One of the biggest games to dominate the scene of the golden age of arcades was Bubble Bobble, a cute Japanese action platformer centered around little dinosaurs that could shoot bubbles out of their mouths. While that original game eventually went on to spawn a ton of sequels and ports that iterated on the concept, it also led to the development of spin-offs like Puzzle Bobble in 1994. Ditching the platforming roots, this new game put an action-focused twist on tile-matching and quickly garnered a following of its own. Now Taito has seen fit to continue the legacy with Puzzle Bobble Everybubble!, a new entry that brings new ideas.
Puzzle Bobble follows a relatively basic gameplay formula wherein you fire colored bubbles from the bottom of the screen at a mass of bubbles at the top of the screen, which disappear when your shots produce a group of three or more like-colored bubbles. A big part of the challenge comes from being constantly under pressure to perform, as bubbles are usually either slowly pressing down on you from above, or you’re only given a limited amount of time to clear everything out. Couple this with the fact that you can never quite tell exactly where your shot is going to land, and it's an experience that straddles a fine line between being stressful and relaxing. Mistakes pile up fast and make it that much harder to make the shots you intend to, but playing things too slow and methodical means that you’re at risk of failing or, at the very least, receiving a lower ranking for that stage.
There are fifteen levels available in each world—with more EX stages being unlocked if you can meet the three-star time requirements for each level—and each world introduces some new gimmicks to help keep the gameplay varied. For example, one level introduces clear bubbles that take on the color of the one that you shoot at it, while another introduces bubbles that switch between colors at set intervals. Though some of these gimmicks can feel like they throw off the difficulty curve a bit too much, either by making levels suddenly much easier or much harder than the ones you just finished, we nonetheless appreciate how a few tweaks can make you approach the board in a totally different way.
Those of you who aren’t as enthused by the more bite-sized, objective-driven nature of the story mode levels will be pleased to learn that you unlock the Baron’s Tower relatively early, which acts as an endless survival mode that tasks you with clearing out bubbles until you inevitably get overwhelmed. Your score is then compared with a global leaderboard, and there are a few higher difficulty levels you can attempt that turn up the heat quite a bit. There’s also a rather bizarre Space Invaders (another Taito property, of course) crossover mode where you run your dino back and forth and shoot bubbles up at an invading alien bubble force while dodging lasers. This mode doesn’t offer much of a departure from the core gameplay formula, but it’s a cool addition that’s worth a look.
While it feels like the story mode was designed to be played solo, you can also opt to have up to three local friends or AI companions to help you out, with the board changing its size and design to accommodate the additional firepower. Though it’s fine playing like this when you have friends on hand who you can communicate and strategize with in real time, the AI is another story. For much of our experience, the AI companion would competently and accurately shoot bubbles, but the mistakes that it made were costly and irritating. Sometimes it felt like it was outright trying to sabotage an otherwise solid run at a level, and we even encountered some instances where our companion just stopped shooting bubbles entirely, requiring us to hopelessly pull double duty to try beating back the tide. Playing co-op with friends is fine, then, but we’d suggest playing completely alone if you don’t have anyone nearby to play with.
Those of you who want something more competitive will be pleased to see that there’s a vs. 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 of the same board and clearing out big swaths in a short period of time will send a bunch of trash bubbles to all opponents’ boards to trip them up. Though not terribly fleshed out, this head-to-head puzzling nonetheless offers up some simple and addictive fun that just about anybody can grasp pretty quickly. We weren't able to try the online version of this mode during the review period, the online features random matchmaking and ranked tiers that are sure to add lots of playtime to those who want to climb the ranks.
On the presentation side of things, Puzzle Bobble does a solid job of showing off a bright, rainbow-infused world as the backdrop to the endless bubble boards. Though the visuals aren’t particularly flashy, the boards are always easily readable, and we appreciate how the backdrops change with every world to create a sense of ‘traveling’ around Rainbow Island. Still, there is a lingering feeling that more effort could have gone into producing a more visually distinct art style; what’s here is fine, but we often felt like these assets could’ve easily been ripped from a lower-effort mobile title.
As for the soundtrack, Puzzle Bobble features a collection of lighthearted tunes that feel like an oddly fitting mixture of the whimsy of Kirby music and the weirdness of Splatoon’s music. This is punctuated by frequent exclamations in Japanese, whether it’s an overexcited “GoOoOoOOOOO!!!!” when you start a stage or the victorious “Payonpah!” when you clear all the bubbles out. Nothing here is especially memorable, but never let it be said that Puzzle Bobble lacks energy.
Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! feels like a fitting, worthy new entry in the long-running series. There’s a rich mixture of single and multiplayer/online modes on offer here, and though the AI bots can leave something to be desired, this is overall a well-rounded and appealing package that’s sure to appeal to any action puzzle fans. We’d give this one a recommendation to anyone looking for an addictive puzzler that doesn’t require too much mental investment to ‘get’ and that keeps you on your toes. The simple and brilliant game design on display here is admirable and it’s sure to eat up hours of your time once it gets its hooks in you.
Solid. Going to buy it later on
I need this to heal my jaded soul
I like bubble bobble, but that name is horrendously stupid.
And still no Magical Drop 6 review yet... (which is, in my opinion, better).
