Bubble Bath Babes (NES) review
"Bubble Bath Babes(BBB) is well-known in hard-core NES gamer circles for featuring frontal nudity. It's a puzzle game featuring bubble tetrads that rise up into a formation, and if you get a clump of four or more connected bubbles of the same color, they disappear. After several plays, I found the generic nude woman very annoying because she blocked my view of the piece I needed to rotate and quickly place in the right spot. Her friends who disrobe as you get further through a level aren't..."
Bubble Bath Babes(BBB) is well-known in hard-core NES gamer circles for featuring frontal nudity. It's a puzzle game featuring bubble tetrads that rise up into a formation, and if you get a clump of four or more connected bubbles of the same color, they disappear. After several plays, I found the generic nude woman very annoying because she blocked my view of the piece I needed to rotate and quickly place in the right spot. Her friends who disrobe as you get further through a level aren't much better; the ones with blue hair probably aren't sexy even if you're incurably Wapanese. But the game itself provides flashes of challenge between pathetic special effects that slow it up and make working through all four women, I mean levels, a chore.
The tetrads of squarish bubbles you control mesh in a hexagonal tiling reminiscent of Puzzle Bobble, with some crueler tetrads left out, such as a four-wide or a half-hexagon. You can flip them about the horizontal or vertical axes, but sadly there aren't any sixty-degree turns, and sometimes the flips are counterintuitive and wobbly, shifting your shape over one square, which can often be fatal to a game's progress. You can pause the game continually and still see the playfield, or you can slow your bubbles' progress by continually moving them sideways, which is necessary in later parts of a level when things speed up, but the key skill in BBB involves sliding your piece into caverns though previously unexplorable. At times, it can overlap a bubble already placed, and it's actually logical. It improves your chances of winning immensely once you learn it, but you'll wind up first discovering it by accident.
BBB has two modes: A, where you need to pop 200 bubbles overall to clear a scene, and B, where you need to break through a packed formation of bubbles to take out the top center bubble. The same women appear in each mode, rotating each level and appearing after every other scene. Overall, they're less woofsome than the Tecmo Super Bowl cheerleaders, but they don't quite have the great game surrounding them.
And I can't imagine why anyone would slip sex into a game like this. It didn't really work. While bubble baths are generally considered erotic, the overpowering image I got was of a woman farting in a pool. Exhibit A: bubbles rising to the surface, starting in the center where her butt is displayed. This reminded me more of Roald Dahl's frobscottle rather than something that would stimulate my snozzcumber, but maybe it's implied that since her farts make pretty colors, they probably don't smell. It's nice she's comfortable with her body, but, uhh, no thanks. After a scene or two, it was easy to concentrate on the 'next' box instead of her.
But that was just dumb, and a bigger problem is the imbalance between the two modes. A is much easier than B. I was able to clear it without having to use any of the game's three continues after several tries, but things got tedious in the early scenes along the way. They're almost insulting, as you're given a lot of monochrome tetrads that form a four-bubble combo by themselves. Even though you can accelerate the pieces up the board for a pittance of points, you still have to put up with the flashing as the bubbles pop and anything below them moves up. On scene 5, pieces switch from crawling up the board to going rather fast, and four-color tetrads appear here on the first level as well. More subtly, fewer compact and easy-to-place parallelogram and P-shapes come up, replaced by wide-pronged Y's or long L's. Tyros will wipe out and have to use a continue. By level 6, moving horizontally is essential, just to be sure your pieces move as slowly as they did in the first level. There's no gradation here, only a request to rub your belly while you're patting your head. The back and forth motion may warm over-Freudian weirdos for the end picture, it's true, but it's just annoying, as you often wind up missing where to drop something.
Yet the part that helps to balance A in your favor is the magic power-up that occurs when you pop bubbles with the letters M, A, G, I and C. These appear in a clump, usually after you've chained a few clump-reactions together, and the letters stay for a while. You always get one you need, and you can hoard it for later rounds. Using magic will cause all blank bubbles to burst, and the colored bubbles rise. The game then matches up lumps of four or more bubbles before randomly recoloring the remains. More matches may ensue, and then play continues with whatever mess you made largely neutralized.
But Game B is much tougher. Despite not having the final, ultra-fast sixth sublevel, it starts you with a worse-than-random assortment of bubbles. No two adjacent bubbles have the same color, and with such a handicap and bubbles covering over half the board in later scenes, a few bad blocks at the beginning spell curtains. You don't get any magic to clear the board, because the only labeled bubble is the one you're trying to pop. There's not even one of those flashing balls that change all neighbors to a different color. Errors are severely punished here, and worse, you'll often lose wondering if you made an error. After solving game A without continues, I needed to restart every other level on B. And the kicker is: you usually win quickly, if at all. The right piece, and it all falls together well. So much for planning! Seeing as how B and A have the same reward scenes, this half of the cartridge isn't worth it even for puzzle fanatics.
Through it all you can't even enjoy the stupid fantasy that there are women out there who flip for a guy's ability to solve old-school puzzle games and give desperate sounding pick-up lines to prove it. You'll remember more the dinky ditty you must sit through when using magic--the price of security against blunders or several bad shapes in a row is ennui, apparently, or the choice of two grating background songs.
Suffice it to say that BBB is not compelling enough to distract you with visions of rising tetrads the next time you see a scantily clad, attractive woman. While some of the moves to shore up your position are satisfying, the inability to start at a later level and repetitive, drawn-out effects after each bubble clump eliminates excitement. Along with the limits on piece rotation, the necessity of futzing back and forth and random piece selection being fatal, the intellectual side sinks BBB in the range of reading Playboy for the articles. Staunch puzzlers may even tire of it before seeing all the amusing pseudo-sex scenes. Near the end, I had to keep myself amused wondering about a possible related puzzle game featuring dominatrixes putting you down whether you win or not. For the humor value, of course.
Community review by aschultz (June 11, 2004)
Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.
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