Tag Archives: bubsy bobcat

FGC #318 Bubsy in Fractured Furry Tales

That tongue bothers meBubsy in Fractured Furry Tales was simultaneously a terrible game and the Atari Jaguar’s best chance.

First of all, God help us, this is unfortunately another Bubsy game. We’ve spoken of Bubsy in the past, and, yes, this is yet another game that tried its best to be Sonic the Hedgehog without having any damn clue about what makes Sonic the Hedgehog an actually good game. Bubsy can run, jump, and accelerate to surprisingly fast speeds. He can also touch something as innocuous as a balloon, die instantly, and have to start all over again. It’s all part of the Bubsy experience! And, like other janky platformers of the time, stages were apparently created by a toddler with a bootleg copy of MS paint, so even basic stuff like “go right” might be called into question when your bobcat has to ascend a series of floating platforms to flip a switch that will hopefully open a gate that leads to a door that takes you back to the start of the stage, but slightly higher. If that sounded confusing, congratulations, you understand what it’s like to play a Bubsy game.

Bubsy in Fractured Furry Tales does absolutely nothing to alleviate these Bubsy problems. Stage design is still an incomprehensible mess, enemies still murder Bubsy in instantaneous and inexplicable ways, and Bubsy is still tasked with platforming challenges that require catlike reflexes… while Bubsy is still stuck with a jump that can best be described as “hippo-esque”. In fact, it’s somehow even worse in BiFFT (man, even the acronym for this game sounds like a fart), as there are a great many situations where Bubsy is forced to make blind jumps straight into spikes, lakes, and the occasional boiling chocolate pit. Maybe that’s Bubsy’s greatest weakness? Monsters and hazards scroll onto the screen way too late to be avoided, and, coupled with Bubsy’s complete lack of health points (and no possible way to collect more health), we’ve got a lot of dead Bubsys lying around. Speaking of a complete lack of powerups, all of the “innovations” of Bubsy 2 are gone here, so no nerf blasters for you. Just jumping! Always jumping! Pointed commentaryAnd maybe jumping on that particular thing will kill you, but only one way to find out! Keep sending more Bubsys at that problem! It’s the American way!

So, yes, Bubsy in Fractured Furry Tales is unequivocally a bad game. But you knew that already, because Bubsy is synonymous with terrible. Bubsy is a crime in the videogame world, and no amount of community service museum tours will ever change that. Bubsy is bad and should feel bad. The end.

Except… as an exclusive for the Atari Jaguar, BiFFT is actually… perhaps “promising” is the right word. Yes, this Bubsy game seems to promise a better future for the Jaguar.

The Atari Jaguar is famously a failure of a system, but it did have some worthwhile games. For instance, its Alien vs. Predator is actually a good experience. And its port of Doom is, ya know, Doom. Even some fighting games, like Primal Rage, saw sensible ports on the Jaguar (even if the ported game sucked dinosaur tail to begin with). But all the “best of” Jaguar lists (I’m sure there are a few on the internet… somewhere) seem to feature “adult” games. My grandmother may have purchased Primal Rage for me for Christmas back in the day, but I can assure you that she would not have been happy with her dear Bobby playing a game where a T-Rex tears bloody chunks off a giant ape. But she would be perfectly content with me playing another game featuring the little robot boy, or the pudgy plumber with the turtles. This “grandma factor” could not have been good for the Atari Jaguar, as we hadn’t quite hit the Playstation echelon yet, and our current reigning videogame icon was a hedgehog. The Jaguar was named after an animal known for its attitude, but there were no animals with attitude to be found!

