I played a lot of Bubble Bobble on NES when I was very little. It was one of my first introductions to simultaneous two player co-op, and it’s a game I hold dear to this day. I was excited to get the chance to cover Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron’s Workshop, because I haven’t been paying too much attention to the Bubble Bobble games over the years—with my most recent experience being with Puzzle Bobble 3D Vacation Odyssey, which I played in VR. While that game was most definitely more of a puzzle game, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron’s Workshop uses more old school gameplay—and as familiar as it feels, it just might not be good enough for a modern game.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron’s Workshop is a cooperative arcade game. In it, you play as one of four cute little dinosaurs that can shoot bubbles to subdue their enemies. Once their enemy is trapped in a bubble, you can pop it for points and the promise of a whole round of fruit at the end. If you played the NES classic or the arcade game, you’ll definitely recognize the gameplay in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron’s Workshop—but instead of two player co-op, you can play with up to four friends.
Each challenge you enter into in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is another set of screens to conquer. These screens are set up with obstacles and enemies, and you’ll have to use all of your bubble shooting prowess to pass them. Sometimes the levels themselves are the obstacles, while at other points it’s a combination of enemies and obstacles.
The flow of bubbles matters a lot in Bubble Bobble, and Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron’s Workshop is no exception. Some levels will require you to ride the flow of bubbles until you get to the next location—others will require you to patiently wait as your bubbled enemies to to a point where you can reach them to pop them. Of course, if you don’t pop your enemies fast enough, they’ll escape their bubbles enraged, and try to get revenge.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron’s Workshop is pure nostalgia for me. It feels like I’m entering into a realm of gameplay I haven’t experienced since I was very young. On top of that, there is an emulated version of the arcade game available to play in the game itself—which is great! Unfortunately, there’s some sort of glitch that makes it run way too fast, which isn’t so great. Oh well.
If you ever wanted to try your hand at designing your own levels for Bubs and friends, you finally have your chance. The “workshop” in the title isn’t just lip service—there is a level editor in the game that you can use to make your own unique Bubble Bobble levels. It’s not as robust as something like Mario Maker, but the simplicity of Bubble Bubble doesn’t really require that.
As much as I enjoyed the nostalgia hit of Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron’s Workshop, it doesn’t really add much to the series to justify its release. I enjoy the power-ups that are available, but beyond that, little has changed between now and Bubble Bobble back in the 80s. It’s an arcade classic, for sure, and while Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is most definitely a more modern game, it doesn’t change things up enough to justify its existence. It feels like it would be fun to pop into an arcade, play this, and move on.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends: The Baron’s Workshop is available for PC via Steam.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review