So, I love me some Bust-A-Move. No, not the Young MC joint. (I would say that I merely like that one.) I mean the Taito arcade puzzle spinoff of the Bubble Bobble series, also known as Puzzle Bobble. To me, it is a truly foundational puzzle franchise, almost on par with Tetris. Match the colors, shoot the bubbles. Intuitive, accessible, fun, good campaign and Vs... It's got it all!
Modern gamers might know Puzzle Bobble from the shameless and much, much, much more successful clones, like Bubble Witch Saga. And Snood! I used to skip class in college and hit the student union to grab chocolate milk and crunchy donuts and play Bust-A-Move and Police Trainer. My roommates and I also frequently battled in the janky, but fun four-player Bust-A-Move '99 on N64. Good times...
Anyhow, in the wake of the pretty decent new Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, Taito and Inin have brought us the equally unfortunately titled Puzzle Bobble Everybubble. And it's also pretty decent!
The focus is once again on 1-4 player co-op multiplayer, and it works well, mostly. In Story Mode, each puzzle level is actually widened in co-op to account for the extra players. And the levels themselves are pretty clever and fun. Unlike in previous Puzzle Bobble games, speed is the key here, as you need to finish under a certain time to get all three stars on each stage and unlock EX levels. Like BB4F, PBEb also has all sorts of new and returning gimmicks and trick bubbles. And you can play the co-op version with CPU players. Also, the story hits surprisingly hard.
Just kidding, it's horseshit. But who cares? My three quibbles thus far are that the CPU partner is kind of not all there (human co-op seems Iike it would be fun, though), co-op shares the same progression as single-player, and some (all?) of the voices are grating. Other than that, it's solid, with a well-balanced level of challenge.
Puzzle Bobble has always been a fun competitive puzzler, with a good risk/reward mechanic and the ability to utterly screw your opponent. Local Vs. Mode in PBE has 1v1 and 2v2. And nothing else? Kind of weird. But you can fill it out with CPU players. 2v2 mode actually has two players in each well, as in co-op mode, so it rewards coordination. Pretty cool! The 1v1 Online mode is actually free for a while, if you download the Puzzle Bobble Everybubble Special Demo. I've only played two games online, because I don't want to lose my undefeated title. Will I accept title bouts in the future? Only time will tell... The Vs. multiplayer is generally simple and free of any pesky options, but it retains the fun of Vs. Puzzle Bobble. And 2v2 seems like it would be a good time at parties. Y'know, Puzzle Bobble Socials.
Taito has also included a novelty 1-4P co-op Puzzle Bubble Vs. Space Invaders mode, in which you can only shoot directly up at the colored alien horde as the shoot at you and descend. It's kind of fun, but the score seems to... reset every level, for some reason? So it's just the same level over and over again? Seems limited.
Finally, there's also an Endless Challenge Mode, Baron's Tower, which has online leaderboards and unlockable difficulties. This mode is actually pretty cool. After polishing off Story Mode, I could see spending a lot of time here, trying to beat my high scores.
So, yeah. There it is. The quasi-review that you've all been waiting for. Puzzle Bobble Everybubble is pretty good! Like the Bubble Bobble revival, a lot of love was put into this game. It's not perfect, but it's a fairly robust package with nice (though stupid) presentation, fluid controls, and some interesting quirks. Taito might even add to it, over time, as they did with Bubble Bobble 4 Friends.
Is it worth buying, when there are already perfectly functional Arcade Puzzle Bobble games available on the Switch for $8, each replete with a Campaign and Multiplayer? Sure, if you're a Puzzle Bobble aficionado. And especially if you want to play co-op!