Growing up one of the most iconic games was Bubble Bobble. The ridiculous premise, two dragons shot bubbles to catch and pop enemies for a wide variety of items and points didn’t stop it from being challenging and fun to play. With this overly specific gameplay, there is only so much they could do with the franchise and as a result, the series has somewhat died off. Now that retro games are coming back into style, along with different pricing models and ideas making them viable, a new title, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends was made for Nintendo Switch. New ideas come together with existing gameplay to make a curious experience but is it worth investing in?
Similar to previous entries, there is a story to this adventure. Here you play as Bub, who you might recognize as the green bubble dragon, a toy that is brought to life from a mysterious light. Bub is considered the child’s favorite toy and as a result, another toy is jealous of his status resulting in a series of fights.
While you can play with up to four people, a leveling system of sorts was added and special powers, the core gameplay remains unchanged. Every stage has a timer, you need to go around, catch enemies and ideally pop as many at once as possible. Ideally following that you can collect as many items for points as possible but that is all there is to it. Unfortunately, the core gameplay and difficulty loop are relatively the same.
There are annoying enemies, be it from arrangement or positioning, though nothing as cheap and frustrating as the original. Most of the time it is just about paying attention to either where bubbles go or looking out for how enemies move and planning accordingly. Certain stages will have bubbles with a letter and a complete set will spell EXTEND and level up your abilities. Speaking of which, that is the only substantial change.
Even though the original had various types of special bubbles, such as thunder and water, they can also be used as abilities. So if there is a challenging enemy, you might want to shock them, or if they’re really far away, simply shoot a long bubble to catch them. You’re limited to one ability and can only use it a finite amount of time, which can be upgraded through collecting EXTEND on a stage. It allows less skilled players a chance to still earn three stars or collect the illusive EXTEND bubbles, though it only goes so far.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an overly long or complicated experience. While you might die here and there from some of the quirks, like a bubble popping early or misgauging your rate of fire, the difficulty simply isn’t there. Most times you can easily wing a stage beat it in like a minute and get around two stars. Those who care a lot about being the best can figure out ways to maximize points for a better overall experience but for many, it will be a quick rush to the end and maybe a quick trip through the original.
This would honestly be fine if there were a good number of stages or more to do but most levels are more tedious than hard. And, once you figure out the best way to do it, as long as you vaguely attempt to pop enemies at once and prioritize EXTEND bubbles, you shouldn’t have anything to redo. Again, not a problem as much as it hurts longevity.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends Review – Verdict
While it’s great to see the franchise persist and I could probably play the original for the umpteenth time, there isn’t much to be excited with here. Most of the stages are pretty easy, special bubbles only make a difference if you’re lacking in skill or want to maximize points and there is only so far you can go with the concept. Less skilled or younger players will probably feel at home, as will anyone that just wants to constantly try to build on perfection. If that is you, you’ll probably love it but everyone else it’s an okay game that isn’t bad to play with others.
[Editor’s Note: Bubble Bobble 4 Friends was reviewed on Nintendo Switch platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]