Checking out classic games that I never encountered before is an absolute treat, and I adore new reimaginations of classic games, so naturally a game like Bubble Bobble 4 Friends would be right up my alley as I had never heard of the series before. Well it would be, but boy is it an average romp on the Switch.
Bubble Bobble is an arcade series of games originating from 1986, and the first option available in the game is to check out this classic. Playing this, you can absolutely appreciate that 33 years ago it would have been a blast as you move your little monster around an arena and shoot bubbles at enemies which you then pop to defeat them. Upon popping them they drop fruit which you collect for points before moving on to the next stage. It’s still playable and easily fun enough to lose plenty of time into even these days.
Then you jump into the meat of the new game which has you going to themed stages like a kid’s room where you play the new and improved… well the new version of the game. For the most part the gameplay is the same as it was before where you run around each stage, capturing enemies in bubbles without being hit, and popping said bubbles. This time there are new obstacles like floors you can jump through, ones you can’t, and you can jump on your bubbles as they float up to get to higher platforms.
Unfortunately for the most part that is it. If you are playing with more than one person, i.e. up to the four friends that the game’s title points out, then when you get hit you appear in a bubble and can be saved when your friend pops it in time. There is also some powerup bubbles, but these aren’t overly exciting and add little to the whole game.
Each stage has a series of Levels which culminates in a boss fight. This fight follows the standard 2D platforming boss style where you jump up platforms, avoid attacks, and attack the boss. When your team runs out of lives, you start again, so there isn’t any challenge to the game either.
I can’t help but feel that this game isn’t built for older gamers like me to be introduced to the series for the first time because of how faithful to the original game it is. While the simple art style looks decent enough but given its simple gameplay I can’t help but feel this is perfect for first time gamers like kids or people with heavy doses of nostalgia for the original arcade cabinets.
It’s easy to write about why a good game is good or a bad game is bad, but Bubble Bobble is neither of these things, it’s…. OK. The gameplay is super simple and is faithful to the 33-year-old game, which doesn’t totally cut it this much longer later. Die hard fans of the original will find something here. It would be a great entry point for new gamers, but outside of that it is a hard recommendation when the Switch already has so many great party and arcade games.