Review: “Puzzle Bobble Everybubble!” (Nintendo Switch)
How many Bubble Bobble fans do we have in the reading audience today? Alrighty then, so how many Puzzle Bobble fans are there? (*cough!* Bust-A-Move for us old-schoolers *cough!*)
I feel like it’s been a long time since I played a Puzzle Bobble game. Let’s see… I think I had a demo for the Bust-A-Move Live… Sorry… Old habits die hard… PUZZLE BOBBLE Live back on the Xbox 360, and that came out in 2009. Before that, it would have been Bust-A-Move 4 for the SEGA Dreamcast back at the turn of the millennium. So, now with the modern revival of the Bubble Bobble series with Bubble Bobble 4 a few years ago, it’s good to see Bus… AHEM! Puzzle Bobble make its triumphant return with Puzzle Bobble Everybubble for Nintendo Switch.*
For those unfamiliar with Puzzle Bobble, it is like most of those “match the color” tile games, only instead of dropping the tiles down, you shoot them up, in the form of bubbles. When you match 3 colors or more, then those bubbles “burst,” and… if you pull off a really nice shot so that it “breaks the chain” that holds more bubbles to the top of the playfield, then they will drop off as well. Some levels include indestructible bubbles, or bubbles with negative effects that you will want to avoid, so one critical tactic to learn is how to ricochet shots by bouncing the bubbles off the side of the playfield. You need to be a careful though, because if your bubble hits anything that isn’t a wall, then it will stick, and if it doesn’t make a match, then it just adds it to the chaos of the playfield until you match 3 for that one, as well.
Depending on the level type, your goal is either to remove all the bubbles, pop certain bubbles that contain captive friends, or for some modes, just play for a high score until the bubbles hit the bottom of the screen. I imagine most people know enough about this type of game to know what to expect, so for those who want to know what separates Puzzle Bobble Everybubble from the rest of the series… Well, quite a bit, actually… at least from all the titles that I have played!
Let’s discuss the available modes in Everybubble. First, you have the Story mode, which has cutesy cutscenes at the beginning and end of each themed level involving the bubble-blowing dinos and various other friends from the Bubble Bobble series. The gist is this… the baby dino characters were jealous of your bubble-blowing abilities and receive a magical potion from a mysterious wizard that made them blow bubbles uncontrollably, filling up all the locations on Rainbow Island. You travel from area to area (level to level) to help the residents get rid of all these pesky bubbles, and also to figure out who this mystery wizard is that started all of this.
There are 15 stages in each area, and if you manage to do well enough to earn 3 stars in each of a level’s main stages, then it unlocks 10 more EX-stages, which are generally harder than the regular stages. You can earn between 1 and 3 “stars” depending on how quickly you complete the challenges. So, with 8 levels, each with 15 stages, and 10 EX-stages, that’s a whopping 200 stages to master!
Each stage is set up a little differently. Some are more puzzle-based and will give your brain a workout, while others are pretty straightforward, puzzle-ish blasting action where you mostly need to pop to beat the clock. Also included in the Story mode is the Baron’s Tower mode. This is set up more like the original Puzzle Bobble where you just play as long as you can keep popping bubbles until they reach the bottom of the screen, seeing how high of a score you can attain. Strangely, this is the only place that actually has leaderboards in the game. There are some unlockables for achieving certain high scores in this mode, too… but I wasn’t good enough to unlock anything, yet. I still need a little more practice… and luck! To be fair, looking at the leaderboards at the time of this writing, only one person out in the gaming space has actually scored high enough to unlock the next mode. It gets frantic, I tell ya’!
There is of course a classic VS. mode where you can play against another player online, locally, or against computer-controlled opponents. You are given a few options here, including difficulty and the number of opponents you want to throw into the mix.
There is one more super special mode included in Puzzle Bobble Everybubble… Puzzle Bobble vs. Space Invaders! This mode remakes the classic Space Invaders with rows of bubbles instead of aliens, and the player controls the bubble blowing dinos instead of a defending spaceship. The bubbles move like the aliens in Space Invaders, and the tense, heartbeat soundtrack of Space Invaders is redone with a happy Bubble Bobble-inspired heartbeat theme instead. It actually works quite well and is a fun distraction from the main game, but it would be nice if it actually kept track of your high score here! Considering old arcade games like Space Invaders were made with the high score in mind, it just seems odd to start each time and manually keep track of your score… if anyone actually does that… anymore. Hmmm… Maybe we can hope for an update in the future. It would certainly add to the replayability of this mode considering how much fun this mode already is for fans of Space Invaders like me!
