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Game Review

by Jean-Karlo Lemus,

Puzzle Bobble Everybubble

Nintendo Switch

Puzzle Bobble Everybubble!
It's chaos on the Rainbow Islands! Bubbles are everywhere, and there aren't enough people to pop them! Team up with your friends to pop, pop, pop like there's no tomorrow! Or go head-to-head in Versus mode to see who's really the Puzzle Bobble master! Review covers the Nintendo Switch version.

Ah, Puzzle Bobble. What a delightful classic of the arcades it is. Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! is similarly a delightful take on the old classic formula. While it's been a while since I've last seen or played a Puzzle Bobble game, I'm quite impressed with all the additions on display here.

For starters, there's a story mode. Nothing too complicated: babies are blowing a plague of bubbles; it's time to pop them. You have several “levels,” each divvied into a number of stages. Pop all the bubbles by shooting them at groups of similarly-colored bubbles to win; pop until you can't pop no more. So far, so good. The formula also has plenty of wrinkles, forcing you to do more than connect three colored orbs together. For one thing, physics applies: any bubble that isn't anchored to the ceiling of the board (say, by having its anchor be popped in a group) falls off-screen, granting huge bonus points. So a ton of strategy is involved; a crack shot can decimate a stage if they can nail the shots.

If that were all, you'd have a deeply satisfying puzzle game—which is why the original Puzzle Bobble in arcades is so beloved. (Well, that and the ear-worm of a theme song.) But Everybubble! makes sure there are plenty of wrinkles in the formula that force you to think about your approach. For starters: every stage has best-of-times for one-, two-, or three-star clearings, with each stage listing the total number of stars you can earn from skillfully clearing boards. Earn all the stars, and get a bonus goodie like a little hat for your character. This also unlocks hidden harder variants of stages with their own stars to earn. Some stages also have little critters trapped in bubbles; the goal in these stages is to pop the captured critters instead of just clearing the entire board. Prioritizing a clear path to the captured buddies with the arbitrary order of bubbles you're given is plenty of strategies; I kept coming back to a certain stage to see if I could beat my personal best time and achieve a three-star rank. I never could, but it never got boring, even after over 15 tries.

There are also a variety of special obstacle orbs or power-ups to consider. There are bombs you can collect that'll clear away small groups of orbs. These bubbles will change their color to that of whatever bubble touches them, special bubbles that'll pop every like-colored bubble after being shot, orbs that won't vanish until all surrounding bubbles are popped... you quickly find yourself constantly shifting your approach to play each subsequent board, with each stage presenting new twists on old formulas. There's also a co-op mode available for each stage, as evidenced by the “Everybubble” title. You can team up with up to four other players (or the CPU) to confront these stages. Playing with the CPU can make stages a total cakewalk, but I take that as a positive for folks with bad spatial awareness or kids who are just getting into Puzzle Bobble—but with that said, why aren't you playing with them?

It helps that the presentation for this game is so adorable. Bub, Bob, and all their little friends are bright and colorful as they wiggle their little arms around and make their little noises. Sure, the orbs don't sound right when they hit each other, and Bub and Bob don't make the old “puff” noises they used to—and they don't need to; the rest of the game is just so stinkin' cute. The little tones from selecting options in the menu even play the Puzzle Bobble theme if you keep tapping.

So, how's the versus mode? No worries—it's fun. In my playtime, I did have to experience some long-ish wait times to find another player. But connections were great, and matches were zippy and fun; half the time, I couldn't tell we'd won because I was so focused on the matches. There is plenty of fun sending your opponent garbage bubbles with your combos or showing off your fancy cute avatars earned in-game.

Finally, there's the Space Invaders vs Puzzle Bobble mode. As the title implies, this mode features you and up to three friends (or bots) shooting down a swarm of bubbles as they descend from the top of the screen. This game can be a bit hard, especially if you're playing alone, since you can only shoot directly upwards, and moving from one side of the screen to the other takes a bit of time. But it's nevertheless fun, especially since you can block enemy fire with launched bubbles. It's especially engaging if you can get a couple of friends playing with you.

Overall, Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! is a stellar little game. The puzzles are witty and addicting, the co-op mode is sure to ruin friendships, and the Space Invaders mode—while a bit sudden—is a fun surprise. If you like puzzle games, Puzzle Bobble, or just need something fun to kill time with, this game is a must-have.

Overall : A
Graphics : A
Sound/Music : A
Gameplay : A
Presentation : A

+ Addicting gameplay, colorful graphics, fun bonus modes, delightful little details
Game is a cakewalk if you use CPU help, I still kinda miss the old sound effects from the old game

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