I would like to thank ININ Games for providing the review code for this game.
When it comes time to have fun with a videogame, most people want something just engaging enough to get you interested and easy enough to learn without being too easy. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends attempts to be a mix of both.
Bubble Bobble is a classic series. While more known for it's "inverted-Tetris" pure puzzle game counterparts and various clones, it also has some titles that are platformers with puzzle elements. This game is one of the latter.
There is a story to this game, mostly about stopping an evil magician and his robotic henchmen, but it's fairly forgettable. The gameplay, however, is quite the different story, Using the ability to spew bubbles, your little dinosaur protagonist can use these bubbles as stepping stones (as they can float upwards), to trap enemies or a temporary bridge. Jumping and crawling are other activities you can perform in the various levels. Nigh all levels have the objective of defeating all enemies until you reach the next. The boss battles are scaled-up versions of fighting regular foes, and you must avoid hits (you lose a life if you take even one) while pelting bubble until the boss is finally trapped for defeat in one.
The early levels are pretty brainless, but later levels will test your platformer skills, Aside from general lack of mission variety, it's hard to complain about the number of levels, and bare minimum this game can take most of a day to beat if you take it slow.
Graphics depend on if we are talking about the Switch version or original arcade version bundled inside. The original arcade version looks like the 8-bit days of gaming and is nigh identical. As for the Switch version, it looks stunning as well. The colors tend towards bright and cheerful, and while a 2-D platformer, there are some 3-D background effects and semi-3D characters that blend well with the art style. Compared to the 8-bit pixel look of the original arcade game, the style is "cutesy pastel retro" for the main game.
Sound generally tends to be light and cheerful soundtracks that at least keep you awake if they aren't all that memorable and set the mood for a cartoony and somewhat kiddy platformer game. Did find the noise for shooting bubbles a bit irritating after a while, but this can be mitigated by turning down the sound effects.
Controls are fairly simple and use mostly the D-Pad, the four main control buttons, and the start and select keys. Anyone familiar with a Super Mario game or a similar platformer will be able to adjust within seconds, but the controls are very responsive and easy to quickly memorize even if you are new to platformers.
I should note I did not test the multiplayer features. This game supports inviting 3 other players for cooperative gameplay. According to the description of this feature provided by the developer, it is intended for couch play, or all players should be close in the same room during co-op play.
Morally, this is a pretty clean title. The only thing worth noting is some cartoony violence against cute little robots involving hitting them with bubbles and watching them fly off the screen when defeated, but that's it.
For the sale price, it'll provide enough fun it's worth your money if you want a platformer with a few puzzles yet is still not too difficult at all. Morally, I see no reason this should be any major concern for a young child old enough to watch cartoon slapstick comedy or older.