Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is a four-player update, for the Nintendo Switch, of the classic Taito arcade platformer. Harking back to a simper time, before eye-bleeding 3D graphics and visceral explosions became the gaming norm, Bubble Bobble, the precursor to Taito’s later classics like Rainbow Islands and New Zealand Story, had a charm that left an impression on everyone that played it.
The 2D adventures of bubble blowing dragons, Bub and Bob (as well as their companions Peb and Pab in this remake), are very much suited to Nintendo’s portable console. The basic premise of the game is deceptively simple, perfect for a quick session on the go, or with the whole family in front of the TV.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, as with the original, has players controlling little dragons that can blow bubbles, trapping bad guys that patrol along the various platforms in each level. Once trapped the enemies become vulnerable and can be defeated by the dragons bouncing on the bubbles. On clear all the enemies in the level, the screen fills with fruit that needs to be gathered in order to gain bonus points.
The game is set to the theme of a child’s bedroom, over a series of worlds based on items that you’d find in the room. One of the items is a mock-up of an old Bubble Bobble arcade cabinet.
Selecting the Bubble Bobble cabinet launches a pixel-perfect port of the original coin-op classic. The 1986 arcade version, despite showing its age is still fiendishly addictive. As with the original, only two players can play as Bub and Bob rather than the four players of the new, updated version’s levels.
Selecting the first world launches the updated game, allowing up to four players to join in, whisking them into the first level. Whilst echoing the original, the updated game presents players, not only with modern visuals, but also polished up gameplay mechanics for a new generation of players.
As the game progresses the enemies move quicker and are harder to trap. Some even fire projectiles. If your dragon touches an enemy or get hit you lose a life and start the level again. Bubbles are blown around the levels by currents that are visible in the new version, with its updated graphics. The dragons can also bounce on bubbles that move around the levels on the currents.
The levels become more complex, requiring proper strategy in order to successfully clear them. Each world has a boss level at the end that needs to be defeated in order to continue. The bosses present some challenge, but are fairly easy to beat.
If you are after a charming platformer, that’s not too tricky, for a bit of fun on the go or with friends, this game is perfect. If you are after complex gameplay and over-the-top action, this is probably not the game for you.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is a charming revision of a classic coin-op arcade game. It retains enough of the original, whilst suitably updating it for the modern gaming palette. It’s a simple game to pick up, but one that is very difficult to put down.