Console Corner: Bubble Bobble 4 Friends review
The biggest problem with rejuvenating old school titles which shaped the very landscape of video gaming is that beyond the fuzzy, nostalgic glow that greets you when you first fire them up, they often lack the depth and originality which made them a hit in the first place.
So when Taito announced Bubble Bobble was making a comeback on the Nintendo Switch with Bubble Bobble 4 Friends - some 33 years since the original game - I wondered if it would suffer in the same way.
The Switch and Bubble Bobble seems a match made in heaven. And in many ways it is. And there is a really sweet retro bonus here in that you also get the original 1986 arcade game included to you can relive the old days and it’s addictive, unforgetabble music.
The colourful little dragons of our youth, Bub and Bob, are back and if you didn’t get it from the title you can now play alone or with up to three friends in co-op mode.
There are more than 100 levels to tackle as you seek to topple wicked magician Bonner and his henchmen.
The bubbles don’t just let you trap your opponents, now can also jump on them to reach higher platforms and BB4F has definitely given the series a noticeable nitro boost.
You collect E-X-T-E-N-D bubbles to activate and upgrade skills, such as lightning and bomb bubbles. Key to your success as you traverse the charming and psychedelic worlds will be mastering air currents to your advantage.
Single-player mode is fun but the game’s crowning achievement is undoubtedly the co-op mode, particularly if you can muster four of you to play together.
The simple addition of a life system in which eight lives are shared out between those taking part in co-op makes for brilliant, often tense fun. After all nobody wants to be the weakest link and this is one sure way of finding out exactly who that is (my daughter for the record).
The single-hit kill system is cleverly stolen from Rayman - arguably the best co-op platformer around - and means if your character is hit, you become encased in a bubble and begin floating around the screen allowing you to be rescued by another player if they can manage it (just like in Rayman).
This is not as easy as it sounds and makes for some brilliant moments as the air currents play a huge part in where your bubble-encased dragon ends up on the screen.
BB4F works brilliantly in the Switch’s handheld mode but really pops on the big screen where I would argue it is slightly easier to play (particularly with a pro pad over the Joy-Cons).
There is a lot of skill involved in BB4F but the learning curve is very family friendly as the first raft of levels ease you gently into the action.
The biggest let down is the lack of a competitive online mode and this very much hampers BB4F’s longevity and ultimately its score. But it certainly should not detract from the welcome return of a gaming giant to one of the best consoles for generations.