And this lack of “cartoony” characters on the Jaguar is important. This isn’t just about appeasing grandmas and enticing children (which was/is a significant chunk of people that play videogames), it’s also about showing what your new system can do. Maybe I’m just reminded of such a thing thanks to gluing Sonic Mania to my eyeballs lately, but you can certainly tell a Genesis game from a Super Nintendo game with just a glance. It takes a little experience (or spending your entire childhood playing these games), but you should be able to notice a significant difference in the palettes and capabilities of both systems. And, if you look closely, you can see the seams of both platforms. For an easy example, look no further than another doomed game for a doomed system: Knuckles Chaotix for 32X. Chaotix is a weird, experimental “Sonic game”, but its textures and graphics seem almost… lush. With eye-popping colors and passable scaling, Hey sugahChaotix gives the impression that this is the future of the 16-bit platformers you loved on the Genesis, and the “next gen” is going to be beautiful. In the fullness of time, we know that this was an evolutionary dead end, but Chaotix did at least look pretty amazing in all those issues of Gamepro.

And, for better or worse, Bubsy in Fractured Furry Tales gives that same impression. You know what Bubsy looked like on the Genesis, you know what Bubsy looked like on the SNES, and here’s Bubsy on the Jaguar. And he looks better! His whole world looks better! This Jaguar exclusive miraculously seems to run well on the Jaguar, and Bubsy looks best on this system (give or take a friggin’ terrifying title screen). There’s a potential here, and it seems to say that the Atari Jaguar, the brand new system from the people that kicked off (and nearly destroyed) the home console market, might actually be the next step forward in platforming fun. Sure, Bubsy isn’t the next Sonic, but the real, true next Sonic might find his home here with Trevor McFur and Kasumi Ninja. There’s a glorious, beautiful future for you out there, Jaguar, and it all starts with Bubsy!

But then the Jaguar crashed and burned, never to be seen again. Thanks a lot, Bubsy!

FGC #318 Bubsy in Fractured Furry Tales

  • What?System: Atari Jaguar exclusive. So probably six people have played this game.
  • Number of players: Two player alternating. Kind of weird that Bubsy never wound up with a second player “character”, just two Bubsies. It’s because of the voice, isn’t it? Ugh.
  • What about Rayman? He jumped ship almost immediately, and, thus, does not count.
  • Favorite level: Starting with the Alice in Wonderland stage is clever, as basically everything about Wonderland can be instantly adapted to videogames (complete with size-changing mushrooms). Unfortunately, it also makes a lousy first impression, because nobody wants to be murdered by a rabbit that is barely paying attention. For my money, I’ll go with the later “Hansel and Gretel” stages, as I am a sucker for running through Candy Land.
  • Just play the gig man: It’s not like it’s impressive (at all), but I put Bubsy above Zool almost entirely because of the music. These tunes are so much… less awful.
  • This game belongs in prison: This is a crime…

    UGH

    And should be treated as such.

  • A creator’s vision: Michael Berlyn, creator of Bubsy, did not work on Bubsy 2, but did birth this Bubsy adventure. I’m just noting this to explain why we lost all those cool powerups from Bubsy 2. Wouldn’t want to dilute the Bubsy brand.
  • Did you know? The game’s rom contains information on the “secret” names of stages that make the fairy tale allusions more precise. Stuff like “Alice” and “Ali (Baba)”. Unfortunately, the underwater stages are still simply labeled as “water”, so we don’t have any concise proof that Bubsy was clowning on The Little Mermaid, and not 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Which do you think is more of a fairy tale, hm?
  • Would I play again: No. I’m running out of reasons to even touch that Jaguar.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mega Man 6 for tonight! That’s right! There will be a live stream of Mega Man 6 this evening, because I need to beat at least one game on a stream. Just one. That will be fine. Check back here for more details, and please look forward to it!

What?
Yes, you can die while invincible.

FGC #233 Bubsy 3D

What a magnificent catHere is a partial list of things made worse by Bubsy 3D:

• First and foremost, videogames are worse, as a medium, thanks to Bubsy 3D. No matter what happens, whether we see the true Citizen Kane of gaming or if a videogame somehow rescues a starving boy from a well, people will be able to point to Bubsy 3D and say, “Yeah, but Bubsy 3D happened.” Stupid biased facts.

• Cats. Bubsy Bubsy Bubsy Bubsy Boooooooobcat is, technically a bobcat, but that’s close enough. I used to be a cat person, but Bubsy has made me a dog person through association. Sorry, my furry friends, you’ll have to chase your own red dots now.

