Bubble Bath Babes is an unlicensed, adult-themed NES game by Panesian. It features "piece dropping" gameplay somewhere between Tetris and Bust-A-Move, but is different than both in a few regards. The game is known for not only its depiction of naked women after completing several stages in the game, but also being a very difficult puzzle game by most standards, as the difficulty ramps up rather quickly. There are a few techniques in the game, however, that can be used to slow the advance of the piece in order to survey the playing field for the optimal placement, and unlike most puzzle games, the board layout does not disappear when the game is paused. The game has 24 stages, but the game loops upon completing the final stage.
The object of Bubble Bath Babes is to navigate clusters of bubbles, referred to as pieces, floating upward within a hexagonal playing grid. The pieces come in a variety of shapes and colors, and progress is achieved through matching 4 or more of the same color of bubble by lining them up in such a way as the bubbles form a line or chain. The player can speed up the ascent of the bubbles by pressing UP on the d-pad, as well as move them left or right on the grid by pressing LEFT or RIGHT, respectively, on the D-pad. Rotation is handled using the A and B buttons, the former flipping the piece vertically and the latter horizontally.
As the pieces rise, when they collide with another object, either the ceiling or another cluster of bubbles, the piece stops ascending. If there is any empty space between a stopped bubble and the ceiling, hollow bubbles will fill in the space inbetween. Other pieces may be navigated through these hollow bubbles as though they were an empty space. When bubbles are matched below hollow bubbles, if there are no colored bubbles left to fill the space above, the hollow bubbles will disappear. However, if there are additional bubbles below the match, they will rise up to the level of the hollow bubbles and rest there. These hollow bubbles keep the playing field dangerously full at nearly all times, lending themselves to a great portion of the difficulty found in the game. In TYPE A mode, after 200 bubbles have been matched, the game's stage ends, and another begins. In TYPE B mode, the stage ends after you match a pre-placed letter bubble. Each stage is faster than the previous, and only when you have completed the sixth stage in a set does the speed reset.
As the bubbles begin to stack up, the play field is effectively shortened, leaving less room to navigate the pieces within. If too many bubbles stack, they may cross a dotted line near the bottom of the play field, and the game will end. The player only has 3 continues with which to beat the game, rendering a complete playthrough taxing to all but the puzzle-genre hardened player. Such a theme of difficulty is common among the Panesian games, though Hot Slot andPeek-A-Boo Poker are difficult because of their reliance upon chance over skill.
Bubble Bath Babes also features a two-player mode. In this mode, the screen arrangement is different. The soapy woman at the bottom of the screen is omitted and replaced with the pertinent scoring information usually found on the right side of the screen, and the second player similarly takes up residence on the right side. All gameplay is unchanged from single-player mode, i.e. you still progress stages according to the rules of the chosen gametype, you still have access to powerups and magic, and you are still rewarded with the intermissionary screens. However, if either player loses the game, the remaining player continues on without them. As the game doesn't end, this forces the expired player to sit and wait for a game over unless the other player voluntarily ends or resets the game.
Magic and Powerups
During the course of the game, there will be bubbles containing letters. Creating a match containing one of these bubbles will add a letter to your MAGIC meter. If a letter is not matched within a certain number of pieces, it will disappear and the next bubble cluster will contain the letter again. Once you've collected all the necessary letters, you can activate magic mode by pressing either A or B and DOWN on the D-pad simultaneously. After the current piece is placed and the player hasn't filled up the play field, all of the bubbles on the screen will begin to shift color rapidly as a sprightly tune plays briefly in the background, and when both are done, all of the hollow bubbles will disappear as the colored pieces "drop" up the play field. Once any compatible matches are made, the game will then cause a small number of individual bubbles to cycle colors briefly, randomly changing the actual color of a few, and after any potential matches are made from that point, gameplay resumes as normal.
Also during play, occasionally, a flashing disc will emerge in a rising piece. This acts as a sort of wildcard. When this piece is placed, a duplicate version of the piece will circle the original, changing the color of the original and all colored pieces one hex space away to a single color.
Adult Themes and Nudity
Bubble Bath Babes was released as an unlicensed game because of its depiction of naked women in the game, as well as its attempt at provocative euphemisms regarding "popping" things and "bubbles," though because the game was developed Taiwan, the flirty women come off as laughable, thanks to the game's broken Engrish. Near the bottom of the play field during gameplay, there is a nude woman partially covered by bubbles, stroking her thigh repeatedly.
Also, after completing 2 boards of gameplay, the game treats the player to a set of increasingly risqué scenes involving women flirting with the player and, over time, stripping off their clothing. There are a total of four women in the game, and each one has three scenes: Fully clothed, partially nude, fully nude. Once a player has completed a woman's pictorals, the difficulty resets to 1 for the next level of play as they progress toward another inevitably nude woman.
Mermaids of Atlantis
Another version of the game was released some time down the road, known as Mermaids of Atlantis by American Video Entertainment. This version featured a different title screen, a heftier suite of gameplay options on a game select screen resembling that of Dr. Mario or Tetris, one additional play song, a different color palette, and another gameplay mode. Also with Mermaids of Atlantis came a removal of the nude women in favor of a tale about Merpeople living beneath the sea. The bathing woman at the bottom of the screen was replaced with a mermaid wearing a seashell brassiere and sporting a waving tail. Replacing the pictorals is a brief story accompanied by pictures. These also appear after every stage, rather than every two. One other notable difference was the pause function inexplicably attached to the DOWN key on the d-pad. Everything else in the game resembles its adult counterpart very faithfully.