One of the biggest games to dominate the golden age arcade scene was Bubble Bobble, a cute Japanese platformer about little dinosaurs that can shoot bubbles from their mouths. While this original game eventually went on to spawn a slew of sequels and ports that iterated on the concept, it also led to the development of spin-offs like Puzzle Bobble in 1994. Abandoning its platform roots, this remake put an action-focused twist on tile-matching He soon garnered a following of his own. Now Taito has seen fit to continue the legacy with Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! , a new entry brings new ideas.
Puzzle Bobble follows a relatively basic gameplay formula where you shoot colored bubbles from the bottom of the screen at a block of bubbles at the top of the screen, which disappear when your shots produce a group of three or more similarly colored bubbles. Much of the challenge comes from being under constant pressure to perform, as bubbles will usually slowly hit you from the top, or you’ll be given a limited amount of time to pop them. Everything Outside. Add to that the fact that you can never say exactly where your shot will land, and it’s an experience that straddles a fine line between tension and relaxation. Mistakes add up quickly and make it more difficult to shoot the shots you intend to, but playing things too slowly and methodically means you run the risk of failing or, at the very least, getting a lower rating at that point.
There are fifteen levels available in each world – with more EX stages unlocked if you can meet the three-star time requirement for each level – and each world introduces a few new tricks to help keep gameplay varied. For example, one level offers clear bubbles that take on the color of the level you shoot them, while another level offers bubbles that switch between colors at set intervals. While some of these tricks can feel like they throw off the difficulty curve too much, either by suddenly making levels much easier or much harder than the ones you just finished, we nonetheless appreciate how a few tweaks can get you closer to the board in a way totally different.
Those who aren’t thrilled by the nature and aim of the story mode’s bite-sized levels will be happy to know that you unlock Baron’s Tower relatively early, which functions as an endless survival mode that tasks you with eliminating bubbles until you inevitably flood them. Your score is then compared to the global leaderboard, and there are a few higher difficulty levels for you to try that only add to the tension. There’s also a rather weird crossover mode in Space Invaders (another Taito property, of course) where you run the dinosaur back and forth and shoot bubbles at a gaseous alien bubble force while dodging lasers. This mod doesn’t offer a huge departure from the core gameplay formula, but it’s a nice addition that’s worth a look.
Although the story mode appears to have been designed to be played solo, you can also choose up to three local friends or AI companions to help you out, with the board changing its size and layout to accommodate the extra firepower. While it’s nice to play this way when you have friends on hand that you can communicate with and strategize with in real time, AI is another story. For much of our experience, the AI companion was shooting bubbles efficiently and accurately, but the mistakes it made were costly and annoying. At times, it seemed like he was outright trying to sabotage an otherwise strong path on some level, and we even had some instances where our comrade I stopped Bubble shooting is in full, requiring us to desperately pull double duty to try and beat the tide. Co-op play with friends is fine, but we suggest playing entirely alone if you don’t have anyone nearby to play with.
Those who want something more competitive will be happy to see that there is a versus mode as well, and this can be played both online and in person. The rules here are mostly the same as the story mode – all participants start with mirrors from the same board and eliminating large areas in a short amount of time will send a bunch of trash bubbles to all of the opponents boards to trip them up. Although not terribly fleshed out, this straightforward puzzler offers some simple yet addictive fun that anyone can grasp pretty quickly. We didn’t get to try out the online version of this mode during the review period, the online features feature random matching and ranked levels that are sure to add plenty of play time for those who want to climb the ranks.
On the display side of things, Puzzle Bobble does a solid job of showing off a bright, rainbow-filled world as a backdrop to its endless bubble bars. Although the visuals aren’t particularly flashy, the panels are always easy to read, and we appreciate how the backgrounds change with each world to create a sense of “travelling” around Rainbow Island. However, there is a lingering feeling that more effort could have been done to produce a visually more unique art style; What is here finebut we often felt that these assets could have been easily extracted from a mobile address with less effort.
As for the soundtrack, Puzzle Bobble features a bunch of fun tunes that feel like an oddly fitting mix of the whimsy of Kirby’s music and the weirdness of Splatoon’s music. This is peppered with recurring exclamations in Japanese, be it “GoOoOoOOOOOO!!!!” When a stage begins or “Payonpah victorious!” When you clear all bubbles. Nothing here is particularly memorable, but never let it be said that Puzzle Bobble lacks energy.
Everybubble ball puzzle! Seems like a proper and worthy new entry in the long-running series. There’s a rich mix of single and multiplayer/online modes on offer here, and while the AI bots can leave something to be desired, overall this is a well-rounded and attractive package that’s sure to appeal to any puzzle game fan. We’d give this recommendation to anyone looking for an addictive puzzle that doesn’t take a lot of mental investment to “get it” and that keeps you on your toes. The simple yet gorgeous game design offered here is impressive and is sure to consume hours of your time once it gets the hang of it.
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