Review – Bubble Bobble 4 Friends

If you were born in a year starting with a 1 instead of a 2 and you’re into gaming, you probably know who Taito is. This company is probably one of the most important developers of all time, being one of the first major arcade developers to come from Japan back in the 70’s. Besides their gargantuan hit called Space Invaders, which needs no introduction, they have also developed some famous franchises such as Darius, Elevator Action, Arkanoid, as well as Bubble Bobble.

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That little dino is still as adorable as ever.

You may have never played Bubble Bobble (or its puzzle spinoff Bust-a-Move) before, but you’ve probably seen its adorable green dragon protagonist somewhere before, given how gosh darn iconic that little thing is. Although we’re more familiar with Bust-a-Move, the cute dragon’s career started with Bubble Bobble, which is a simple arcade title that’s a mix between a puzzler and a 2D platformer. After years without a single new console release, Taito, which at a point had stopped developing console games, decided to return back from the realm of dead and developed a brand new Bubble Bobble for a new generation of gamers. To top it off, it’s even a Switch exclusive.

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The original Bubble Bobble is included in here.

The main objective in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends (and any other Bubble Bobble game for that matter) is to destroy all enemies in a level. In order to do so, you need to spit a bubble onto an enemy, trapping it inside of it, then ramming onto it, all while consuming as many fruits as possible in order to bump up your high score. If you collect the letters that spell out the word EXTEND throughout a series of levels, you will also earn an extra life.

It sounds pretty simple, and well, that’s because it is. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends retains the same gameplay and feels just like a game from the early 80’s, just with a brand new coat of paint. This brings it closer to the visual standards of a Switch game, even though it’s not even that visually impressive to begin with. It doesn’t look much better than a PS3 or Xbox 360 title. It does run at a flawless 60fps at all times, even in portable mode, so that’s a plus.

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It might be low-poly, but it still looks strangely yummy.

Besides the brand new level design, the new additions included in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends are a few powerups that you can acquire after beating bosses, which spices up the gameplay a little bit. Then there’s the game’s main selling point, four player co-op. The Bubble Bobble games have always been about playing with friends, to the point that the original arcade game could only be fully beaten with another player next to you, so the addition of two more players at once was a natural step forward. You can play the game with a single joycon, as you won’t use anything else but the analog stick, a jump button and a bubble button. It’s as simple as you can imagine, with the only main issue being having to get used to the game’s slightly wonky physics at first.

The original Bubble Bobble is also included in here, being a neat little bonus from Taito. You can definitely see how Bubble Bobble 4 Friends has been developed with the intention of feeling like the original as closely as possible, as the gameplay is still pretty much the same, aside from the aforementioned “modern additions”. I really enjoyed that Taito just added the original game in the package instead of just releasing a retro compilation like Namco and Konami do all the time. Not that I don’t like those, on the contrary, but getting a retro treat alongside a “brand new” title is always a plus.

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It all looks like the trippiest dream you’ve ever had.

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is the kind of the game that doesn’t break any boundaries, as it didn’t need to. All Taito needed to do is bring one of its most famous franchises of all time back to the spotlight and make it accessible to a brand new generation of gamers. By doing so on a console that is perfect for a little and cutesy multiplayer game like this, they succeeded. Although not a game that I’ll remember for years to come, the sole fact that Taito is making games once again, bringing their famous titles back to life, is already enough to put a smile on my face. I can only wonder how long will it take for them to bring Space Invaders back from the dead.

 

Graphics: 6.5

It’s really colorful and cute, even if it doesn’t look much better than any PS3 or Xbox 360 game out there. The framerate is always pretty high, even in portable mode, being a huge positive.

Gameplay: 7.0

Very basic, as it was meant to be. You have a bubble button and a jump button. The physics are a little bit weird, but you can get used to them after a while.

Sound: 6.0

As to be expected, the game features a handful of cheerful tunes and some cute sound effects. Nothing in here is amazing,and it gets repetitive after a while, but it gets the job done. The soundtrack in the original Bubble Bobble is still pretty good, though.

Fun Factor: 7.5

It doesn’t break any boundaries previously set by other games in the franchise, but it’s a fun pasttime. The addition of the classic Bubble Bobble arcade game was also a nice touch.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is available now on Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Bubble Bobble 4 Friends was provided by the publisher.

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