Those who were playing video games back in the 1980s might remember a game starring a dragon duo who were named Bub and Bob. They are from Taito Corp’s action game Bubble Bobble which originally released in 1986. From there they went on to star in more games with the most recent being Bubble Bobble 4 Friends that released a little while back on the Nintendo Switch. Now Taito Corp and ININ Games have released Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron is Back on the PlayStation 4 which expands the Switch game with even more content.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron is Back is a single-screen platform action game that you can play solo or with up to four players locally. That means that not only is Bub and Bob back but also two brand-new playable characters as well who go by the names of Peb and Pab. The lack of online play is a bit disappointing but there are online leaderboards you can compete on. For those who aren’t familiar with the gameplay in Bubble Bobble you basically just jump around the level and shoot bubbles at enemies. Once you capture an enemy in a bubble you can then leave them to float in it or burst it to kill them. Since this is an arcade game built around getting the best score though you want to try and line the enemies in bubbles up so that you can burst them all at one time and get a better score chain going to maximize your score.
The game has 200 levels to beat with 100 of those being new to the PlayStation 4 version. If you bought the original version on the Nintendo Switch you’ll get these new additions for free as well. The levels start off pretty simple but grow a bit more complex as you advance through. I would say on the whole though that this game is easier than the original game was and if you want to compare them you can even play the original 1986 arcade version inside this game which was a nice addition. You are given five lives to work with and if you die too much the game will even offer you the option to turn invincibility on. Some hardcore players may not like this but I see it as a way to make the game a bit more approachable for players and I don’t see anything wrong with that.
After every ten levels that you finish, you’ll run into a boss fight which can be challenging until you learn their pattern. When you beat the boss, you’ll be rewarded with a power up that you can equip. You’ll get different ones as you play but you can only equip one at a time. They also have to be replenished after using them by defeating enemies to avoid you being able to spam them. Abilities include an electrical attack, being able to shoot your bubbles out to a great distance, a bomb move, and more. Throughout each area in the game there are also hidden letters that spell EXTEND and collecting them will reward you with more lives and more uses of your ability.
After you finish fifty levels in the game, you’ll unlock a hard mode that consists of another fifty levels. These levels are remixed versions of the first fifty that you played and they include more aggressive enemies. You’ll also see the return of Baron von Blubba here who you can’t defeat and has to be avoided while completing the level instead. Then you have those other 100 levels that are new that have you trying to climb a tower with only 10 lives in total. The playtime you get out of this game will really depend on how fast you can complete the levels and whether or not you want to try to set better scores on the online leaderboards. The visuals in the game have a cute 2.5D look to them that I quite liked although some of the level designs were better than others. It’s accompanied by a nice upbeat soundtrack that is fun to listen to while playing. If you like trophies you’ll find 19 of them here including a Platinum. It won’t be easy either so pat yourself on the back if you add this Platinum to your cabinet.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron is Back! is another great entry in this long running arcade series. This latest version adds a good amount of new challenging levels to the package giving you and up to three others 200 levels in total to play through. The lack of online multiplayer is disappointing and depending on how fast you can finish the levels you may or may not feel like you got your money’s worth. If you don’t have any local friends to play it with then you may want to wait on a sale but if you do then you’ll find a lot to enjoy in this game playing alongside them.
*Bubble Bobble 4 Friends – The Baron is Back! is available now on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.