Cute and charming to a fault, Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! is the latest sequel in the long running, bubble popping spin off of the Bubble Bobble games.

If you’ve never seen or heard of Puzzle Bobble – or the Western console localisations of the 90s, which were, for some reason, renamed as Bust-A-Move – I’d be very surprised.

Though Bubble Bobble itself remains an iconic, cutesy, single screen arcade platformer – with the most infectiously catchy music in video game history – at this stage, Puzzle Bobble has long outlasted and outgrown its parent series in terms of new entries.

Though you’d think there’s only so much you can do with kawaii dinosaurs popping coloured bubbles by creating chains of bubbles of the same colour, Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! shows that there’s still a few twists left to explore with the formula.

This time around, the big addition is co-op play – which works surprisingly well. It’s as frantic and compelling as ever, with the added bonus of being able to laugh with and shout at your friends and family as you play.

There’s a single player Story mode (which can also be tackled with you to three other players), which has a forgettable setup that sees slightly different dinosaurs given the power of bubble blowing – which they promptly lose control of, forcing our lovable Bub, Bob and a few other characters into action.

There’s a lot of stages here and, though they can become repetitive – there’s only so much you can do with the Puzzle Bobble formula, after all – there’s a few additions with different power ups and even a little companion character, which does help to keep things a little more interesting than usual.

There’s also three stars to earn in each stage; though this does start off being particularly easy, it can become challenging later on.

There’s been a bit of an odd change to the gameplay which took me a little while to get used to, in that – in classic Puzzle Bobble – you’d normally use a satisfyingly clunky contraption to fire your bubbles. Here, your bubbles are directly thrown by your character up to the coloured bubbles descending towards the failure line.

Though, for some reason, this didn’t cause me any issues in the main Story mode in single player, when the action is zoomed out or shrunk a bit – such as in the Puzzle Bobble vs Space Invaders mode, which I’ll come to shortly – when things get frantic, I’m focusing on the bubble near the character, rather than the one it’s holding.

It’s what I’m used to after decades of Puzzle Bobbling, after all.

That – coupled with the issues I sometimes have with my colour blindness – did cause me a bit of frustration; it’s an unnecessary adjusting of the formula, but may or may not be an issue for other players.

So then – about that Puzzle Bobble vs Space Invaders mode. It’s a really smart, very cleverly made mashup of the two games, with invaders trapped in bubbles firing at the players as they frantically try and clear the packed playfield of all bubbles.

It’s fun, but doesn’t take long to feel like a bit of a nicely made novelty.

Though your mileage may vary with Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! – series stalwarts will find a lot to like (as long as the lack of a bubble firing contraption doesn’t upset the apple cart too much for them) and new players are likely to find themselves charmed by the colourful and cartoony action, but it can feel pretty repetitive.

Local multiplayer modes – both VS and Co-Op – certainly bring a lot more fun to the experience too. Online multiplayer can also be fun too, though matchmaking was a little slow in my experience.

Overall, it’s a nicely put together game with lots of content and a novel, if throwaway mode that brings the Space Invaders to the Rainbow Islands of the Bubble Bobble universe.

Hardly revolutionary overall, but a fun and worthy entry in the long running series.

Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! is out now on Nintendo Switch. Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with a code for review purposes.

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