Puzzle Bobble: Everybubble! (Nintendo Switch)- Review

Thanks to ININ Games for the review code

Title: Puzzle Bobble: Everybubble!
System: Nintendo Switch
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 05/23/2023


Story

On the beautiful rainbow paradise, the evil wizard has cursed the miniroon population to blow an endless amount of bubbles, flooding the worlds and trapping the Chack’n in bubbles! Thus, it is up to Bub, Bob, and their two best dragon friends to all unite on a continental quest to clear all the bubbles.

Story bits are dropped pretty often in this game, usually at the start and end of a world and their EX variants, but the cutscenes are all short bits of dialogue that add to the charm of the game and even bring back a lot of characters from prior Puzzle Bobble titles.

Presentation

Puzzle Bobble has already seen a few recent renewals as of late, with a VR one getting covered here just a little bit ago. While that vacation focused more on a 3D perspective and VR compatibility, Everybubble goes back to the standard 2D roots of the older titles, while also bringing more of an attention back to the colorful cast of characters that made the Arcade entries so dang charming. You not only have the two main dragons, Bub and Bob, but also two more of their dragon friends, along with a bunch of other characters you’ll rescue and add to your versus roster along the way, and everything is presented in a lovely artstyle, whether it be the simple dialogue scenes, the stages themselves, or even fun UI elements, this game is just truly adorable.

The sound here is pretty solid too, though I definitely can see people get real annoyed of the dragons’ cute noises after a while, especially if they clear stages one after the other, since these four really love to cheer for joy. Still, the in-game dialogue scenes use these sort of funny, fictional noises too, and I can’t help but find it charming even with some lines getting real repetitive. The music is decent too, with some songs being remixes of older pieces from the franchise, but done in such a way you don’t exactly realize it until you listen really, really closely; does a great job of helping the soundtrack feel fresh, even if a chunk of it can feel a bit too heavy on the string instruments. The UI even has a cute touch of each cursor movement being a piece of the original Puzzle Bobble theme, which was very rad to include.

Otherwise the only other aspect of the presentation to note is that of the Space Invaders mode, which still maintains the cute artstyle for the bubbles and dragons, but replaces the background with a more cartoony Space Invaders one, and gives the mode a funky rendition of the Space Invader movements sounds turned into a song. It’s surprisingly catchy despite not seeming like so at first, but I do wish that it took some elements from Arkanoid Vs Space Invaders and maybe had some visual cues or popups from that franchise more, rather than just the invaders shooting beams from inside of their bubbles.

Gameplay

Puzzle Bobble, if you somehow haven’t played a variation of it, is a puzzler where the main objective is typically to clear the screen of either all bubbles, or certain bubbles with captive chack’n inside, by shooting from a bubble cannon at the bottom of the screen and aiming precisely. It’s one of the most cloned puzzlers out there, but this is the genuine article and has quite a bit on offer here to flesh out the very simple loop.

Three modes highlight Everybubble, and the story mode is by far the biggest chunk of the game, so let’s hold off on that aspect for now and focus on the two smaller modes. First up is Puzzle Bobble VS Space Invaders, a very, very basic concept where you must clear an assortment of bubbles like you normally would, except the bubbles are positioned like Space Invaders, with said invaders in several of the bubbles with the ability to shoot down at you. Likewise, you can only fire straight up, just like the cannon in the original Space Invaders game, and at first there doesn’t seem to be much of a point here at all; no high scores are logged and the game just ends when the invaders crash down on you, with waves getting more and more difficult as you clear them.┬áLuckily, by adding COMs or IRL pals to the mix, this mode becomes a bit more fun, since it’s actually meant as a score competition mode, and sure enough while you do have to work together to beat up the invaders, you also are competing against each other to ensure one of you is the king of points for that game, giving it a similar co-op/competitive vibe to the Gigamax game from Space Invaders Forever, but done with much better execution here. Still, this is local only, and I found myself pretty bored of playing this with computers rather quickly.

