Lost In Translation/Bubbles

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This page is a stub for arcade games that are part of the Lost In Translation series using information based on MAME (version 0.113u2).
For an example of preferred content and layout please refer to Out Run or The Ninja Warriors.

Bubbles marquee.
No screen shot.
Bubbles control panel.
Manufacturer Williams
Released 1982
8-way Joystick
Main CPU M6809 (@ 1.000 MHz)
M6808 (@ 894.750 kHz)
Sound CPU Mono
Raster (Horizontal)
292 x 240 pixels
60.10 Hz
16 Palette colours
Screens 1
ROM Info 15 ROMs
54,272 bytes (53.00 KiB)
MAME ID bubbles · bubblesp · bubblesr

About The Game

Bubbles has the player controlling a cartoon soap bubble inside a large sink. The object of the game is clean out the sink. You can safely scrub away ants, grease, and crumbs all the time. But sponges, roaches, brushes, and razor blades are deadly to a small bubble. Don't worry too much though, because your bubble grows in size as it swallows up the dirt in the sink. When it gets big enough it will be able to hit brushes and sponges (but still not razors).


By 1983 it seemed every possible idea had been used in a video game except the kitchen sink. Then came Bubbles.

'What I was trying to do with Bubbles was come up with a non-violent, clean game (no pun intended)' says John Kotlarik. The game was intended to be a "Pac-Man" inspired take-off with a free form play field instead of walls. Kotlarik came up with the initial concept and Python Anghelo created all the artwork and wrote the game scenario.

Python had previously worked on many other Williams games, including much of the art for Joust. Kotlarik had helped out on the sounds for "Joust" and "Defender", as well as creating the voice for Williams' first voice synthesized pinball game, "Gorgar". Together they brought the kitchen sink to life.

The early '80s were an era populated with off the wall video game characters like Q-Bert, Dig Dug and Mr. Do. Even then, the cast of Bubbles stood out from the crowd. The game had crumbs, ants, greasies, sponges, brushes and the Cleaning Lady. It was certainly the only game ever to create a character out of something as sinister and bizarre as a razor blade. Piloting your scrubbing bubble, the goal was to scour sink after sink of scurrying scum.

The big challenge of programming the game was creating the drift movement of the free floating player bubble, which was a lot more complex than meets the eye. They wanted to program the bubble to move like it was on ice, or water, and not a hard surface track. To do this, Kotlarik had to do what he calls the damping of the velocity profile. The longer you held the joystick down, the faster you would go and experience a slight decrease in velocity once you started to coast. It was an attempt to make an analog control out of an eight way digital joystick. The game had different movement than any other immediate response game of its kind.

Bubbles also had innovative cabinet design. The wood cabinet graphics, created by Anghelo, were some of the best of all the Williams classic games. Anghelo also came up with the concept for a unique all plastic cabinet for Bubbles. Mechanical engineer Gary Berge developed it by using a special rotational molding process. The shape was cylindrical with a domed top. The Bubbles cabinets were in blue plastic. Black plastic ones were created for Blaster and a handful of "Sinistar" test machines. The plastic cabinets were almost indestructible. When crushed, they would spring back to shape like an accordion. When blemished, they could easily be fixed by heating and smoothing the plastic. 'If we'd made kits for those things we could have easily sold a couple hundred thousand', says Tom Cahill of the Williams service department.

Bubbles created a play environment like no other game of its time. The humorous animated action was a nice complement to Williams' cadre of famous sci-fi pulse racers.

Yashiro Oda holds the official record for this game with 1,566,960 points on August 1, 1984.

A Bubbles machine was shown at the 2003 classic arcade games show 'California Extreme' in San Jose, California.


A little known strategy of the game is available once your bubble becomes large enough to have a face. The sponges and brush can no longer destroy it. Working from the right angle, a player can rack up extra points by shoving the sponges and brushes down the drain. The only drawback is that every time you throw your weight around in this manner you lose a little in size, until eventually you become vulnerable again.


  • Crumb : 100 Points.
  • Ants : 150 Points.
  • Greasie : 200 Points (can be conquered if you collect the Cleaning Lady and gain her sweeping skill to bump it into the drain).
  • Cleaning Lady : 500 Points (will increase as she collects items).
  • Roach : 1000 Points (can be conquered if you collect the Cleaning Lady and gain her sweeping skill to bump it into the drain).
  • Dive Ahead Bonus : x1000 Points per bubble enlargement.
  • Around the Drain : x2 Points (if you get the above items around the drain).

Tips and tricks

  • Keep moving... You won't attract dirt if you just stand there. Also, Roaches are like heat-seeking missiles... they won't aimlessly wander because they WANT you.
  • Go around the circumference/perimeter off the sink first, since they are the easiest to collect. Then work your way inwards.
  • Dirt and crumbs will slowly head for thee drain so you could spin around the drain, collecting them as they come.
  • If the drain is flashing RED, back off! A Giant Ant/Roach is coming your way! Seek and capture the Cleaning Lady's broom (if there is one) to counter this threat.
  • Do not try to out-run Roaches, because they are actually faster than your poor, slow-poke Bubble. Instead, out-maneuver them. Go in circles around them and pick up materials in the process. Once you have a smile, bid the ugly duckling farewell and head for the drain before you get bitten!
  • If there is a low supply of materials abroad and you're not even close to getting a smile on your face... don't get the materials because it would speed your death up. Instead, use the remaining time to wait for the green light and go in! It might take a while. Hell, maybe the light will never come...
  • DON'T BE SELFISH! You might want to try to collect more materials when you have a big, big smile on your face... it's not worth it. Take the safe road and go into the drain before someone kicks your head in.
  • Try to collect the items around the drain, you get 2x points that way.
  • Once you have a smile on your face, you can make the brushes/sponges bounce off without getting blown up. Try to aim them to the drain to add injury to the insilt!
  • Not really a tip... but the number of the level you are currently playing is on the top left corner. Once it goes past 99, it comes back to 01.


Program, Design And Sounds By
John Kotlarik (JJK)
Tim Murphy (TIM)
Art And Design By
Python Anghelo (ANG)
Support Software By
Dave Rzepka
Hardware By
Chuck Bleich
Greg Wepner
Mechanical By
Leo Ludzia
Gary Berge
Video Manager
Ken Lantz

Cabinet and Artwork


Sega Saturn (1996, "Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits")
Sony PlayStation (1996, "Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits")
Sega Dreamcast (2000, "Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits Vol. 1")
Sony PlayStation 2 (2003, "Midway Arcade Treasure")
Nintendo GameCube (2003, "Midway Arcade Treasure")
Microsoft XBOX (2003, "Midway Arcade Treasure")
PC [MS-DOS] (1995, "Williams Arcade Classics")
PC [MS Windows] (1996, "Williams Arcade Classics")
PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (2004, "Midway Arcade Treasure")
Tiger Game.Com ("Arcade Classics")

The contents of this page are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
The sources used include MAME (version 0.113u2) and history.dat (revision 1.28 - 2008-10-18).
Please see http://www.arcade-history.com for credits.