Publisher: ININ Games
Medium: Digital / Cartridge
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends launched today on the Nintendo Switch in North America, and having spent the past week or so with the game, I?d say it?s worth checking out especially if you can get four people on the couch in the midst of your social distancing (ideally people already in your house, of course). While one of the big bonuses here is the inclusion of the original arcade version of Taito?s Bubble Bobble, the new content, stages, and so on developed for this release are all a lot of fun, and occasionally challenging in a way that the presentation doesn?t always suggest.
If you?re younger, there?s a chance you might not be familiar with what the heck Bubble Bobble even is. It originally released in arcades back in 1986, featuring two-player co-op action with two controllable dino?s labeled Bub and Bob. The gameplay was fairly simple, guide your two buddies across 100 single screen stages, clearing enemies by encapsulating them in bubbles and bursting said bubbles with your feet or head. The original game had one of the catchiest tunes to ever be featured in a game, which of course has been remixed in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends. Personally, I remember spending a lot of time with the NES port of the original, so it was nice to actually sit down and run through the arcade version of the game contained within Bubble Bobble 4 Friends.
That said, the new stuff is also well worth your time. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, as the name implies, focuses on co-op play for 4 local players. You?ll work together to clear out a series of stages in a manner that?s not entirely dissimilar to the original game, but you?ll find the new stages and enemies to be a little more involved and exciting than the original. There?s still a focus on a single screen per stage, but there?s a bit more platforming involved, along with the occasional stage hazard. It?s not overly complicated by any means, but certainly feels improved upon when compared to the first game.
Likewise, enemies can provide more of a challenge, either bounding around the screen at odd angles, or incorporating the occasional ranged attack. This doesn?t really become evident until you clear the set of stages within the first world, but you?ll find that subsequent worlds feature harder enemy patterns with more unique abilities. Later stages also make collecting the letters to make up the bonus EXTEND word more complicated, giving you a limited amount of time to complete this optional challenge. I wouldn?t necessarily say that Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is overly hard, in fact, the continue system allows for an invincibility option if you fail enough, but I think players will be pleasantly surprised by the game?s difficulty curve as they advance through the worlds.
Another new feature found in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, is the unique power-up abilities you can equip prior to starting a new world. A new one unlocks after every world, and can even be powered up as you progress, giving you some unique combat options. They?re also pretty useful to have on hand for the boss encounters that mark the end of each world, most of which are fairly inventive given the somewhat limited gameplay mechanic of Bubble Bobble.
All in all, I found Bubble Bobble 4 Friends to be a really fun take on the old Taito franchise, and a great experience for old and new players alike. It makes for a really solid family game that?s appropriate for all ages, but one with a difficulty curve that won?t make the game a bore for parents or older siblings. So check it out now on the Nintendo Switch, I don?t think you?ll be disappointed.
Note: ININ Games provided us with a Bubble Bobble 4 Friends Switch code for review purposes.