Now the VS modes on the other hand, is where a good chunk of fun can be had, though a lot of it depends on just how well this game’s community will grow. Depressingly, unlike the later arcade entries, there is no arcade gauntlet of VS COM players to be found, and while you can set your own 1 v 1 or 2 v 2 matches against the computer or local players, they won’t be in an arcade mode fashion like before. Really, fighting bots is mostly meant for practice, as the big appeal of this mode is the online multiplayer, as now you can match up with players all around the world and duel it out in 2P VS, and honestly, this mode plays really damn well. All the cool special bubbles stages in the single player mode had available populate your board, and being able to use a variety of them while figuring out the best means to attack your opponent is just real fun, and there are even rankings to climb in the process.

Luckily, there is a free demo app of the online VS mode available for a little while, which at least ensures this mode will have some semblance of activity for a good month or so, but I really hope it manages to catch on enough to keep this competitive scene kicking, since this is easily the most fun competitive Puzzle Bobble has been in a long time for me, and it’s all the more shame there isn’t some sort of endurance or arcade mode against bots you could try out offline. Still, definitely a nice compliment to the main game.

Speaking of which, that brings us to the big bulk of Everybubble, which is the story mode. Once the simple introduction is aside and you’re off to the first world, the game slowly gets you into the swing of things by having some simpler puzzles to solve before ramping things up. This is Everybubble’s equivalent to the Puzzle mode from prior games, and this one is way, way bigger than those Arcade classics, since there are several worlds to go through, each with a good chunk of normal and EX stages to clear, all with differing arrangements and challenges to tackle, and the pacing of this game is blissfully fast if you just want to get comfy and play through several stages in a row. I was very pleased to notice that as soon as I finished one stage and clicked past the results, I could just keep mashing A and immediately be guided into the new one in no time at all, keeping marathon sessions very easy to maintain.

Much to my surprise, while local co-op is touted as an option here and is no doubt a fun way to give this a spin, you can actually add bots to fill in the 4P slots too, meaning that you can thus witness just how wide each stage gets when more players are being tacked onto one. The levels can get incredibly chaotic, but adding bots to help can be a nice way to help get past a puzzle that may trip you up; especially for later ones where the Baron can show up, causing an instant fail of the level if you hit it, or other annoying hazards such as scrolling screens, boulders blocking the way, magnetic blocks holding bubbles in place, paint balls, and much more, which gives each new world an expanding arsenal of mechanics that keep the fun going, to the point I can now confidently say this is my most favorite rendition of a puzzle mode in the entire franchise, as a lot of the stages are well designed and a lot of the frustration I had from the earliest entries is just gone now with Everybubble’s snappiness. Even the overdone three star stage mechanic doesn’t bug me much here, as going after all the stars is actually pretty fun and helps to unlock the EX stages of the world you’re on, where even more tricky challenges are thrown your way.

That isn’t all though, as Everybubble managed to grip me even more with a surprisingly addicting endless stage world: The Baron’s Tower. This is where the classic scorechasing aspect comes into play, for these stages have their own online leaderboards to tackle, plus a lot of challenging score thresholds to surpass if you want to make it to the very top. Playing this solo, I lost constantly in the first few minutes, but kept on trying and trying until I could beat my old score, even by just a little! Adding co-op bots helped with the difficulty aspect, but either way, the leaderboard and scorechasing aspect of this world is just so, so fun, and another outstanding highlight of the single-player campaign.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while Everybubble might be lacking on some aspects from prior games I enjoyed a lot, such as the VS COM Arcade mode and a few of the bonus modes being rather lacking, I am pleased to say that this still is an outstanding puzzler, from the best, most engaging puzzle mode in the franchise, a fantastic scorechaser world, and decent online multiplayer, Puzzle Bobble Everybubble still shows that Taito can nail a lot of aspects that make the franchise fun to play.

Really the only part I found really weak here was the Space Invaders mode, which sadly felt like a throwaway mode that’s only entertaining in local multiplayer scenarios, and even then you’ll probably be bored of it after a couple of rounds, since it really doesn’t add much of a clever spin on anything and just feels like padding. Alas, Arkanoid Vs Space Invaders it was not. Still, with a lot of content, great replay value from the Baron’s Tower, and even some unlockables to aim for, Puzzle Bobble Everybubble is well worth your time, especially if you have co-op partners to bring along for the ride.

I give Puzzle Bobble: Everybubble an 8 out of 10.

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