Bubble Bobble 4 Friends Review: Like a Bubbly Kiss from the 80s

A beloved arcade classic returns in fine form and four-player co-op.

Taito might not be quite the household name it used to be, so younger gamers could be forgiven for not knowing their profound impact on gaming. They created Space Invaders and all through the 80s were giants of the arcade. Thanks to classics like Ninja Warriors, Darius, and possibly most of all, Bubble Bobble, Taito earned a place in the hearts of countless arcade dwellers.

Bubble Bobble charmed with its adorable art style and characters, not particularly violent bubble-popping gameplay, and general all-ages appeal. Aside from spawning multiple sequels over the decades, the characters proved popular enough to get a whole other related series, Bust-a-Move.

So, it’s no mystery why plenty of people were excited to hear Bub and Bob, beloved dinosaur heroes, were getting a new outing on the Switch with Bubble Bobble 4 Friends.

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends Review: Like a Bubbly Kiss from the 80s

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is, for the most part, exactly what fans would have hoped for. It’s a modern classic that keeps all the charm we loved about the original 80s game. There’s a significant graphics improvement of course, but the gameplay itself is largely identical.

A one-screen endeavor, each level offers up new challenges as Bub and Bob (and friends) jump from platform to platform, ride bubbles, and avoid obstacles while trapping the bad things in bubbles. Once trapped, the little heroes must pop the enemy-filled bubble by hitting it with their head spike or slamming down on it from above. And really, that’s it.

There are giant boss fights the involve avoiding the boss’ pattern of attacks while striking them with bubbles, but the core of the game never waivers. Like so many of the best arcade games, Bubble Bobble works so perfectly because it’s simple.

Simple doesn’t mean easy, though. This latest version still has one-hit-kills for our poor dino protagonists and some of the levels are decidedly tricky mazes full of deadly hazards. 

Each enemy type has a distinct movement pattern. Some are completely stationary and just serve as blockers, while others bounce all over the screen or shoot projectiles. Through the levels of each of the five worlds, you’ll have the opportunity to pop letter bubbles to spell “EXTEND." This gives you special skills like bubbles that are timed to explode, travel farther, or shoot lightning, which adds a bit of variety to the old-school tactics. 

The biggest and most obvious new feature is the four-player mode. Bubble Bobble was always built to be played with another player (although it’s perfectly fun alone). While more players make things more chaotic, the co-op focused gameplay is hilariously fun with four. It’s remarkably easy to screw over other players with ill-timed bubbles or just by using them as a platform to jump from. 

The downside to Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is simply that it doesn’t do enough with this newfound ability to support a party. There are 100 levels, including boss battles, but they go pretty fast. The original two-player arcade game is also included and accessible from the start, which is fantastic as well. Unfortunately, that’s it.

In comparison, BurgerTime Party!, another classic and beloved arcade revamp that recently hit the Switch, includes an array of new co-op and competitive multiplayer for up to four players.

Bubble Bobble 4 also doesn’t allow for drop-in/drop-out multiplayer. All players must start the world together and the only way to change up to more or fewer players is to start the world over entirely. Finally, you can’t pick individual levels to play, only the world.

These oversights are certainly disappointing but countered a great deal by the fact that Bubble Bobble is just great fun to play. Between the new levels and the original arcade port, there’s a lot of bubble blasting to do here, and more players and power-ups means more dynamics to explore.

Maybe the cutesy graphics and simple gameplay don’t work for everyone, but Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is a perfect example of why certain games remain in our collective mindset. It’s polished, instantly accessible but still challenging, and the controls and mechanics still feel absolutely perfect.

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends — the Bottom Line

Pros:

  • Simple, accessible, classic gameplay
  • Four-player multiplayer
  • Bright, colorful creative levels
  • Just a terrific time

Cons:

  • A little pricey and short
  • No other game modes to take more advantage of four-way action
  • No drop-in/out player options

Bubble Bobble returns in fine form, showing off to a new generation why it’s earned such a following over the decades. This new version looks great, is full of nostalgic charm, and most importantly, tons of dinosaur bubble-filled charm.

[Note: A copy of Bubble Bobble 4 Friends was provided by Taito for the purpose of this review.]

Our Rating
8
A beloved arcade classic returns in fine form and four-player co-op.
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

Contributor

Jason D'Aprile has been writing about games and technology for a very long time. His bylines have appeared on and in countless sites and magazines over the years, including Paste Magazine, Playboy, G4TV, Indie Game Website, UploadVR, Techhive, Lifewire, the Brick Moon Fiction podcast, United Front Gaming, and others he's mostly forgotten about. Jason lives in a house in the woods and does not twit.

Published Apr. 17th 2020

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