Very few classic arcade games hold up as well as Bubble Bobble. Believe it or not, it's been thirty years since its initial release so let's pay Bub and Bob a visit and see how the years have treated them.
Before I start this review, I should say that I'm a huge Bubble Bobble fan. Not only that, Taito is probably my favourite old-school arcade developer. Therefore, I'll try my best to stay objective throughout this review but keep in mind that while writing this, I'm incredibly excited that I can finally play this gem on my PlayStation 4. Anyway, if you don't know what Bubble Bobble is then let me explain. You and a friend play as Bub and Bob who have been transformed into dragons and their girlfriends have been kidnapped. You control them by jumping and blowing bubbles to trap all of the enemies on each single-screen stage. Upon popping a trapped enemy, they perish and transform into a random object that grants you points when you pick it up. These items add a lot to the fun because you never know what'll show up next. There are so many things that after all these years, I still come across stuff that I don't recognize. Some items act as power-ups that allow you to breathe fire or warp to a later level. The bubbles slowly move along preset paths and pop automatically after a while. If this happens when an enemy is inside then watch out because it's going to be angry. You could always pop a bubble with water in it and ride the waves to success. In the end, what's not to love about this game? It's addictive cooperative arcade gameplay at its best.
It goes without saying that Bubble Bobble is one of the cutest looking games ever created. Bub and Bob are perfect protagonists with their persistent buck-toothed smiles and close-together eyes. Watching their mouths open wide while they shoot bubbles out is pure joy. The variety of enemies is rather impressive, too. Being able to spot them all and know just how they'll behave is a must if you want to achieve that much sought after high score. The stages themselves have a lot of personality with many zany layouts that spell words and form shapes. However, the most impressive part of the presentation is the music. The theme tune that plays throughout most of the journey is the catchiest piece of music ever composed for a video game. You'll be whistling it for days and days. Finally, the adorable and fitting sound effects help round out the presentation. If an indie developer made this game today, it would be praised.
Thankfully, a couple of modes that I enjoyed in my previous Arcade Archives experience (TwinBee) are available here, too. Specifically, I'm talking about "Hi Score Mode" which is a competitive mode for climbing the leaderboard and "Caravan Mode" which is the same except you're limited to five minutes. You won't find much else here but you really don't need anything because the original arcade mode is enough to keep you and a friend entertained for hours. Of course, you could always play by yourself although that's not even half as fun. It could use a gallery with images, history, interviews, and such but I own all of the Taito Legends compilations so I'm set.
It's difficult for me to think of negative points for Bubble Bobble, so here I go. The adventure contains many difficulty spikes which can be downright infuriating. At first, being forced to jump on your own bubbles to reach higher ground is an enjoyable skill to master. However, when you're faced with seemingly impossible situations with enemies rapidly running back and forth overhead, it's hard not to swear like Q*bert. In some stages, it's even possible to get completely stuck. After a while, the "Hurry Up" enemy will eventually take your life but just waiting in a narrow pit in the meantime is nothing short of irritating. Finally, while playing by yourself, you'd think that there's no way to continue. This is due to the fact that you get the game over screen shortly after you lose your last life. I found out that you actually can continue if you hold the start button before the screen changes, but how is anyone supposed to know that?
Bubble Bobble remains one of the best arcade games from the '80s and it holds up beautifully today. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a Bub to go with your Bob and start blowing some bubbles!
- + Incredibly addictive classic arcade gameplay that you can enjoy with a pal
- + Cute visuals and catchy music
- + Extra modes add some replay value
- - Many difficulty spikes occur that'll have you scratching your head
- - It's easy to get stuck in some stages
- - Unintuitive continues while playing solo