Sound-wise, the game music in Puzzle Bobble Everybubble is mostly upbeat and poppy tunes that largely match the tone of each stage. The voices can be kind of jarring… particularly the librarian. Ugh! It doesn’t help that each stage starts with an announcement from the level’s main resident! Hearing that cursed librarian say “Ready… GO!” in her raspy, little-kid sounding voice each time I had to restart a stage… Annoying is putting it lightly! Irritating, perturbing, irksome, even! And of course, this is about the part in the game where the stages started to get really difficult, so I had to restart quite a few times on some stages, and hear that same, piercing hiss…
Outside of the new levels, Story and Space Invaders modes, Everybubble also has quite a few new updates from previous games in the Puzzle Bobble series… at least as far as I’ve played. (It’s possible that the newer portable and cell phone versions had some of these features… *snicker* cell phone games…) First off, the transition to high definition really frees things up to be more expansive! No longer are you confined to such a narrow corridor of a playing field with massive bubbles, but some levels get pretty big with bubbles that are much smaller than they have been previously. This is especially noticeable when you are playing with more than one person.
The multiplayer features are the highlight of Everybubble in my opinion. Every mode allows you the option to team up with up to 4 players at once to tackle each stage’s challenges. With that said, the stage gets bigger and bigger when you add more players, so while it makes some levels much easier, others are far simpler in single-player mode. That’s my big tip for anyone having trouble with any of the stages: ty adjusting the number of players you play with… and if you don’t have anyone else to grab a controller and help out, then you can add computer-controlled players to assist instead! Generally, the computer-controlled players will make levels a breeze, but in the levels that include “negative special bubbles,” they will often just sit there and do nothing until you’ve cleared out the obstacles presented to you. It’s kind of annoying to have them around for those levels, so that’s when I recommend you drop it back to single player and knock those out yourself.
Puzzle Bobble Everybubble also has a whole slew of power-up (or down) “special bubbles”, which range from paint splashing bubbles to bubbles that add more time to your play clock. Lots of the puzzle-themed levels will center around learning how to properly utilize these special bubbles… or how to avoid the negative bubbles that can either cost you time, or the whole game! This can get particularly frustrating when you are blasting through a stage with your buddy, and just as you are nearing the end, you have a shot that doesn’t land quite right, and triggers the Baron to come out and call it “game over” for you!
Some levels you’ll be playing over and over to master (unless you are already a Puzzle Bobble master, I guess), though if you keep struggling in the Story mode, you can choose to replay a failed level with an assist that extends your guide arrow to show you exactly where a bubble will land. This helps, but it limits your final reward for the stage to just one star. If you want those EX-stages, you’ll have to get good at mastering the stages yourself… or with the aforementioned help from another player/CPU player. And for those who rise to the challenge and are able to complete all of the EX-stages for a level, you are gifted with that level’s music in the Memory Album under Settings. The Memory Album also includes the characters you have unlocked in Vs. mode, and the skins you unlock for your little “mini-helper” that holds onto any special bubbles you free up to use later as an on-demand power-up.
Even with the few oddities and annoyances, my wife and I really enjoyed playing through Puzzle Bobble Everybubble together! There were so many great moments, like coming back from just the brink of “game over,” to pulling off a perfectly thrown double-bounce shot from across the screen through a maze of bubbles! It’s just plain fun, and it’s a great game for gamers to play with non-gamers who might be lacking in the same skills required for heavier action games. Plus, with the cute little dinosaurs, the theme of the game can be enjoyed by the whole family!
Having played TONS of these types of games over the years, I can easily say that Puzzle Bobble Everybubble is one of the best I’ve played in the genre. Although, I do generally prefer the action-platforming style of Bubble Bobble, I still highly recommend Puzzle Bobble Everybubble to anyone who likes this kind of cute, puzzle games. Now, let’s talk about bringing Parasol Stars back! Make it happen, Taito!
*Disclosure: A copy of Puzzle Bobble Everybubble for Nintendo Switch was provided to The Splintering for the purpose of this review.
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