Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for April 6th, 2020. There isn’t a whole lot of interesting news to report today, at least without getting into some muck that may or may not be true, so instead we’ll head straight to a pair of full-sized reviews. Two games with a ‘4’ in their title enter the ring, but who will come out on top? We also have a Mini-View to check out and a summary of the new releases that hit over the weekend. Finally, sales! You know them, you love them, we list them. Let’s get to it!
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends ($39.99)
With many of the institutions of the 1980s arcade scene making comebacks in various forms these days, it was only a matter of time before Taito’s Bubble Bobble got in on the action. While not as famous as the likes of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, Bubble Bobble proved to be a much-needed hit for Taito both in the arcades and at home thanks to its enjoyable multiplayer gameplay and earworm background music. It was ported to pretty much every possible platform at the time, and spawned a number of sequels, follow-ups, and spin-offs. Trying to keep track of them all can be a bit tricky, particularly if you’re concerned with numbering. Taito’s opted to just draw a line under it all and call this latest one Bubble Bobble 4 Friends.
Like Bubble Symphony and Bubble Memories (and unlike Rainbow Islands and Parasol Stars), Bubble Bobble 4 retains the classic style of gameplay found in the original. In each stage, you have to use your little dragon’s bubble-blowing ability to trap all of the enemies and pop them. Each defeated enemy leaves behind food that gives you bonus points, and the bigger the chain of enemies you pop at once, the more points you’ll earn. Once all of the enemies are gone, you’re given a little time to pick up any items they dropped before being whisked away to the next level. At the end of each set of stages, you’ll face off against a boss of some kind.
There are a few new elements to this installment, with the most prominent being found right in the title. Up to four players can play at once in this game, and it’s an absolute blast if you’ve got the numbers for it. There are also special abilities you can unlock and equip, giving you a tiny bit of customizability. Stages have new types of hazards and gimmicks, and there are some new enemies scattered about as well. The bubble dragons can now duck down and crawl through narrow passages, and it’s much easier to ride a bubble since you have to push down if you want to pop them instead.
If you enjoy the Bubble Bobble games or like straightforward arcade experiences, you’ll have a lot of fun with Bubble Bobble 4 Friends. That applies just as well in solo mode as it does in multiplayer. The only caveat is that it’s a bit light on content. There are only 50 stages, with an unlockable hard mode that adds a bit of spice to each one for another 50 challenges. It all goes by a bit quickly once you get your bearings, though the hard mode certainly lives up to its name. Luckily, there’s a nice extra here in the form of the original arcade version of Bubble Bobble, which you can immediately access and play as soon as you start the game. It’s still just as fun as ever, and if you’ve somehow never played it before you’ll get a lot of added value from it.
In terms of presentation, it’s not going to knock any socks off. But then again, Bubble Bobble itself wasn’t doing that in 1986. The designs are cute and the stages themselves are colorful and rich with little details that bring them to life. It’s easy to see what you need to see, and that’s all I really ask for from something like this. The music is quite nice, wisely sticking fairly close to the original theme’s melody and energy.
Personally, I found Bubble Bobble 4 Friends to be a pleasant treat. This series hasn’t had a lot going on in the 21st century, but the gameplay and charming style endure with ease. Bubble Bobble fans will want to snap this up immediately, and those who want a fun co-op multiplayer game should appreciate what it has to offer as well. The news that more support is on the way is like tasty sprinkles on top of this lovely confection. Now, how about another Rainbow Islands game?
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories ($59.99)
It would be too easy to crack a joke about the title and the result of this ill-advised port. Let’s see if I can get through this review without grabbing that low-hanging fruit, okay? This game has had a rather troubled history, and this Switch port is the woeful cherry on top of it all. If you’re truly interested in the game, I’d advise you to go with the PlayStation 4 version, because the Switch version has some incredibly severe technical issues that genuinely get in the way of trying to play.
