Bubble Bobble 4 Friends Nintendo Switch Review

Grab those watermelons, bub 🍉

By Paul Hunter

After more than ten long years, the lovable bubble-blowing dragons Bub and Bob are back for another home console adventure on Nintendo Switch. The duo's latest title, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, combines the franchise's signature arcade platforming with fun, 4-player local co-op action. Being a lifelong fan of the OG arcade game, I had to give this latest entry a spin!

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends details

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Taito
Publisher: ININ Games
Genre: Action, Arcade, Party
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer (4-player local co-op)
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Bonner's out to burst your bubbles

Bubble Bobble games aren't particularly known for their stories, but hey, at least in 4 Friends we get a rather charming cinematic intro. In it, Bub and series antagonist Bonner (a.k.a. Drunk in Japanese—seriously 😂) are sleeping peacefully in bed... despite being former bitter enemies. Odd, but OK.

Seconds later, mysterious bubbles float in from the bedroom window and wakes up Bonner. He suddenly reverts back to his sinister ways and starts bopping poor sleeping Bub on the head with his magic cane. Our lil hero dragon springs into action to, once again, put an end to Bonner's dastardly ways. The lesson here: never have a sleepover with your enemy, even if they start being nice to you.
Grab some friends and get ready to have fun:
this game is all about pure enjoyment.
You then discover that Bonner's gone and converted the entire bedroom into 50 stages filled with his henchmen and nasty bosses. These levels are divided into five worlds given cutesy names like Bedside Bonanza, Toyland Terminal, and Cosmic Canopy. Yes, the alliterations are strong with this one.

The stages themselves are very colourful and look great, certainly better than I was expecting. They're quite busy, too, with sparkling backgrounds, air currents everywhere, and flashy special effects. Throw in a bunch of nicely animated 3D enemies and each stage just looks excellent. For a first impression, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends delivers the eye candy.

Simple gameplay and frenzied, 4-player co-op

Like the name implies, Bubble Bubble 4 Friends lets you and up to three friends join together for some lively, co-operative gameplay. Everyone gets their choice of character ranging from series mainstays Bub and Bob, to their bubble dragon girlfriends (with cute hair bows!) Peb and Pab. For a full crew of four players you'll need an extra pair of Joy-Con Controllers, so make sure to grab an extra set or ask your friends to bring theirs over.

Being a family-friendly game, the controls are super easy to learn: one button jumps and another lets you blow bubbles. Bubbles are used to capture enemies, or you can hop on them to reach higher ground. You can ride on top of other players, too, which is great for kids having difficulty with the game's light platforming.

Much like the original, all levels take place on a single screen, although this time the camera zooms out to accommodate some larger stages. The platforming is slightly more involved than the arcade classic, mostly due to the bigger levels, but also because of new elements like wind currents that blow your bubbles around. Similarly, while most enemies have easy, familiar movements, there are a few new baddies with trickier attack patterns, including shooting projectiles.

But don't worry, the game is still a breeze to play. Your team gets a generous pool of eight lives to share, and you can get a bonus life by collecting all the tricky E-X-T-E-N-D bubbles. Moreover, if you get hit you'll appear in a bubble for a short period of time, and if a partner pops you the team won't lose a life. As long as you stick together, your party has near infinite lives.

Should you happen to die three times on a stage, you'll be given the option to flick on invincibility and remove the challenge entirely. So grab some friends and get ready to have fun: this game is all about pure enjoyment.

Hard mode and classic Bubble Bobble

To lengthen the game time, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends has an unlockable hard mode after you clear the game. This challenge mode remixes all 50 stages with new enemies and new hazards to overcome. You'll quickly notice the spike in difficulty, so if you're looking to test your skills this is the place to be.

To lessen some of the challenge, you'll have access to three different limited use special bubble types. These include Bomb Bubbles that countdown from ten, Thunder Bubbles that shoot a bolt horizontally, and Long Shot Bubbles that blow further away. You'll also get a Stop Wind power that halts air currents for a short time, and a Dash move that lets you pass through enemies. Consider your options wisely though—you'll only allowed to select one special power at a time.

Hard mode gets pretty tough, particularly in the last couple worlds, and you can tell care was used to place enemies in tricky spots to take down. Thankfully, the mode is still playable with a team of four, which makes completing stages significantly easier. While I would like to have seen 100 unique stages instead of 50 with two difficulty settings, I still had a lot of fun completing hard mode.

In addition to the campaign, you also get an exciting bonus: a full version of Taito's arcade classic Bubble Bobble. Growing up there were few games I loved playing more than this co-op gem. I remember putting in countless hours on Commodore 64 with my buddies as we tried to beat our high scores and see all of the game's endings. This port retains the floaty gameplay, along with the timeless soundtrack that's still as catchy today as it was in the '80s.

The Verdict

I had a blast with Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, whether I was playing the campaign with friends or trying to beat the challenging hard mode solo. The graphics are fantastic, and so are the 3D character models including Bub, Bob and friends. The new music tracks are also superb, but nothing can top the original arcade tunes, which have all be faithfully included.

Really my only gripe is the modest amount of content—with just 100 stages you can easily breeze through the game over a weekend. All in all though, Bubble Bobble fans should definitely check out this great new entry in Taito's classic arcade series.

Final Score: 8/10 - Great

A review code for the game was provided by the publisher.