Codex Gamicus

Bubbles is an arcade video game developed by Williams Electronics and released in 1982. It is an action game that features two-dimensional (2D) graphics. 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.

Development was handled by John Kotlarik and Python Anghelo. Kotlarik desired 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 received a mixed reception from critics, who focused on the game's unusual premise. The game was later released as a web-based version and on home consoles as part of arcade compilations.


File:Bubbles Game.png

The light blue bubble (center right) avoids brushes and razors to clean up ants, crumbs, and grease.

Bubbles is an action game with puzzle elements where the player controls the protagonist, a soap bubble, from a top-down perspective. The object is to clean a kitchen sink by maneuvering the bubble over ants, crumbs, and grease to absorb them. The player is impeded by enemies—brushes, razor blades, roaches, and sponges—that are deadly to the character. The bubble will grow larger the more objects the player absorbs. Once the bubble reaches a certain size, it will acquire a smiling face and becomes invulnerable against some enemies; contact with those enemies, however, will reduce the bubble's size to the point it becomes vulnerable again. After cleaning the sink, the player will progress to the next level. If the bubble becomes large enough, the drain in the center of the sink will begin to flash, signaling the player to enter it to progress to the next level.[1][2]


The game features monaural sound and pixel 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. Anghelo designed the artwork for the wooden cabinets as well as a new cylindrical, plastic cabinet. Gary Berge, a mechanical engineer, created the new cabinets with a rotational molding process.[4]

Reception and legacy[]

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, however, are more valuable among collectors.[5] Though the plastic cabinets were very durable, they would shrink overtime, sometimes causing the device to become inoperable. Williams Electronics used this cabinet for only one other game, Blaster.[6]

The game received a mixed reception from critics. 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] Brett Alan Weiss of Allgame called Bubbles a slightly underrated game. He stated that while it lacked excitement, its gameplay was enjoyable. Weiss further commented that the control scheme was unique for its time, and that the number of on-screen objects moving smoothly was impressive.[8]

Since its release, players have competed to obtain the highest score at Bubbles.[9] The game was later remade for different platforms. In 2000, a web-based version of Bubbles, along with nine other classic arcade games, was published on[10] Four years later, Midway Games[Note 1] also launched a website featuring the Shockwave versions.[11] 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), and the 2003 Midway Arcade Treasures.[2][12][13][14]

See also[]


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


  1. 1.0 1.1 Edgeley, Clare (November 1985). "Arcade Action". Computer and Video Games (EMAP) (49): p. 80. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jones, Darran (March 2009). "Retrorevival: Bubbles". Retro Gamer (Imagine Publishing) (60): p. 96. 
  3. Bubbles - Videogame by Williams (1982). Killer List of Videogames. Retrieved on 2009-06-25
  4. Digital Eclipse. Midway Arcade Treasures. (Midway Games). PlayStation 2. Level/area: The Inside Story On Bubbles. (2003-11-18)
  5. Ellis, David (2004). "Arcade Classics". Official Price Guide to Classic Video Games. Random House. p. 405. ISBN 0375720383. 
  6. Digital Eclipse. Midway Arcade Treasures. (Midway Games). PlayStation 2. Level/area: Blaster Trivia. (2003-11-18)
  7. Sellers, John (August 2001). Arcade Fever: The Fan's Guide to The Golden Age of Video Games. Running Press. pp. 88–89. ISBN 0762409371. 
  8. Weiss, Brett Alan. Bubbles - Review. Allgame. Retrieved on 2009-06-25
  9. Bubbles High Score Rankings. Twin Galaxies. Retrieved on 2009-08-03
  10. Parker, Sam (2000-05-05). Midway Coming Back At You. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2009-06-25
  11. Kohler, Chris (2004-09-24). Midway Arcade Treasures Web site goes live. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2009-06-25
  12. Weiss, Brett Alan. Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits - Overview. Allgame. Retrieved on 2009-06-25
  13. Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits: Vol. 1 - Overview. Allgame. Retrieved on 2009-06-25
  14. Harris, Craig (2003-08-11). Midway Arcade Treasures. IGN. Retrieved on 2009-06-25

External links[]