Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! Review

Bub and Bob are back to burst more bubbles

By Paul Hunter

My first encounter with Bubble Bobble was way back in the Commodore 64 era, but surprisingly that incredibly fun bubble-shooting platformer later took a back seat to its more popular spin-off Bust-A-Move, known as Puzzle Bobble in Japan. Puzzle Bobble games have landed on nearly every Nintendo platform since the SNES, including the N64, GameCube, Wii, DS and 3DS. Now the famous puzzle series has landed on Nintendo Switch with an all-new entry, Puzzle Bobble Everybubble!.

This latest game packs a lot of firsts for the long-time series, including a co-operative Story mode for up to four players, local 2vs2 team battles, online 1vs1 multiplayer, and a unique crossover game with Puzzle Bobble vs. Space Invaders. It's time to head on into the Rainbow Islands to see what Taito's new puzzler has to offer, here are three things I liked Puzzle Bobble Everybubble!...and one I didn't.

Liked: Fun, Challenging Gameplay with Nice Progression

The classic Puzzle Bobble gameplay fans are familiar with returns in Everybubble! mostly unchanged—a textbook case of if it isn't broken, don't fix it. Like in previous games, completing puzzles requires you to aim your short pointer and fire coloured bubbles to make matches of three or greater, which pops all the matched bubbles. Given that your line pointer is so small it's hard to gauge exactly where your bubbles will land, so the real strategic drive comes from choosing when to aim slow and carefully or when to fire fast while potentially making costly mistakes. You can also bounce bubbles off the walls and ceilings to make a match and bubbles can be dropped by popping the ones holding them up—these high-risk tricky shots often mean the difference between disaster and success. It's a simple, entertaining formula that leads to nearly endless satisfying bubble-popping fun.

While the gameplay is familiar, Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! does a fantastic job of maintaining interest over the Story mode's meaty 250-plus stages. This is achieved in a couple of ways: Firstly, by giving you different stage-clear conditions including popping all bubbles, freeing all Chack'n trapped in bubbles or completing the stage within a specified time limit. Secondly, and more importantly, the game does a fantastic job of introducing new special bubble types at a regular click, usually one per world over the ten or so worlds you'll visit over the campaign.

At first, the game introduces the more helpful special bubbles like the star bubble that pops all bubbles of the same colour, a guide bubble that extends your guide line for 30 seconds, or the bomb bubble that explodes all bubbles around it on impact. These beneficial special bubbles can be hit to use them immediately to help you clear a level fast. Or, if you can carefully pop the bubbles holding a special bubble up, you can have your CPU companion buddy save it to fire it later.

Savour those helpful bubbles because soon enough the Story mode will introduce devious bubbles meant to trip you up, such as the plank that can't be popped (but can be dropped), or supports that can only be destroyed by popping all bubbles attached to them. There are special bubbles even worse, too, like a change bubble that switches colour every second and the persistent rocks that can't be popped or dropped. There are numerous other special bubbles that will eventually show up—paint bubbles, blaster bubbles, etc.—and each one will force you to rethink and restrategize to complete the more advanced stages. What's great is that newly introduced special bubbles don't necessarily make stages harder, they just as often make them feel different, which goes a long way to keeping the gameplay feeling fresh.

Liked: Lots of Multiplayer Options

The main mode in Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! is its Story mode comprising more than ten worlds with most containing 25 stages to complete, broken down into 15 regular stages and 10 EX extra-hard challenge stages. What's awesome is this is the first Puzzle Bobble Story mode that can be played with up to three friends. Interestingly, you can also opt to play this mode with up to three AI buddies and I found them to be surprisingly competent at popping bubbles. That said, AI companions sometimes miss their shots and can really mess you up, but in fairness, the same can be said when playing couch co-op with friends.

Playing the Story mode with friends or AI helpers will actually transform stages to make them larger and more complicated, so it's a tradeoff of more bubble firepower against a more challenging stage setup. I tried a bunch of stages with two-player local co-op and it's certainly more entertaining but it doesn't necessarily help you clear stages an easier. If your mission is to grab all the three-star ratings for each stage from my experience playing solo is the best way to go. But if you're playing just for fun, grabbing a few friends or throwing in a few AI companions kicks the action up a few notches.