• Bobcats. I mean, duh.

• The entire Third Dimension. It was a wonderful experiment, guys, but I’m pretty sure we should go back to some manner of flat world, because it’s pretty clear we can’t be trusted with depth and the perception thereof. I realize becoming 2-D in response to one lousy videogame may seem like overreacting, but can we really risk another Bubsy 3D?

• Jumping. This one is gonna hit the plumbers right in the overalls, but jumping is also another failure. Remember when Mario went 3-D, and he was granted a punch, because it was blisteringly obvious that jumping on moving, 3-D targets was going to get really old, really fast? Yeah, Bubsy didn’t learn that lesson, and even the most motionless monster is impossible to properly bop. And once you start running into those mobile UFO things? Nope, jumping was a mistake.

Move along, cat• Walking. Bubsy 3D somehow makes the simple act of walking a terrifying ordeal. Bubsy controls like a tank/Chris Redfield, and thus must be “steered”. Bubsy can only move forward or backward, and adding any sort of angle to that equation requires rotating like a bobcat on a BBQ spit. This is less than ideal on a good day, but the dark gods responsible for Bubsy’s existence decided to add another fly to the ointment: many pathways zig-zag. Walk forward, turn slightly, walk forward, turn slightly, walk forward, turn slightly, whoops, didn’t turn enough, fall to your death. No game should include a “walking challenge”.

• Water. Delightful, life giving water spells only death for Bubsy… which kind of makes sense, because we’re dealing with a cat, and they have legendary hydrophobia (and my grandfather has the scars to prove it). Except… Bubsy 3D has underwater levels. And, brother, if you thought nobody liked water stages in good games, you won’t believe the level of terrible going on in this abomination. So with water being either instantly fatal at the slightest touch or the basis for entire stages, Bubsy 3D can’t even be internally consistent with its insanity. Stupid water.

• Oxygen. The water stages run on Sonic the Hedgehog rules, and you must ration your air supply. At this point, not breathing is just easier than relaying the rest of that horror.

Won't someone think of the children!• Aliens. The “plot” of Bubsy 3D is that Bubsy accidently stowed away on an alien spaceship (presumably the same creatures from Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind), and is now wrecking up their alien planet because… he’s a dick? This isn’t self (yarn) defense anymore, he’s just attacking aliens because they’re there. If you think this is a “Oh, that silly Goggle Bob is making a mountain out of a molehill plot” thing, consider that the intro of the game features a panicked alien populace shouting, “What are we going to do!?” Bubsy looks bad, aliens look bad, and, somewhere, Steven Spielberg has a headache, and doesn’t know why.

• Cars. Cats should not be allowed to drive.

• The Mighty Atom. Despite being the building blocks of all matter in the known universe, and, incidentally, really really tiny, Bubsy attempts to use generics atoms as projectiles in Bubsy 3D. I say “attempts” because they are difficult to aim, will detonate and damage Bubsy if he holds one for too long, and, for reasons unknown, will boomerang and hurt Bubsy if they don’t hit anything. In short, atoms are the worst “powerup” in all of gaming. Imagine if a Fire Flower lit Mario ablaze, and you basically have the gist of it.

• Yarn. It doesn’t appear much in the game, but I don’t think I’m even capable of dealing with another yarn pun.

• Puns. No explanation necessary.

• Western gaming. You don’t see Japan cranking out crap like this. Well, you do, but usually it’s wrapped up in some kind of random sexual perversion, so at least you can admire their dedication to their craft. Incidentally, that “craft” is “panties”.

What even just happened?• The Sega 32X. This game was originally planned to be on the 32X, possibly one of the most under-supported gaming systems ever released. Star Wars, Doom, and that hummingbird game. There was a Sonic the Hedgehog game… starring & Knuckles. Sonic couldn’t make it. Doing his hair. Bubsy was originally slated to appear on the 32X, but his handlers decided that 32X wasn’t selling well enough, so the game was ported to Playstation. The Sega 32X wasn’t good enough for Bubsy. Forget After Burner, the 32X already has more burns than it can handle.