The idea of the Disaster Report series to put you in the shoes of a normal person in the middle of one or more natural disasters, typically earthquakes but also floods, typhoons, and tsunamis. The goal is to survive, which is generally an easy thing to do. But beyond the big set pieces the series has often included a lot of interesting characters and situations to encounter on the way. Indeed, the game comes off as much an adventure game where you solve puzzles to fix people’s problems than it does a survival game as we know it in the modern sense. The first two games were released by IREM on the PlayStation 2, and the third game was a Japan-only PlayStation Portable release.
In what has to be the worst case of accidental bad timing in gaming history, the fourth game was originally set for release on the PlayStation 3 in Japan on March 10th, 2011. The game suffered a slight delay that set that date back a couple of months, and more’s the better because the day after what would have been its release date, Japan was rocked by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake, with the subsequent tsunamis killing tens of thousands and triggering a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. That day is seared in my memory, even though my town was a few hundred kilometers away from the worst of it. Trust me, no one was in the mood for a virtual disaster game at the time.
IREM obviously felt the same, as it canceled the title on March 14th, 2011. This also kicked off what became a near-total retreat from the video game business by the company, with many of its former developers creating a new company called Granzella. The team was able to acquire the Disaster Report IP from IREM and got to work on creating a new Disaster Report 4 from the ground up. The game released on the PlayStation 4 in Japan in November of 2018, with a Switch port coming around a year later in September of 2019. NIS America picked up both console versions for Western releases and also threw a PC port on top. And here we are.
In a lot of ways, the new game doesn’t miss a beat from the older ones. It kicks off with your character riding a bus on the way to work. A giant earthquake hits, you crawl out of the wreckage of the bus, and the game begins in earnest. There are survival elements, but they take a backseat to the bizarre situations and strange characters you encounter along the way. Some of it is thought-provoking, some of it is utterly stupid. The game’s morality system is inscrutable in many cases, rewarding you with the equivalent of “bad guy” points for things that seem to be morally correct and vice-versa. The game does a good job of building its atmosphere, at the very least. The world feels real in many respects, which is perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Disaster Report 4.
Other things don’t go so well. The gameplay feels aimless and meandering, with unclear goals, opaque triggers for progress, and many systems having no clear purpose due to how they are implemented. The story is one long ride fraught with tonal whiplash, shifting from cheap comedy to hollow drama to genuinely bizarre happenings at the blink of an eye. It’s shockingly callous at times, and in most cases the choices it presents you are entirely artificial. I’m not going to say I was never entertained, and I won’t say that I was impervious to some of the game’s more poignant moments. But as a whole, I just found myself confused and struggling to see what exactly the storytellers and gameplay designers here were going for. It’s not terribly out of line with the previous installments, though I think this game’s story may just barely edge out the others as the worst.
And then there are the technical problems. Wow, are there technical problems. The textures and resolution aren’t very good at all, though I suppose we’ve all gotten used to that when it comes to PlayStation 4 to Switch ports. What really kills the Switch version of the game is the inconsistent framerate. Now, Disaster Report has framerate issues in its original PlayStation 4 form. They’re obvious but at least in my opinion are not so severe that you can’t enjoy the game. Here? Oh no. No, no, no. The framerate is all over the place, and when things get even a little bit busy, it drops like a rock. We’re talking single-digit FPS at times. It’s nauseating, and I fear for my Switch’s cooling fans. There are also distractingly frequent loading times. Whenever you run into an important character. Whenever you transition to a new area. Whenever you die from some random debris falling on your head. Load, load, load.
To sum it up, this is an awful port of what is on paper a mediocre game. Disaster Report 4 has some merit to it, but this particular version isn’t the way to appreciate it. We’ve seen developers pull off some genuine miracles when porting games to the Switch, and there’s nothing about Disaster Report 4 that should have made it impossible to make the transition in a satisfactory way. Even with its myriad problems, however, it did get its hooks into me a little. If you’re even slightly sensitive to performance issues, stay well away from this version of the game. But I can’t say that there isn’t something of worth here for those who can grit their teeth and push through its inherent flaws and disastrously poor performance. Ah, so close.
