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Bubble Babble

Mon Aug 25, 2008 - 7:28 AM EDT - By Justin DeJarnette


Word games have likely been in existence for as long as humans have used words to communicate, if not longer. I was watching the History Channel the other day, and I’m pretty sure I saw some hieroglyphics painted on a wall of a cave somewhere that looked a lot like unfinished games of Hangman. Fast forward a few thousand years, and Astraware has provided us with Bubble Babble, a very nice little word game to help kill time on our PalmOS smartphones.

The Astraware Bubble Babble page lists the following as features of Bubble Babble:

  • Link letter bubbles together to make words and score points
  • Full interactive tutorial to teach you how to play with the bubbles
  • 4 entertaining play modes: Challenge, Target, Mystery, and Freeplay
  • Earn shiny shell rewards for complex or unusual words to complete your collection
  • Helpful bonuses including Stella Starfish and multiplier bubbles


The gist of Bubble Babble, like Scrabble and so many other word games, centers on making words from letters. The method here is pretty unique, however, as the action takes place underwater, and the letters you use to make words appear in bubbles which rise to the surface and pop when they get to the top. So, before the letters you need reach the top of the screen (surface), you need to connect them to form words, and for each correct word that reaches the top of the screen you receive points based on the length and ‘difficulty’ of the word.

Bubble Babble includes a nice little tutorial where your host, a fish named Wordsworth Smartygills, teaches you exactly how to form words from the letter bubbles. Basically, you just join the bubbles together, and you can drag connected bubbles to the bottom of the screen to break them apart.

Once you know how to make words, you can choose from the four modes of play. Each mode has three skill levels for you to choose from: easy, moderate, and hard.


The Challenge mode is where I spend most of my time playing this game. Here, you need to make as many words as you can, and when you reach a certain number of words, no matter how long, you'll advance to the next difficulty level. It starts off pretty easy, with lots of Ts, Ns, Rs, and vowels. As you progress, you’ll see a lot more Xs and Qs mixed in, raising the level of difficulty. You’ll also notice that the bubbles begin to rise faster, making it necessary for you to think quickly about that next word.

You receive points for your completed words based on length and difficulty. Basically, you’re going to get a lot more points for words like “SURGEON” and “CUMBERSOME” than you will for “THE” or “CAT”. Also, random bubbles will appear in a different color, and you can get an additional bump for using them in words.

To add to the gameplay, you are also rewarded with special “wildcard” bubbles that can substitute for any letter. These are of good use when you are just short of spelling a word that can score you major points, but don’t have the time or the inclination to wait for that last letter. The game ends when you’ve allowed too many letters to reach the surface without making them into words.


Target mode requires you to reconstruct words assigned to you by Mr. Smartygills. For example, you’ll be told to spell the word “ADD” and will be given an A and two Ds. When you spell the word out, you will be presented with another and so on. This continues until you can't spell the word before the letters rise to the top.

Personally, I found this mode utterly useless. I played it a few times so I could write about it, and have not touched it since. Not much fun to be had here.


In Mystery mode, you are given a bunch of letters and expected to make a word of a certain length. This is probably the most difficult mode, as usually there is only one or two words that are even possible with the letters you are provided. You get a little help here though, as your buddy Wordsworth will give you hints, one letter at a time, as to what the game expects to see.

With each word you successfully make, the next word will be longer and more difficult to figure out. The game ends when you can’t figure out a word before the necessary bubbles float to the surface, so you have to be quick. This mode is fun, and provides a good measure of your vocabulary and word-making skills.


Freeplay mode is just what you would expect: bubbles rise randomly and you have to fuse them together to make words. The level of difficulty increases the more words you make, similar to challenge mode. After you make 10 words, the difficulty will increase, and will do so again after you make 20 words and so on. This mode is fun, but the Challenge mode has more elements to it and is more worthy of your time.

From what I could tell, there is no end to this game. You just keep on making words until you can’t take it anymore and quit.

Other features

Another very cool aspect of this game is the statistics that are kept for each mode of play. At the end of each game, Wordsworth will tell you how many words you made, the total number of bubbles you used, your longest word, and your ‘best’ word, which is the one that earned you the most points. The game also keeps and reports the average length of word you made for that game.

You can access your overall statistics for each mode of play as well. These stats keep your “all time” records, best and longest words and all that stuff. These statistics add a lot of depth to the game, as it’s fun to go back and see what you’ve done in each of the different modes.

Wordsworth also provides you with a “Word of the Day,” which will get you bonus points if you manage to spell it out in any of the game’s modes. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make any of these yet, so I don’t know what that bonus is. I came pretty close to spelling “effusive” once, but the V was too elusive for my patience.


I definitely recommend this game to anybody who enjoys Scrabble or any other word games. Bubble Babble provides an entertaining way to kill some time on your phone as well as exercise your vocabulary. At just $19.95, this one is very much worth a try. I play Bubble Babble on my Palm Centro but the game is also available for Windows Mobile Treos.

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Design 5
Usability 5
Features 5
Cost/Benefit 5
(not an average)
  • Good, hearty, solid fun
  • Several modes of play to choose from
  • Semi-educational
  • Cons
  • Target mode seems useless

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