• The Playstation. No matter how much Sony owns the console market, it will always be the company responsible for allowing this game into our homes. The Playstation is worse for it. And, what’s more, since the Playstation brand had backwards compatibility up through the Playstation 3, Bubsy 3D is technically playable on three different systems. That’s three more systems than should have ever been allowed!

• The Sega Saturn. This was the second system to be snubbed by Bubsy 3D. Despite initial plans to ship Bubsy to Saturn, that trip was permanently delayed when Bubsy 3D was received about as well as a bobcat visiting a preschool. Under normal circumstances, not hosting Bubsy 3D would be a good thing, but the Saturn marks the second Sega system to be snubbed by the bobcat. That’s, like, how big of a failure do you have to be to be ignored by Bubsy twice?

• The Whole of Human History. In a way, we all responsible for letting Bubsy 3D happen.

And now a complete list of things not made worse by Bubsy 3D:

• Bubsy. Seriously, after his previous adventures how could he get any worse? The bottom is a lonely place, and, apparently, it’s home to a bobcat.

FGC #233 Bubsy 3D

  • System: Playstation, where it should stay contained.
  • Number of players: Oh yeah, there’s a 2-Player “death match”. Please don’t ask me to explain how that works in a shoddy 3-D platformer.
  • Just play the gig man: I can barely notice the insipid music, but the constant “cartoony” sound effects in Bubsy 3D are cause for alarm. I thought Scooby-Doo had poor sound design, but I had no idea.
  • Say something nice: The doctors tell me that my vision will return shortly, so at least the horrid graphics of this adventure do not cause permanent blindness.
  • How about some nightmare fuel? Sure!
    MELT AWAY TO NOTHING
  • Did you know? This was Bubsy’s creator’s return to Bubsy. He claimed that Bubsy 2 had damaged the Bubsy brand, and this was going to make Bubsy all better. Bubsy never headlined another game again.
  • Would I play again: If I do, that’s your sign that I have been replaced by some manner of replicant. If that occurs, do not hesitate, and please use a bazooka on “me” immediately. It’s better for all of us.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… House of the Dead: Overkill for Nintendo Wii! Hey! That might actually be fun! Who doesn’t like shooting zombies? Please look forward to it!

Serously?

FGC #171 B.O.B.

BOB!During the 16-bit era, there seemed to be a lot of mascot 2-D platformers. Of the furry variety, we had the likes of Aero the Acro-Bat, Bubsy, and Frantic Flea. Animated shows/movies led to Aladdin, Family Dog, and Itchy and Scratchy. “Based on a real media property” gave us Home Improvement, Wayne’s World, and Dino City. And through it all, we had the “mainstays” like Mario, Arthur, and Sonic (arguably the rodent that started it all). In short, if there was a thing in the mid-90s that existed for longer than three seconds, it wound up with a 16-bit platformer. We nearly had a game starring the president’s cat!

But through it all, one has to ask the obvious question: Why?

The 90’s was an interesting time for gaming. The Atari crashed the entire industry in the early 80’s, but Nintendo brought it all back inside of a few years. Gaming had gone from dead to back in business in less time than a presidential term, and, what’s more, it really did rebuild itself with “mascots” as the cornerstone. Videogames are fun an’ all, but when you need sustenance, Mario and Zelda cereal is where it’s at. GI Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, and even Transformers all had videogame tie-ins of varying quality, and, in time, that became absolutely standard for any “kiddy” franchise. Videogames had become another media pillar, so now any franchise worth its salt had to have a tie-in game. Otherwise, what’s the point? There’s money on the table!

So, somehow, 2-D platformer became the style of the time. It worked for some properties (Sega Genesis Jurassic Park immediately comes to mind), and not so much for others OUCH(Did I already mention Home Improvement? That happened). But whether the property could be adapted to the platformer formula was immaterial (you could always toss a dinosaur or giant insect boss in there and claim a mad scientist was involved), what was important was your star was out there, and the lucrative “videogame demographic” was eating up your media with a spoon. Bubsy in Close Encounters of the Furried Kind is just one stop in the Bubsy empire!