SwitchArcade Score: 2.5/5
In most respects, this is a very straightforward take on the extremely prolific twin-stick shooter sub-genre. Play through stages filled with too many enemies and bullets, dodge and weave as you blast them away, and gather resources you can use to power-up your arsenal and increase your chances of survival. But there is a hook here, and it’s a strong one. You’re an alien who in its base form is very weak, but has the ability to jack the bodies of its foes. It takes some luck and effort to unlock many of the possible targets, but this aspect really spices up what would otherwise be a very workman-like take on a type of game we all already own at least a few of. Not a must-have, but plenty of fun.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
Push the Box ($8.89)
I think if you just read the title of this game, you’d have a really good chance of guessing what you can expect. The screenshot would remove any remaining doubt. Yes, it’s our old friend Sokoban again, this time without any apparent twists or tweaks to the time-honored formula. Indeed, the level designs I’ve seen so far are almost straight copies of the typical layouts found in classic Sokoban. If you don’t know what Sokoban is, it’s that game where you need to push crates to specific designated points in order to clear the stage. Since you can’t pull the crates, you have to be careful about not boxing any pieces into positions where you can’t get them out. There are tons of levels here, so if this is what you crave: chow’s on. It is almost impossible to mess this concept up, especially if you aren’t adding a single new idea.
Sir Tincan – Adventures in the Castle ($3.99)
This is a collection of simple interactive mini-games aimed at younger kids. There are 20 such scenes where kids can help Sir Tincan shoot his bow and arrows, fix up the castle walls, take care of his horse, join a jousting competition, and so on. Colorful graphics and friendly character designs make for an appealing bit of early-childhood gaming. Yeah, the educational value is dubious, but all work and no play make Jack a dull baby. I have to stress once again however that this is a very simple experience aimed at the youngest of players. Even elementary schoolers are likely to find this too basic to be enjoyable.
(North American eShop, US Prices)
After the deluge of new sales last Friday, there weren’t that many decent games that weren’t already on sale. Nevertheless, the weekend has yielded some fruit. Limited Run Games is having a wild sale on its titles, with the lowest prices yet on quality titles like Cosmic Star Heroine and Saturday Morning RPG. Two Tribes is also having a pretty fantastic sale. There’s no reason you shouldn’t pick up all three of its Switch releases for the whole… three-and-a-half bucks it would cost you. There are a few good games in the outbox, so you’ll want to give that a look as well.
Select New Games on Sale
RIVE: Ultimate Edition ($1.49 from $14.99 until 4/23)
Toki Tori ($0.49 from $4.99 until 4/23)
Toki Tori 2+ ($1.49 from $14.99 until 4/23)
Fight of Animals ($8.99 from $9.99 until 4/9)
The Adventure Pals ($5.99 from $14.99 until 4/10)
Saturday Morning RPG ($0.99 from $9.99 until 4/18)
Cosmic Star Heroine ($2.99 from $14.99 until 4/18)
Night Trap – 25th Anniversary ($2.99 from $14.99 until 4/18)
Double Switch – 25th Anniversary ($2.99 from $14.99 until 4/18)
Feather ($6.99 from $9.99 until 4/13)
