Bubble Bobble 4 Friends review – a frantic foam party

When Bubble Bobble hit the NES, it felt like a pivotal game because, for once, my brother and I didn’t have to fight over whose turn it was to play. My parents were probably just as pleased.

Bubble Bobble was an interesting bridge between arcade action and the newly crowned king of games – the platformer. It had you (and a friend… or your brother) play as obscenely cute dinosaurs who could blow bubbles to imprison the enemies flitting about the single-screen level. Winning was a simple case of clearing the screen by capturing all the baddies and popping the bubbles. It was fast, furious and damnably fun.

While there have been plenty of sequels and remakes throughout the years, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends brings something besides nostalgia to the formula. As the name implies, it adds something that inherently changes the game – four player co-op. I have a generous handful of offspring, and trying to find games we can all play together can be tricky, but the idea of rehashing those fond moments with my brother with all of my kids sounded glorious. And you know what? It turns out it’s just that.

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends works exactly the same, for good and bad, as the original. You must work together to capture and pop enemies through a series of single-screen stages in a manic and saccharine arcade-style game. Whereas the original forced you to slog through its 100 levels in one go, BB4F groups stages into series that are capped off with a boss battle, making the game a little more possible to beat in shorter sessions. The presentation feels very low-budget, but I still found it to be endearing. Best of all, the infectious theme song makes a welcome return, and is guaranteed to get stuck in your head forever more.

The game adds a few new elements in the form of equippable power-ups that can help to give you a slight edge. None of them felt particularly groundbreaking, but they are a nice addition nonetheless. The boss battles are also interesting in that they definitely add an element of danger to the game. You have to constantly shoot them until, eventually, they’re captured in a giant bubble you can pop. In itself this is super satisfying, but seeing the resulting giant fruit cover the screen and reward you with a massive amount of points takes it to another level.

This is going to be one of those clichéd reviews which informs you that if you didn’t like Bubble Bobble to begin with, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends isn’t going to sway you in any way. But those who loved the original are likely to find that Bubble Bobble 4 Friends – with its quick, bite-sized platforming challenges – will become a regular party go-to. And you even get the entire original Bubble Bobble arcade game as a lovely little extra.

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends was developed by Taito and is available exclusively on Switch. It will be released on 31st March.

Disclosure statement: review code for Bubble Bobble 4 Friends was provided by PR Hound. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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