Puzzle Bobble (AKA Bust A Move here in the states, because, localization) has been a staple in video game history. Taking the main characters from Bubble Bobble, and throwing them into a puzzle game seemed like a fever dream from creator Taito. The game concept was simple; Puzzle Bobble was one of the original "match 3" games. Throw bubbles up into the field of play. If 3 or more match, they pop. If not, they just stick to each other. The object is to clear the board, and move on to the next level. Simple, until it wasn't so simple. Sometimes, you would have to bounce them off the wall to get hard to reach ones. Sometimes you would have to get the aim just right and fit the bubbles through a small space, and if you didn't, you just built to the descending tower of bubbles. Oh yeah...they're coming down in untimed intervals, so if they get to you, it's game over. The new entry from ININ Games and Taito, Puzzle Bobble Everybubble is proof that if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it. (Don't try to fix it!)
Story time. When I was younger, the SNES was churning out their versions of NEO-GEO games. Fatal Fury and Samurai Showdown made their way to the system, the latter arriving while when Nintendo was in their "censor everything" phase, pre Mortal Kombat II. Sacrifices were made to get the game running. I remember being impressed with what Takara did with the game, but I also remember the sound quality. Fast forward to me finding out that a home version of Bust A Move for SNES, and I bought it, brand new. I got it home, and that catchy music I loved from the quarter munching arcade game wasn't the same, so I took it back. When Puzzle Bobble 2 came out for the Playstation, I knew I wouldn't be let down by it's "CD Quality Sound", and I haven't been back since. There's been multiple versions of the game since then, for pretty much every system, and I passed on them. So this was my first foray back into the world of Puzzle Bobble, and I am glad I waited.
The press release called this game "cute", and that is accurate. From the opening sequence where they show you that Miniroons, the mini versions of Bub and Bob's species (stay with me) are the only Dragons who can't blow bubbles. And bubbles are needed to take down baddies. That's when a magical witch like character comes along to grant them their wish. I mean, wouldn't you seek out someone who could make your wish to be like the other dragons of The Rainbow Islands come true? I know I would. I would be peeved if I couldn't. I digress, they get their wish, except...they can't stop, and now the rainbow islands are covered with bubbles. Now it's up to Bub, Bob, Peb, Pab, and friends to stop the bubble overload. See? Now you're hooked.
The game immediately throws you in. The first mode is the continuation of the story above. You can pick your character, and dress it up with different wigs and accessories. You can also pick your little helper character, whether it be a miniroon, or a Chack'n (stay with me). The next screen is your over world, and you only have access to one stage at a time. Each stage has 15 levels, and they range between different goals. The goal is simple. Pop the bubbles, move on to the next level. Beat all 15, and another world opens. Now the game knows that those first 15 levels are an introductory course, and they know you want a challenge.
Some levels will just have you save the Chack'ns trapped inside of bubbles. Some levels will just have you do an all clear. Some levels are timed. The level decides if it wants to slowly descend the playing field on you, and sometimes it stacks the goals. A time attack level will still have a release the Chack'ns goal. A bubble clear and a time attack mode is always difficult because there are so many bubbles on the playing field. Either way, there's always a times in the upper left hand corner, and this timer determines how many stars you will receive. You do NOT have to have three stars on every level to complete a stage. You DO have to clear a level to reach the next level. If you do get three stars on each, you unlock EX levels, and these are NO JOKE AT ALL! EX level 3 in the first stage requires you to complete it in 20 seconds, by saving chack'ns. I just played this again. 1:22. Do you have to beat the EX levels? No. Take that into consideration.
There are surefire ways to beat each level. Obviously, pop all the bubbles by matching 3 of the same color. If a color comes up, and you don't want to use it, you can switch to the next one up by the push of a button. You can bounce bubbles off walls to get those hard to reach places. In MOST instances, if you take out a row of bubbles, all the bubbles attached to them below come down, and will score you more points. Then there are special bubbles. These bubbles can change the landscape of your playthrough. They're all in playing field, and you can utilize them one of two ways. The first, is to just shoot a bubble toward them. There are bombs, that explode everything around them. There are paint bubbles, that are similar to bomb bubbles, but they paint all the bubbles around them the same color. There's the guide bubble, which is, in my opinion, the best in the game. It gives you a guide to show you where you're shooting the bubbles, and believe me, your aim is always off. There are plenty more here to help you out. Now if you take our a row of bubbles, and a special bubble is within them, you get that bubble, and can switch to it using the Y button. There are not stackable, so use them or lose them.
As there are sure fire ways to win, the game is called Puzzle Bobble, so there are obstacles in the way. You will lose. A lot. There are crates to stop you from getting to the bubbles, and the only way to take them down, is to take out the bubbles above them. There are supports, that don't match any of your bubbles. The way to destroy them is to pop all the bubbles surrounding them. They suck. The worst are the rocks. They can't be popped. They can't be dropped. They're just in the way. Then, for no reason at all, there's time minus bubbles.
