When thinking back to past games, the classic Taito Bubble Bobble is one that may come to mind. It was definitely one of those games you could hit up at the arcade with a buddy and that earworm… Fast forward to 2020 and the game has seen a few iterations. Our Bubble Bobble 4 Friends review takes a look at a game that recently released on the Nintendo Switch and is great for killing some of that quarantine time with others in your house.
Normally, we include a story section in our game reviews, however, there isn’t much of a story to this one. On that note, if you are after the general story line, you play as up to four dragons to defeat Bonner, the wicked magician.
As with the original game, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends requires you — and hopefully your family and friends — team up together to clear various stages. With five worlds, there are 50 levels that require you to blow bubbles, capture enemies in them, then stomp on them to kill them. Once you’ve cleared a level, you move on to the next — easy, peasy. When you’ve completed all 50 levels and defeated the five bosses for each world, you’ll unlock hard mode if you’re up for a bigger challenge.
At the start of each level, you can switch up different skills like Long Shot, Bomb Bubbles, Lighting Bubbles, and more. Collecting hidden letters from each world to spell E-X-T-E-N-D allow you to level up these skills.
While the premise is pretty similar to the original, you can also jump on your (and your companion’s) bubbles to get higher and navigate each level. There are a few levels where this comes in handy and it’s helpful to play with someone else. In addition, when playing with other people, you don’t die immediately but instead are encased in a bubble which can be popped within a time limit to give you a second chance.
For a real treat, you can also play all 100 levels of the classic Bubble Bobble. Including these, that gets you 200 levels of varying difficulty to play.
Controls are pretty straightforward and easy. The default control set lets you move around with the left joystick and jump with the X or B buttons. You can shoot bubbles with the Y or A buttons and activate your special ability with the shoulder buttons. You can switch this up and reverse the jump and shooting actions if that’s your preference.
The controls work just as well with two Joy-Cons paired together as a single controller or with one Joy-Con used sideways by itself.
The graphics in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends are nice and bright with a 3D-element to them. Depending on the stage you’re on, you may see familiar everyday items like LEGO bricks, books, or coloured pencils. The updated graphics work pretty well and offer up a modernized look for a classic game.
Speaking of classic, as mentioned above you can also play the original Bubble Bobble — complete with the original graphics. If you’ve played the original, it doesn’t look like anything has changed here, if you haven’t you’re in for a retro treat.
The music and sound effects are pretty fitting for the game, although they can become a bit repetitive when playing for longer periods of time. The sound effects are pretty bang on, however, depending on what skill you’re using or who you’re fighting in the game.
Multiplayer… while this game has local co-op modes that work well, it doesn’t have online multiplayer, hence the lower score. Given the current situation around most of the world, that shouldn’t be a problem and, in fact, can help alleviate some boredom. The local multiplayer works well and with up to four players allowed, you can get the entire house involved (depending on how big your family is, of course).
I personally didn’t notice any difference in difficulty when playing solo or with 2, 3, or 4 other players. On that note, the more players you have, the easier it was getting through the levels.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is currently selling for US$39.99/CA$49.99 on Nintendo’s digital store and Amazon. Considering you can finish the base game in a couple of hours at most, that does seem a bit expensive. That being said, the replayability — especially with the original Bubble Bobble included — is there. In addition, those who purchase the game will receive an expansion DLC pack for free later in the year which should add some more value.
While a short game, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is a great couch co-op game to play with your kids and reminisce. Classic Bubble Bobble is still a blast and a trip down memory lane for some of us. Online multiplayer would be a nice addition as well as a lower price for what you currently get. and Hopefully, the free DLC expansion pack will be coming sooner rather than later to add more value.
*We were sent a review code for Bubble Bobble 4 on the Nintendo Switch for the purposes of this review.
Bubble Bobble 4 FriendsUS$39.99/ CA$49.99
- Fluid gameplay
- Still definitely Bubble Bobble
- Up to four player local co-op
- Original Bubble Bobble included
- Two levels of difficulty
- Free DLC pack coming this year
- Fairly short game
- Pricey for what you get currently
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