One thing that's easily forgotten in the elaborate market of gaming is that nothing quite takes life's stresses away like a nostalgic platformer – especially during the year we're having.
Sometimes you just don't want the pressure of a 50/50 shootout on Call of Duty that leaves you screaming at the screen insisting you hit your opponent first, or the myriad controls of Final Fantasy 7 that blow your mind as you desperately scramble to take down a boss.
Sometimes, you just want a classic arcade game to take your mind off things and have a bit of fun. And Bubble Bobble 4 friends does exactly that.
The 80s classic has been given a fresh revamp by Taito for the PS4 and Nintendo Switch, with entertaining results.
Playing as old school dragon heroes Bub and Bob or newbies Pab and Bub, you're on a mission to defeat the evil wizard Bonner, working through levels of 10, before reaching the boss fight.
The level designs are distinctive, each focused around themes such as Bedside Bonanza and Toyland Terminal. With names like that, it's clear the developers love alliteration as much as they do fun.
The gameplay to this updated favourite – which now features an online ranking system – essentially consists of you blasting bubbles at enemies before ramming them into and collecting the fallen fruit they leave behind.
Easy right? Well, not that easy.
As the levels get harder, the enemies follow wind patterns while trapped in the bubbles and if you aren't quick enough to burst them they escape and you have to repeat the whole process again. There's also the incentive of a higher score if you pop more than one at a time.
The introduction of spikes which can simultaneously burst bubbles and your ego, and tadpoles which bounce around the level with no rhythm or rhyme do present a slight challenge.
Add to that the dreaded return of the infamous Baron von Blubba, you want to complete the level as quickly as you possibly can.
But the game does lend you a helping hand in the form of an invincible mode when it gets a little tough – aka you've failed the level three times.
New skills like the ability to shoot bubbles further and bubble bombs, which you earn after completing 10 levels, also make things a bit easier and more fun.
The boss fights, like any platform game, essentially consist of avoiding whatever they throw at you before tiring them out and then attacking them while they're down.
But they do present more of a challenge on the penultimate levels, where the bosses fire multiple moving enemies which you need to dodge or destroy before trying to get to the top dog – cue failing three times and waiting for invincibility.
The game also features a classic arcade mode for the die hard nostalgics out there and there's even an homage to fellow retro classic Space Invaders, which Taito is also releasing a version of in December.
Overall, the game is packed with enough obstacles to keep you amused for a few hours without offering much of a challenge. Its true entertainment potential is more likely reached when playing co-op with friends, as its name suggests.
I just wish I had some to play with.
This game was reviewed on the PS4.
- Nintendo Switch
- PS4 News
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