The classic is back with new monsters, new stages and awesome four player co-op!
Bubble Bobble Plus! is a Wii exclusive heavily upgraded version of the original Bubble Bobble arcade game from 1986. The basic gameplay from the original is intact. This is a action platform game based on a screen-by-screen basis, meaning that each stage is comprised of just a single screen. In order to clear the stage you must defeat all enemies. In this game you typically defeat a monster by first blowing bubbles on them. This will capture the monster in a bubble, and you must then burst that bubble. This will turn the monster into something edible – if you manage to burst series of bubbles and monster bubbles you will produce more valuable items, and get better scores. Along the way you will also collect bonus points, power-ups and explore secret areas and bonus rooms.
So what's new in this game? There are around 100 new stages and support for four players simultaneously. The game also has the original 100 stages from the first Bubble Bobble rendered in all new graphics, online ranking modes and collectible items.
This game can be played in a number of game modes. In the Standard Mode you will play the 100 original stages alone or with a friend in a two-player co-op mode. If you think the Standard Mode is too easy but love the original stages, there's a mode called Super Standard. This will use the standard stages but is much harder as the monsters have been replaced with stronger ones.
If you want to play with three or four players, you'll play the Arrange Mode. This will introduce you to the 100 new stages unique to Bubble Bobble Plus! and you'll also get to battle entirely new monsters. It should also be mentioned that the stages in the Arrange Mode are bigger than the original stages, so they're well suited for four players. Players three and four will play the female Bubble Dragons called Peb and Pab. There's also a Super Arrange mode that works like the Super Standard mode – same stages but harder monsters.
If you're still after more Bubble Bobble, you may expand the game with two expert packages (you'll need to pay for them though) that enables two Expert modes. Together they present 100 additional stages for advanced players.
The goal of the game is basically just to get through all the stages and defeat the final boss. The simple design of the game makes it easy to pick up and understand, and it's also therefor addicting. The co-op experience is great fun and it's a fundamental feature to the game. With four dragons jumping around on a screen filled with monsters and bubbles will become quite chaotic, but it's frantic fun when it is at its best.
Bubble Bobble Plus! also supports online ranking with score tables. You're given ten continues to score the highest score you can. You can then choose to upload your score to the global score boards. Unfortunately if you want to compete for the high scores online you must play the game alone. The score tables are divided into separate tables for the Standard- and Arrange modes and also global- and regional rankings, which is a simple but nice feature. To many people Bubble Bobble is all about the co-op gameplay, so it's quite disappointing to not be able to compete on the online score boards as a team.
The Standard and Arrange modes allows for infinite continues, so naturally the game will continue for as long as you want to go on. While this takes away the dramatic effect of dying, the game really needs to have this. Why? Because Bubble Bobble in its core is a very hard, and potentially frustrating game. You'll die from simply touching a monster, and with monsters running around all over the screen, deaths can occur quite often. What's more, it seems that colliding with monsters happens even easier in Bubble Bobble Plus! than ever before in a Bubble Bobble game.
So instead of fighting for your life, you'll be playing to reach high scores – using a continue will reset your score so it's fair game. If you're playing with other players and you all happen to lose your last life at the same time, you will be taken to a continue screen, which then will force you to restart the level you died on.
The options screen allows you to adjust the difficulty setting for the game in four different difficulty levels. On higher difficulty levels the monsters are more aggressive and the time they will stay caught in your bubbles is shorter.
As an added bonus, the game keeps track of collectible items in the Item & Food Collection screen. Here you will open up information about various items in the game, and to get items to your collection you need to find them in the game first. Some items need to be unlocked by fulfilling certain criteria such as reach this level without using continues and play this many stages. There are around 200 items to collect, but since the reward is only a brief snippet of (often pointless) information, it's hard to get the motivation to actually put an effort into collecting them all.
As fun as it is blowing bubbles at monsters and eating fruits, ice cream and other good stuff, the game has some inconvenient issues. The level design really is questionable, especially in the later stages. Many stages look similar, and many stages are annoying because they're hard to maneuver in. Some stages also have pits and areas that you can't get out from, practically imprisoning you until time runs out or until your friend clears the stage. This really weighs down an otherwise cool and fun game. Some stages are also very hard to beat alone, because when you're playing co-op you can help each other by jumping off of each other's bubbles reaching higher ground, where often monsters like to lurk.
The music is cute and catchy, and faithfully transferred from the original game but becomes repetitive and tiring very quickly. No song was ever meant to be repeated this many times in sequence. The sound effects are mostly good and really gives the game its distinct feel, but there are some outright horrible sounds in there too that really are disharmonious to the rest of the soundscape.
The graphics are very colorful and really does the game justice. The graphical design has stayed intact from the original game, but is looking better than ever. Any old-school Bubble Bobble fan will find themselves right at home. It's a nice treat to the eyes to see all the sweet looking fruits all over the screen and collecting them for score is a fun and strangely pleasing activity. Most of the animations are good, but sadly some vital animations look sloppy like the walking animation of the Bubble Dragons. Not that it's a major issue but it could easily have been better.
Bubble Bobble Plus! is an instant classic. Especially in the co-op and four player party modes. It's not the most innovative game around, but it doesn't need to be either. It's cute, fun and provides instant gratification with its easily approached gameplay and cheery setting. It does have great replay value and its a very long lasting game - and once you pick up the controller it's hard to put it down. Its issues though, are that some of the stages stick out as overly difficult and the game can also become quite repetitive after a while. Also the Ranking mode could have been more fleshed out with a co-op mode table.