Taito's classic bubble-blowing arcade game has a special place in my heart so let's play a brand new entry in this wonderful franchise.
Yes, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is a brand new entry in the long-running series of cute single-screen arcade games. First of all, that makes me incredibly happy because there's hope that more long-lost Taito classics will return. Will we see a new Rainbow Islands, Puzzle Bobble, Qix, Arkanoid, or The NewZealand Story? Only time will tell but I sure hope so! Anyway, just what the heck is Bubble Bobble 4 Friends? Well, it's a brand new game that features 50 levels and some fun gameplay twists on the classic that more than justify its existence. Plus, you can enjoy it with up to 4 local players so if you have a few retro gaming pals then that's all the more reason to pick this lovely little gem up. Oh, and you can also play the original arcade Bubble Bobble anytime you want from the main menu. Pretty cool, huh?
The gameplay twists in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends are enough to make it feel like a new game but not too much so it still comes across as a very familiar experience. This is great because long-time fans have something new to enjoy while also receiving a healthy dose of nostalgia through the classic gameplay. The basics remain the same as you run, jump, and blow bubbles to trap enemies then pop them in order to turn them into different kinds of fruit and stuff. The most notable change is that you can utilize a set amount of power-ups that allow you to blow special bubbles such as ones that reach further, explode, and send lightning across the screen. You can also crouch and walk under tight spaces and there's a neat multiplayer mechanic where you can save your friends if they happen to get hurt.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends looks and sounds great as it's full of adorable characters as well as delightful tunes that are sure to get stuck in your head. The whole game takes place in a bedroom which is kind of strange but watching the levels pop up after the camera pans around is nifty stuff. Speaking of which, the stages are cleverly designed although they're not as random as the ones in the original. This makes the campaign feel more cohesive but less exciting, if that makes any sense. In total, there are 5 areas with 10 levels in each; the last of which is a boss. However, these bosses aren't very fun to take on. All you do is try and avoid their attacks then mash the bubble button whenever they get stunned after slamming into a wall or something. As a result, they kind of impede the momentum.
Although Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is a very fun game, it lacks substantial replay incentives. Sure, you can try to spell EXTEND and achieve 3 stars in each of the 5 areas as well as master them again on a harder difficulty setting but all you unlock by doing so are songs. I wish there were more modes or a list of challenges to master. Also, including more of the classic arcade games in addition to the original would have been awesome. Anyway, you can easily finish the 50 level campaign in 1 or 2 gaming sessions and once you're done, you'll likely pick up and play it every now and again but it definitely doesn't have as much value as many other modern revivals of classic games.
Playing Bubble Bobble 4 Friends will make you appreciate just how well certain classic gameplay formulas have held up over the decades. From its charming presentation to its enjoyable multiplayer implementation, retro and modern gamers will find a lot to love here.
- + Classic Bubble Bobble with plenty of welcome twists and nifty stages
- + Adorable graphics and sound
- + Great fun to play with a few friends
- - Could use more bonus content besides just the original arcade Bubble Bobble
- - Campaign is quite short with only 50 levels
- - Boss fights aren't all that exciting