Bubble Bobble 4 Friends
Developed By: Taito
Published By: ININ Games
Category: Action, Arcade, Multiplayer, Party
Release Date: 03.31.20
The Bubble Bobble series has a long and storied history on both arcades and home console, and I have never engaged with it in any way before playing today’s game. No bubbles, no bobbles, and no Bust-A-Moves. But that’s okay, because the series and its spinoffs haven’t produced any new material in ten years outside of an iOS game in 2015. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends for the Nintendo Switch is a great way to introduce new fans to the series and its history; not only does it have a colorful new entry in the series, it also includes a full playable version of the original Bubble Bobble arcade game from 1986. That’s two games (that are pretty much the same game) for the price of one!
Wizards and Bubble Dragons
A toy version of the wizard Bonner has come to life and begun wreaking havoc in some kid’s bedroom. Luckily, four bubble dragons (Bub, Bob, Peb, and Pab) have come to life to overcome Bonner’s mischievous machinations and bring order to chaos. I don’t know why they bother; what kid’s room stays clean for more than ten minutes? But I guess you shouldn’t let troublesome wizards just get away with whatever they want, so we’ll say the bubble dragons have a point. Anyway, after a bunch of levels of blowing bubbles at random enemies and collecting delicious-looking fruit, the bubble dragons and Bonner learn the power of friendship and we get a freakin’ adorable ending cinematic. That’s as deep as the story gets, but it is family-friendly and it’s not what you’d call a narrative-driven game anyway, so I just enjoyed it for the excessively cutesy framing device it is.
Pop Goes the Wizard
The action in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is pretty simple. It’s your basic platforming format; you can move left and right, jump, shoot bubbles, and use your special equipment ability if you have one equipped. You take control of one of the bubble dragons and maneuver around the game screen trying to capture the enemy units inside the bubbles exhaled by the dragons. You then pop the bubbles to destroy your enemies and gather the fruit they leave behind. When every enemy is defeated, a bunch of huge fruit will appear and you have a limited amount of time to collect it all. You can also ride the bubbles to get to higher levels and floating enemies if you need to. If an enemy touches you, you lose a life. The game is over when you run out of lives, but you can continue as many times as you want. You can add some more chaos to the game by playing with up to four players, but it’s just as fun solo.
Extend Your Wardrobe
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends features five different worlds to conquer, with ten levels each. Beating a world grants you that world’s costume, which features a useful power-up. You can gain the ability to shoot your bubbles farther, create bubbles that shoot lighting or explode when popped, freeze all bubbles onscreen, or dash through enemies without getting hurt. Dash and lightning are my favorites. Different levels in each world will have one letter of that world’s E-X-T-E-N-D bonus, and if you collect all six letters that world’s costume levels up, giving you more uses of the special ability. The letters will disappear after a short time, and if you miss one you have to replay the world to get another chance at it.
The game starts off easy enough; I didn’t lose a life the whole first world and was able to get to every E-X-T-E-N-D letter without a struggle. Things picked up a little bit in the second world; I only died once and wasn’t able to get to every letter before it disappeared, but I still wouldn’t say it got appreciably harder. The regular levels of the last three worlds offered steadily increasing challenges, but then came the boss fights in the last three worlds. Man! The difficulty curve got freakin’ STEEP for those last few boss fights and I was not prepared for it. For all the adorable dragons and their cutesy voices and whatever, this thing was unforgiving when it wanted to be. It was a not-altogether-unpleasant surprise, but the fourth boss especially was quite a hurdle to jump until I figured out a better tactic. It got easier when I did it right, though. If things do get too tough for you, there is an option to continue the game where you’re basically invincible which unlocks after you die three times on a level. It doesn’t even prevent you from unlocking the end-of-world bonus.
OK. This game is adorable. The bubble dragons, the enemies with their googly eyes, even the dang evil wizard are all cute as heck. They’re rendered in very presentable 3D graphics, even though the game action takes place on a 2D platforming plane. It’s accentuated by a bubbly, cutesy soundtrack that can get sort of annoying if you get stuck on a level, but for the most part it’s breezy enough to just be pleasant and upbeat. The minimal, ultra-saccharine voice work done for the bubble dragons is almost trying too hard to be cute, but dangit it’s still pretty adorable.
Bubble Bobble Babble
It’s tough to say much against a game this simple, fun, and colorful. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is equally fun as a single or multiplayer experience, and it’s got a generally acceptable difficulty curve with a few drastic spikes – but boss fights are supposed to be challenging, right? It even comes with the original game in the series, free of charge. Or as part of the price, however you want to look at it. It is, sadly, a little short; I beat it on normal in like two hours. That unlocked a new hard mode to try out (which is just the normal mode levels with extra enemies), and I still had some collectibles to grab, but it definitely feels like the game is lacking in content and replayability. Still, it’s really fun the whole way through and that’s what games are all about, right?
Buy Bubble Bobble 4 Friends
Digital – $39.99
Physical – $39.99
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*A game code was provided for review purposes.