At this point, you’ve probably played Puzzle Bobble. Or if you haven’t, you’ve played something very similar to it.
It’s one of the most influential gaming cross-overs of all time, spun-off from platformer Bubble Bobble and its lesser known successor – Rainbow Islands.
Puzzle Bobble has moved seamlessly between generations. It’s a game you can just throw on for thirty minutes or three hours and just have the best, mindless time, popping bubbles and listening to cute dinosaurs exclaim their excitement.
There’s actually a little bit more of a story this time around, though. With the dinosaur crew, Bub, Bob, Peb and Pab all hanging out on the Rainbow Islands, when all of a sudde the Miniroons start blowing bubbles which covers the entire island in them.
It sounds like a disaster, but fortunately these dinosaurs are pretty good at popping bubbles, and so the adventure begins, spanning across various worlds, with the Baron’s Tower at the centre.
Before we get to the tower, though, let’s talk a bit about the worlds. So there’s 15 levels in each, but also Ex Levels which you unlock by getting three stars on all the standard levels. This is to really give you a diabolical challenge.
Each world introduces new mechanics, so you start out pretty standard, but will eventually find yourself using bombs, needing to clear obstacles like crates, and even splashing same coloured bobble paint to try and maximise your score and time.
Everybubble does a really good job of implementing these steadily to keep the action feeling fresh and interesting. With so many levels per world, it could definitely get a bit tedious, but unlike the trap many match-3 games fall into, this game just flows marvellously.
And to add to that, you can actually play together in couch co-op, or even add AI partners if you want some help in getting through the missions. There’s even an Assist Mode you can use to help bypass some levels, but you’ll only get a Star for doing that.
By accepting the Assist Mode, though, you will get the much-loved directional arrow, which shows you exactly where your bubble is going to hit. This makes it much easier for you to get through each stage and equally where to position your bubbles.
There’s ways to unlock that in the base game too to get an advantage by popping bubbles around an upward arrow, but the effect is only temporary so you’ll need to make best use of it. That said, I did find the guide would go slightly off from where I wanted as one slight button press sent it to another position entirely. As we all know, though, the Switch’s D-Pad isn’t exactly the best for pinpoint accuracy.
Now then, back to Baron’s Tower. On top of the base story, this is an optional mode where you can take on an increasingly challenging tower of bubbles that are gradually descending down the grid. These get faster and faster the longer you survive and the aim is to get the highest score you can, comparing yourself against the rest of the world.
These are also broken up into Chapters and difficulty. So if you manage to beat Normal mode by scoring 50,000 points, there’s a hard one waiting for you and then extreme. That’s absolutely the theme of EveryBubble, it’s about creating the toughest challenge imaginable for players who’ve built up their skills over years.
Plus it’s a nice addition if you’re stuck on a particular level, want to practice your skills, or just want to break up the flow of action. It’s also a nice way to stay competitive as your times are logged on a leaderboard and you’re given a rank.
Fortunately, as well as being challenging, there’s also plenty of ways to be competitive in EveryBubble! In addition to the standard local versus modes where you can have 1v1 or 2v2, there’s also a wider online multiplayer mode.
The game allows you to pick between various characters, many of which are unlocked through the game’s story. But on top of that, you’ve a bunch of customisation options, like adding a rainbow wig to bub or headphones to a young sibling.
You can even set your own rules, adding guides in, the amount of wins you need, bubble colors and things like that.
Online play also allows for private matches via password matching and an overall global match, which I didn’t get to try too much due to playing the game ahead of public release, but you start with a rating which will change depending on wins and losses. This is also how the game determines who to match you against. It’ll be interesting to see how populated this gets and how good the game gets at matching once the game is live for everyone.
Your match rating is also broken down into different classes, with you starting as a Bronze 3 and presumably working up to Gold, maybe even beyond. The game also does the work of tallying up how many battles you’ve entered, won and what your highest rating has been.
There’s even a nice message system with some pre-written text you can use to share during battle, with greetings, ready ups and even some taunts, like Payonpah which Puzzle Bobble fans may just recognise!
Yet, despite the size of the package and the content offered, which is generous for the price, we’ve yet to talk about the game’s unique cross-over, and arguably what some people may deem the selling point – Puzzle Bobble vs Space Invaders.
The truth is, the mode kinda works, but also doesn’t at the same time. So, the first thing I’d say is don’t bother playing with 4 players, and definitely not with 3 computers. The round can be over in about a minute and if it’s your first time you’ll have no idea what just happened.
It’s a fast moving game but it’s best played slower, in 1v1 and a bit more strategically. Like Space Invaders, funnily enough.
I played against just one computer and had a much better time and even came to enjoy the mode. Essentially you’re still popping bubbles, but you’re against a grid that ‘moves’ like a cluster of Space Invaders with some of the bubbles shooting projectiles at you.
Fortunately, you’re not centered at the bottom of the screen as normal but you have side-to-side movement and can easily switch places with your opponent. Which is why I said it doesn’t really work with four players, because it just gets so cluttered and confusing. Especially since you need to be able to see what bubble your dinosaur is carrying to know what to throw at and that’s easily missed in the colour blindness and smaller scale of the screen
It’s a little frustrating in some respects, especially when you’re hit with a projectile as you’re stun locked for a good few seconds. But I actually came to like this mode as it does start out as a head to head, score-attack, but as you approach the end of the level, with less invaders and colors alternating between you, you need to start working a little bit as a team.
Or, if your score is so high and you know a Game Over is coming, you could just let the match end and effectively win.
It’s one of the few multiplayer games I can think of where you need to adjust your thinking about halfway through and it’s actually incredibly clever. I think with some UI updates, some changes to the gameplay flow and tweaks to the rules, this could be a brilliant, regular inclusion. You could even make a spin off game around it, if you find the right balance.
But with this as an optional extra, on top of the sizeable campaign, the global multiplayer ranking, tower and local options, this is about an easy a recommendation as I can make. Especially if you love Puzzle Bobble.
Puzzle Bobble: Everybubble! does what the series does very well, smartly adding new ways to play, keeping the campaign fresh, but also providing enough content away from that to keep you invested and engaged. Accuracy is a little bit off using the aim at times but this is as close to a definitive Puzzle Bobble experience as you’ll find, with an exciting looking global ranking mode and a multiplayer inclusion which, when it works, it does surprisingly well.
+ Puzzle Bobble at its best with smart, gradually added mechanics
+ Lots of content to sink your teeth into
+ Bright and colourful on Switch OLED
+ An intriguing mashup with Space Invaders that, when it works, offers interesting multiplayer possibilities
– Aiming is a bit stiff and slightly off at times
Puzzle Bobble: Everybubble! is available on Switch on May 23.
Code Kindly Provided by ININ for review purposes
Played on Switch OLED