeezing 30 fridge-sized games onto a disc proves difficult". IGN. Retrieved 2014-07-20.
  15. ^ Petite, Steven; Bitner, Jon (2022-05-19). "3 New Arcade1Up Cabinets Are Available For Preorder". GameSpot. Retrieved 2023-05-02.

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