Been playing this series since the first game, I used to go to the local pub to play it during my lunch break at school and I was so addicted to it I would sometimes end up missing some afternoon lessons. I always had to sneak back into school being careful not to get caught Solid Snake like and I didn't get caught once 😅
Will get once I am buying games again.
Visuals look a little flat, bare bones and lazy. It blows my mind that they just can't put in the effort to make a great looking modern puzzle bobble game, and the same exact thing applies to Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, which had me going back to the original Arcade BB instead....The older Puzzle Bobble titles from the 90's still have the visual edge over this new one imo, like with the two recently released S-Tribute titles. I'll just stick with those.
Perfect, exactly what I was hoping the game to be.
And unless a huge surprise release comes out or Silksong is released, this might be the last game I get this year.
Big fan of the first two Neo Geo games, but the price tag on this new version is a little steep for what it is. Onto the wishlist it goes, waiting for a sale.
Visually I think it looks good, just not outstanding like some previous entries in the series.
Content wise though, I'm glad to hear that it shapes up as a stronger entry. Puzzle Bobble DS was particularly weak, and Puzzle Bobble Universe on the 3DS was unremarkable as an early launch-period title. Puzzle Bobble Galaxy on DS was very good however.
Taito have also recently developed a Touhou puzzle game called Spell Bubble, which is a mix of Puzzle Bobble with rhythm elements to go with the Touhou series' iconic music. That seemed pretty well made.
Thanks for the review, confirms that I'm eventually getting this for sure, love me some Puzzle Bobble and this seems like a great entry in the series thanks to all the content included!
I feel like the presentation loses something with this version. I loved that the original games had the characters standing next to or operating an intricate machine that fires the bubbles. This version just has them standing in the middle throwing the bubbles up themselves. Obviously the gameplay is most important, but some of the charm is lost here.
Odd, they didn't use the international name (Bust-A-Move) this time. Normally the name Puzzle Bobble only applies to just the Japanese version while everyone else got it as Bust-A-Move.
Bust-A-Move is usually the North American name, the name Puzzle Bobble is retained for European markets.
@RupeeClock North America is not a PAL territory though so why are these games name Bust-A-Move then?
Maybe just brand inconsistency due to the publishers they were working with?
Titles in the Puzzle Bobble / Bust-a-Move series have been published by companies like Akklaim, Ubi Soft, Square Enix, Inin Games, probably more if I look into it.
I miss playing this on the SNES. To the Nostalgia folder in my wishlist with you
I will probably buy this? I'd have to see gameplay. The Co op is exciting. I'd kind of prefer if they had given the "super" duology the drill land remaster treatment.
I need another puzzle game besides Puyo Puyo. I’ll pick this up.
One more that goes to my wishlist. I'll eventually get it when it's on (a reasonable) sale
I'll probably grab this, I got Touhou Spell Bubble a while back but that game felt more multiplayer focused. Plus I didn't much care for the music anyways...
@RupeeClock Puzzle Bobble ds was miles better than universe. I guess if you really hate the touchscreen slingshot aiming you won't like it, but universe basically killed the series for a decade. Galaxy is the pinnacle though, and I love the two "super" games.
That's good to know. I will pick this up sooner or later
Interested, but the physical copy is exclusive to GAME in the UK, and considering the already high £34.99 price, I don't fancy paying a mandatory £4.99 for delivery. Amazed that company is still in business tbh
Happy to see this! I already preordered the physical version since I love Puzzle Bobble / Bust-a-Move games, so I am pleased to know it delivers.
I love the Neo Geo games. I always get excited for new titles in the series but they always let me down due to the guide line. It's fine for the first few puzzles but a large part of thev appeal of the game is the skill to make shots without guides.
Missed the #1 Joy/Pro:
FOUR PLAYER PUZZLE BOBBLE!!!
I mean it looks OK, but I already have 2 and 2X, which are still by far the best of the series.
Seems like the perfect Puzzle Bobble game to me. Definitely gonna pick it up eventually to have along side Puyo Puyo Tetris and Lumines
Went to buy it on the eshop now and it's still not available. It says available 23rd which is today and the shop still hasn't updated.
Edit: Nvm I got it. The first game that was released on 16 bit Consoles is available too which is nice.
That looks great, random online was what I was looking for in a Puzzle Bobble so I'll definitely be picking this up when I can.
Graphically, it looks like they stuck with the mobile puzzle bobble esthetic. I kind of don't mind it, but I'm a big fan of the series so maybe I'm biased. 😉
What the hell is up with the idiotic demo?
I can't even get past the title screen because it does an NSO subscription check! Why on Earth would they even require that of a demo?! Setting the console to flight mode doesn't help as it demands a "network check".
Does the full version pull this crap too?
And I was so looking forward to this too.
I am a fan of "the series" and the puzzle game mechanic so I am obviously down. Thanks for the review as well.
Honestly I would play it just to look at the dino’s little toofer. Absolutely adorable.
Shame the little arrow machine is absent but not gonna stop me picking this up. I LOVED the bust a move games on the original playstation and not been able to play for years.
The Puzzle Bobble series is great, but I wish we got a new Bubble Bobble platformer.
@Agent_P Bubble Bobble practically invented multiplayer tbh. There is a Den of Geek article that puports that it's the greatest Co-op Video Game Ever Made and they may well be right. Although wasn't always a Co-op experience lol!
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