Doughlings: Invasion ($6.69 from $9.99 until 4/12)
Kine ($14.99 from $19.99 until 4/19)
Mechstermination Force ($5.99 from $11.99 until 4/16)
Mystery of Woolley Mountain ($0.12 from $12.99 until 4/11)
Snake vs Snake ($3.59 from $3.99 until 4/23)
Swap This! ($0.49 from $4.99 until 4/23)
Circle of Sumo ($4.99 from $9.99 until 4/13)
Job the Leprechaun ($1.49 from $2.99 until 4/23)
Swords & Soldiers ($0.99 from $7.49 until 4/23)
Pizza Parking ($1.49 from $5.99 until 4/23)
Xenon Racer ($7.99 from $39.99 until 4/20)
Path to Mnemosyne ($7.49 from $9.99 until 4/23)
Among the Sleep – Enhanced ($9.99 from $24.99 until 4/23)
Stranger Things 3: The Game ($4.99 from $19.99 until 4/13)
High Noon Revolver ($0.29 from $2.99 until 4/9)
SpaceColorsRunner ($1.49 from $5.99 until 4/23)
Super Jumpy Ball ($4.49 from $4.99 until 4/23)
Thief Town ($5.99 from $7.99 until 4/13)
Speed Dating for Ghosts ($5.24 from $6.99 until 4/10)
Random Heroes: Gold Edition ($3.99 from $4.99 until 4/20)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 7th
8-Ball Pocket ($1.97 from $5.99 until 4/7)
A Case of Distrust ($2.99 from $14.99 until 4/7)
A Knight’s Quest ($14.99 from $24.99 until 4/7)
Akuto: Showdown ($3.99 from $7.99 until 4/7)
American Fugitive ($9.99 from $19.99 until 4/7)
Beholder: Complete ($3.74 from $14.99 until 4/7)
Bomber Crew ($3.74 from $14.99 until 4/7)
Chapeau ($12.74 from $14.99 until 4/7)
Dogurai ($2.49 from $4.99 until 4/7)
Drawngeon: Dungeons ($3.49 from $4.99 until 4/7)
For The King ($12.49 from $24.99 until 4/7)
Funny Bunny Adventures ($1.99 from $4.99 until 4/7)
Hue ($5.99 from $9.99 until 4/7)
Hungry Shark World ($1.99 from $9.99 until 4/7)
I, Zombie ($0.99 from $4.99 until 4/7)
Instant Tennis ($4.97 from $9.95 until 4/7)
Island Maze ($1.49 from $2.99 until 4/7)
Koloro ($0.99 from $9.99 until 4/7)
Lifeless Planet: Premiere ($5.99 from $19.99 until 4/7)
Lines Infinite ($0.39 from $1.99 until 4/7)
Lines X ($0.39 from $1.99 until 4/7)
Mana Spark ($0.99 from $9.99 until 4/7)
Manual Samuel ($2.49 from $9.99 until 4/7)
Motorsport Manager ($8.99 from $14.99 until 4/7)
Narcos: Rise of the Cartels ($23.99 from $29.99 until 4/7)
Not Not ($0.39 from $1.99 until 4/7)
PAW Patrol: On a Roll! ($19.99 from $39.99 until 4/7)
Pinstripe ($2.99 from $14.99 until 4/7)
Pixel Gladiator ($1.75 from $6.99 until 4/7)
Pumped BMX Pro ($5.09 from $14.99 until 4/7)
Rogue Aces ($3.24 from $12.99 until 4/7)
Serial Cleaner ($1.49 from $14.99 until 4/7)
Smoke and Sacrifice ($9.99 from $19.99 until 4/7)
Snake Pass ($5.99 from $19.99 until 4/7)
Sorry, James ($0.99 from $4.99 until 4/7)
Space Pioneer ($3.99 from $9.99 until 4/7)
Spirit Roots ($2.09 from $6.99 until 4/7)
The Big Journey ($0.99 from $4.99 until 4/7)
The Flame in the Flood: Complete ($4.49 from $14.99 until 4/7)
The Rainsdowne Players ($0.39 from $3.99 until 4/7)
The Swindle ($3.74 from $14.99 until 4/7)
Undead Horde ($8.49 from $16.99 until 4/7)
Velocity 2X ($4.99 from $19.99 until 4/7)
Wayout ($0.59 from $2.99 until 4/7)
When Ski Lifts Go Wrong ($1.49 from $14.99 until 4/7)
Wreckin’ Ball Adventure ($0.49 from $4.99 until 4/7)
That’s it for today, friends. Tomorrow will see the release of a few notable games, including one of the titles I reviewed today. We’ll also have whatever news and sales hit over the next 24 hours, and perhaps some reviews or Mini-Views if time allows. I hope you all have a safe Monday, and as always, thanks for reading!