Then there's Baron Von Blubba, Bubble Bobble's resident enemy. If you hit it, it's game over. Also, game over if you run out of time on a time stage. Game over if ONE bubble drops below the line. Game over if you can't figure out how to get to a hard to reach bubble behind a crate or rock. And you get the option to retry. If you retry with an "assist", you will only receive one star, but don't let this get in the way of you figuring out how to beat a level. You can retry any of them as much as you want to try to achieve that three star goodness. Right after you defeat all the levels in the first stage, you unlock Baron's Tower. Baron's tower is a score attack mode with an online leader board. There are three levels of difficulty, and to unlock each, you have to hit a certain score. These were very hard, because they're never the same. They're randomly generated. And the level drops in intervals just as the games of old. Only do this if you want to suffer, and look at your name on a leader board that is already filled up with 6 figure scores. I can't spoil this if I want to, with my shoddy 26,810. Le sigh.
So, I just explained the concept of the entire story mode. There are little animations along the way that get more in depth and open up the story. The cool thing is that you don't have to go in this alone. If you have friends, you can go at it in local (couch) co-op mode. Up to four players can play, and it is absolute chaos. The level even widens, so you're not taking levels out with the greatest of ease. And if you don't have any friends, the game has you covered! You can add computer players. They are little help, and sometimes get in the way, but hey, at least you can tell someone that you aren't alone in your puzzle bobble quest! You can also remove these at any time, you know, just in case someone wants to date you. Look at you being social!
And now that you have friends, you can go into a full versus mode, for up to four players! This is a score attack game, and who ever gets the most points once all the bubbles are cleared, wins. You can play this mode 1 v 1, or 2 on 2. Of course, if you lose your friends, because you're some kind of weirdo that goes to social media posts for this game and says "Puzzle Fighter III when?", then you're in luck, because you can add the CPU to this mode too! You can even set the difficulty to each character, and your AI teammate can be better than your former human roommate. Take that, Chat GPT. The object is to pop and bring down as many bubbles as you can. A timer in the middle will run down, and whomever has the most bobbles popped, sends those and some other surprises to the other side. The team that has their bubbles get below the clear line, loses.
But wait. What if you're popping all the bubbles, and you are just taking down levels left and right. Your friends don't want to play you anymore, and the CPU is just too terrible. There's an ONLINE MODE! A ranked online mode. The same rules as a versus game apply here, and yes, you can climb the rankings. There's also a "password" mode, where you can pick your opponent via a password you and they only know. This is a best two out of three mode, and you can check your match records at anytime. You can preset messages you want your opponent to see as well. It's a pretty simple and efficient online experience, and it runs like a champ.
The final mode here is Puzzle Bobble VS Space Invaders. This is a crossover to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Space Invaders. This mode is 1-4 players, again, CPU or couch co-op. And it's just like it's sounds. You can still switch out your bubbles, but all the bubbles in the playing field are in the shape of the space invaders themselves, and yes, they are making themselves toward you in left down, right down fashion. They're also shooting things at you, but they just stun you instead of a game over. The mulitplayer mode is just a score attack, and its a nice nod to one of the games that started it all. This is a nice touch.
The music here is kind of cool. They're usually pretty laid back. The game wants you to relax while you get good. Of course, when the bubbles get close to the bottom, everyone on the screen starts to panic, and the music goes into full pressure mode. Faster, more upbeat, and way less relaxing. This is a puzzle bobble standard. The sounds are what you would expect. Bubbles popping, explosions, ect. It's all here. The only thing I did find annoying was the voices of the characters. Especially in the cut scenes. Each dialog box starts with some random sound from the characters. Luckily, you can turn this down in the settings, along with the music and effects. You can also change the graphics settings, to have a darker background for the playing field, and put a little water mark on the bubbles, for accessibility. There's also a memory album, to access unlocked characters and get a lowdown on each one. The game as a whole is pretty cool. If you're a Puzzle Bobble fan, this will suffice.
The difficulty to the game can get pretty frustrating. Especially if you're a completionist, and you want to get three stars on everything. Very little loading times lets you jump in and out of a game pretty quickly. You will make a wrong move, so thank your lucky stars there's a pause menu that allows you to retry it immediately. Breathe, and go back in. Take a break. But trust and believe, this game, like any puzzle game, will test your patience. You are over looking things. It's ok. Get back in there! Save those Chack'ns! Don't let this game beat you! You beat it!
In 2023, it's nice to know that an old formula still works. Taito overloaded the cute-ness on this title. The online mode is a nice touch, and definitely extra points for the Space Invaders crossover. Plus, who can turn down online Puzzle Bobble? Puzzle Bobble fans, this one's for you. PAYOMPA!
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Joseph is the resident streamer for Gaming Nexus. He grew up playing video games as early as the Atari 2600. He knows a little about a lot of video games, and loves a challenge. He thinks that fanboys are dumb, and enjoys nothing more than to see rumors get completely shut down. He just wants to play games, and you can watch him continue his journey at Games N Moorer on Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, and Facebook gaming!View Profile