Bubble Bobble 4 Friends Review
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
TAITO's classic arcade platformer returns with a new sequel. Following the all-time classic Bubble Bobble came similarly brilliant, Rainbow Islands and the underplayed and under-appreciated Parasol Stars we now have Bubble Bobble 4 Friends on the Nintendo Switch.
While the previous sequels saw protagonists Bub and Bob return to uber-cute human form, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends sees them appear as the two little dinosaurs from the first game, and this latest addition to the series brings back classic bubble-blowing gameplay.
Up to four players can join via co-op on one console and gameplay generally involves capturing the enemies in bubbles and then popping them. There are various 'fruits' that then drop into the game to give you points. There are collectable bubbles that spell out the word "EXTEND" and once you have the full word you get an extra life.
Where Bubble Bobble 4 Friends differs from the original is with the addition of stage bosses that appear every ten levels and need additional cunning and skills to defeat. Win and you might be rewarded with a power up making your bubble blowing abilities more effective.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is certainly enjoyable - the difficulty curve allows for the introduction of concepts to new players while offering enough for those who played the original just enough of a carrot to encourage them to work their way through the easier early stages. There appears to be a lack of 'random items' in the latest edition of the game - the original would drop various items at random intervals, most offering just points, but some would allow you to skip through a number of levels and the adrenaline rush of trying to get to one of these is something that the game does suffer from.
Likewise, the non-appearance of Baron von Blubba and sheer terror that he would bring to the game is also missing. In the original Blubba would appear to enforce the time limit of each level and would make quick work of dispatching both Bub and Bob.
As levels progress the bubbles that appear in the level other than the ones you blow yourself can also bring with them different effects - for example, thunder bubbles, act as something of a smart bomb destroying everything on the same latitude as to where they were popped.
Graphically, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, is certainly cute and harks back to the adorable sprites of the original games - although none are quite as memorable as the variety of strange creatures that populated tat game. The theme music in the initial stages also replicates that of the original with a sympathetic rework of Tadashi Kimijima's composition but that nostalgic joy is lost once you're past the first boss and original tunes, far less memorable, kick in.
With 5 stages made up of 10 levels each, there are around 50 in total - but none offer a huge challenge. Once you complete the initial 50 levels the game unlocks 'hard mode' which brings in more enemies and alters the level layouts to create more challenge. While this effectively doubles the number of levels in terms of how many you have to beat, the alterations probably don't do enough to make it feel like you have twice as much content.
And with it taking only a couple of hours at most to reach the hard mode unlock this does bring in to question to the value of the game at its current price. Thankfully Bubble Bobble 4 Friends includes the original game as an extra - allowing you to play a fully realised and accurate edition of Bubble Bobble on the Switch. It's as good as ever and certainly helps the value proposition somewhat.
We'd love to see similar re-imaginings of both Rainbow Islands and Parasol Stars come to the Switch - both were brilliant additions and made the Bubble Bobble series one that didn't rely on past glories. Maybe that's where Bubble Bobble 4 Friends disappoints - for a series that has relished the opportunity to innovate, it just all feels a little bit too safe.
- Standard Edition
- Special Edition