Bottom line: Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is a simple, family-friendly arcade game that everyone can enjoy. It is, however, a bit light on content for the price.
Beautiful graphics and fun music
Simple but intuitive controls
Includes original Bubble Bobble game
Co-op multiplayer really shines
Expensive considering how short the game is
Lacking in content
Most levels feel repetitive
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It seems that a lot of old and classic games are being remade for modern systems these days, and that's amazing. Not only are these tried and true games the ones that a lot of us grew up with, but being remade gives the new generation of gamers an opportunity to play such classics. That's exactly the case with Taito's legendary Bubble Bobble series, thanks to the latest installment: Bubble Bobble 4 Friends published by ININ Games.
A classic reimagined for the modern age
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: Features
If you grew up with the original Bubble Bobble arcade game, then you'll feel right at home with Bubble Bobble 4 Friends. The game's core arcade platforming mechanic remains the same, and the main objective is clearing the stage of all enemies before moving on the next.
In Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, there are five new worlds to play through, which equates to about 50 completely new levels. You'll also find the original Bubble Bobble arcade game available to play in this new version, so technically, there are over 100 levels to enjoy with family.
You need to clear out all enemies of a stage before you can proceed to the next level, and each world has a boss at the end, which gets progressively more difficult. After you defeat a boss, you unlock a new power-up skill that can be equipped before you begin the next world, and these include skills like Long Shot (blow bubbles farther), Lightning Bubble, Bomb Bubbles, and more. If you collect all of the hidden letters in each world (they spell out "EXTEND"), then you level up the skill you have equipped.
For those who have never played Bubble Bobble before, the game is simple. You control Bub the Dragon (and his friends if you're doing multiplayer), and you have the ability to blow bubbles. These bubbles can trap enemies inside, or serve as stepping stones to help you reach higher platforms on the stage that you can't reach otherwise. Once enemies are inside, you'll need to pop the bubble they're in to get rid of them, either with the spikes on your back (jump) or by stomping down (tap the left joystick down while in the air) on it. The bubble prisons don't last forever either, so time is of the essence. When enemies are defeated, they leave behind fruit, which give you some bonus points. Once all enemies are gone, a bunch of fruit appears — collect it for massive bonus points to your overall score.
There are two different control schemes for the game, but they're both pretty easy and it just depends on your preference. Just move around with the left joystick, and you jump with the X or B buttons in Type A, or Y or A in Type B. Shoot bubbles with the Y or A buttons in Type A controls, or X and B in Type B. Activate your equipped special ability with the L or R shoulder buttons.
As you beat the main levels of 4 Friends, you'll unlock the Hard difficulty, which ups the ante. While most of the stages of the main game are not too difficult, Hard really provides a challenge. But no matter which mode you choose to play, you only have a limited number of lives to try and beat the game with and get the highest score possible. Of course, once you're out of lives, you can just continue, but your score resets to 0, just like any arcade game.
While you can play through all of 4 Friends by yourself, the game is definitely more enjoyable with others. Up to three additional people can team up to take down Bonner, and it leads to some fast and frantic fun. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is definitely more of a party game rather than a single player arcade experience.
The chance to experience a legend
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: What I Like
I'll admit that I haven't actually played the original Bubble Bobble when I was growing up, but this game gives me the chance to experience it for myself, both with the original and new. I played the game with my husband, and it was fun teaming up to take down all of the baddies together.
The graphics are also beautiful in the new version, and animation was super smooth with no drops in frame rates. The controls are also easy to pick up, so I would imagine this is a great title for families to enjoy together right now.
It's super short
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: What I Don't Like
While Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is fun for parties and families, I think the price is a bit on the pricey side considering that the game is incredibly short. In fact, the entire main game (before Hard mode) can be beaten in just about an hour (depending on if you are playing with someone else or your skill level if solo). For a game that is $40, that's pretty lackluster. I suppose they're trying to justify the cost with the inclusion of the original game, which has hundreds of levels, but it's still expensive, all things considered.
I suppose the addition of Hard mode extends the longevity of the game, but still, these are the same levels but with modifications to the enemies and layouts that make it more challenging than the normal stages. And for the most part, I think most of the stages are a bit repetitive and not too challenging — only a few in the normal play through were somewhat difficult.
I would love to see more content added in the future, because at the moment, it is just lacking for the price. Oh, and for such a streamlined and fast-paced arcade game (great for speed runs), it's surprising that there is no online leaderboard.
It's fun for everyone, but maybe wait for a sale
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Bottom Line
Bubble Bobble is a classic that everyone should have the chance to enjoy, so I'm glad that this game exists. The levels, while they can be repetitive, are fast, fun, and frantic, especially if you have at least two people playing. Having a Hard mode is great for those who think the main game is too easy, and including the original arcade game is a nice bonus.
However, at the current regular price, I can't fully recommend Bubble Bobble 4 Friends because it's so short, but if you can find it on sale, then it may be more justifiable. I just want to see more content added if possible, and maybe the inclusion of leaderboards for replay value.
Legendary classic reimagined
Bottom line: Bubble Bobble 4 Friends provides platforming arcade fun for the entire family. But it's pretty short, considering the price.
Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.
By Tammy Rogers