When you're in the mood for competitive multiplayer, Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! features local 2vs2 team battles, a first for the series. Versus mode is straightforward and has you clear bubbles to build up your attack power, which can then be sent to your opponent's side in the form of junk bubbles like tricky clear bubbles or crates. Your goal is to get your opponent's bubbles to drop below the designated danger line. I had a ton of fun playing Versus mode with my family and it's another nice addition to the game's robust offering.

If you're brave enough to go online and face challengers from around the globe, the 1vs1 online multiplayer is for you. You start with 1000 points and at the Bronze 1 tier, and your points tally and tier can go up or down depending on how you perform. For those who want to only get matched up with their friends, online multiplayer supports a password-matching feature as well. From my time with the online multiplayer matchmaking, it was quick and the matches themselves went very smoothly—clearly, the netcode for this game is on point.

Liked: Neat Bonus Modes

I'm really impressed with all the content found in Puzzle Bobble Everybubble!. On top of the Story mode and co-op modes, the game also includes Baron's Tower a ranked endless mode where bubbles will continuously drop from the top until they drop below the danger line. Your goal is to pop multiple bubbles at once or even better, drop lots of bubbles to score big points. Scores can be uploaded to the global leaderboard to see how you fare against the best players from around the world. If you're able to hit specific score thresholds (e.g. 50,000 points) you can unlock harder versions of Baron's Tower.

The package also includes a unique crossover game with Puzzle Bobble vs. Space Invaders. Like in the classic Taito game, you'll need to 'shoot' the alien invaders (i.e. pop them with bubbles) as they slowly move left-to-right and right-to-left down the screen. To make the battle more challenging the aliens will shoot lasers at you and when struck your character will be temporarily immobile. The aliens' attacks change up between levels for added variety, for instance, on the second level they'll start shooting lasers diagonally (instead of straight down) to amp up the challenge. You can play the Space Invaders crossover game with up to four players, either human or CPU. While I prefer the Story mode, popping into Baron's Tower or the Space Invaders mode can be a nice change of pace, and I appreciate how much effort Taito put into making this a well-round offering.

One final bonus area in Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! is the Memory Album which gives you character bios and a music player. There are 15 characters in all, including the iconic Bub, Bob, Peb and Pab, with other characters unlocking as you make progress in the Story mode. It's a similar situation with the music player featuring 18 tracks, a handful you can access from the start while the rest you unlock in the Story mode. Memory Album is a modest addition, but it gave me a few chuckles (like learning that Bub hates pickled plums) and neat fun facts like each character's birthday.

Didn't Like: EX Stages Are Ridiculous

I'm all about hard modes, and it's great that Everybubble! has so many EX stages—but quite honestly, some of these ultra-tough stages just seem impossible to get a three-star rating. Every world contains 10 EX stages and particularly in the latter half of the game some of these stages don't seem humanly possible (and I consider myself fairly good at the game!). You might be given 45 seconds to three-star a level containing dozens of bubbles to pop, all while navigating tricky rocks or crates blocking most paths—and you're at the mercy of random starting bubble colour patterns, plus whatever bubble colour order the game wants to give you. Some of these EX stages require multiple tricky wall or ceiling bounces, or squeezing bubbles into the tightest of spaces, with no margin of error.

Thankfully, I've been able to clear most EX stages with a three-star rating. But perfecting them all requires superhuman reflexes that I'm not sure I have the patience for. Oh and while you can play EX stages with human or AI buddies, the stages themselves become larger and more complex and it's better/easier to complete stages solo.

The Verdict

Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! is a worthy new addition to this venerable series, offering a plethora of modes and a well-rounded package. From a lengthy Story mode to robust Versus modes to lots of bonus content, there's something here for everyone. Bub and Bob are back and better than ever, and as a longtime fan, I couldn't be happier.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great

Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! details

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Taito
Publisher: ININ Games
Genre: Puzzle, Arcade
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

A key was provided by the publisher.