The obvious answer to the “why” here is the same reason we saw Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: The Cereal. It’s all about the merchandising, and NBC, Disney, or whatever eldritch horror was responsible for Aero the Acro-Bat didn’t care about the game so much as the raw advertising potential. This inevitably led to a lot of terrible platformers, because if Activision could get away with selling a blank SNES cartridge labeled “Eat at Joe’s”, they’d do it. Actually, that may have been preferable to Arcade’s Revenge

But… why bother?

What was it about the platformer that was so enticing back in the 16-bit days? Why not just make a (sloppy) fighting game, or a (messy) RPG? Sure, these genres have a reputation for being more complex than “run, jump, boss”, but that’s only because everyone remembers those genres’ successes, and not the Fighter’s Histories or Beyond the Beyonds. Wouldn’t practically any style of game be better suited to character-driven narratives than the platformer? You don’t have to create an endless array of anonymous mooks for a fighting game (there aren’t really foot soldiers in The Jungle Book), and you could actually insert some witty dialogue in RPGs (ideal for those oddly pervasive sitcom-based games). But, no, let’s call it a virtual reality mishap or whatever and get Bart Simpson as a dinosaur. There’s an excuse to hop over an ice level!

OUCHSo here’s B.O.B. B.O.B. is an original creation of someone at Gray Matter Inc. or Foley Hi-Tech systems. B.O.B. is just a little yellow robot dude that is trying to meet his robo-girlfriend for a date. B.O.B. appears to be vaguely insectoid, and has a gun for a hand. B.O.B. has a tendency to make “amusing” quips at the start of each level, and end every stage with a “whacky” dance. B.O.B. is basically every mascot character in microcosm, albeit more metallic than furry.

The World of B.O.B. is… annoying. This game comes from the same studio that produced the previously mentioned Wayne’s World SNES game, and it shows. Basically, every stage is a different area that did its absolute best to cram as much of a maze into a roughly squareish collection of pixels as possible. Like Harley’s Humongous Adventure, expect aggravating stages that place the exit just beyond a wall that must be circumvented by traipsing all over the whole stage again just to find one stupid ladder. Some stages are more straightforward, “platform challenging” affairs, but even then, the nondescript hallways and shafts make it impossible to gauge your own progress. There’s a (strangely strict) timer for every stage, and when it ticks down to zero, good luck determining if you were inches from the goal or practically at the starting line. Oh, and there are “vehicle” segments, ostensibly designed to break up the monotony of every stage being samey to the point of parody, but they just seem to exist to encourage the player to memorize the poorly constructed maps/tracks, so, basically, they’re a poor man’s speeder bike.

Moving right alongIn short, one could conceivably have fun with B.O.B., but the odds are low. I guess some of the guns and gadgets are interesting, but even then, you’ve got limited ammo and no “safe” areas to test the more esoteric devices. You just acquired one (1) light bulb… that’s… probably useful? Want to waste it to find out? Or wait until you’re fighting a boss, and find out it does practically nothing? Your choice!

I’m sorry, that paragraph got off track. What I mean to say is that B.O.B. sucks. It is a bad game.

So… what was the point of this, yet another 16-bit platformer? Simple, if you look at the box, you’ll note the custom B.O.B. logo. Yep, this nothing of a platformer was intended to launch the entire B.O.B. product line, so you and your whole family could soon be wearing B.O.B. hats, shoes, and shirts. Look at that whacky robot go! B.O.B. has captured the hearts and minds of an entire generation of B.O.B.-heads. Keep making the world a better place, B.O.B.!

Except… none of that happened, because B.O.B. sucked.

Which circles back again to “why?” Why did anyone, least of all people who created and maybe actually played B.O.B., think B.O.B. was going to be a success? The actual “videogame” here isn’t any fun at all. It’s passable, but it’s certainly not something that could compete with Mario, Sonic, or Mega Man. The cartoony characters are mixed with vaguely Alien-esque graphics and environments, so this wasn’t exactly pre-packaged for Saturday Morning. About the only thing that really makes a positive impact in this game is the “attitude”. B.O.B. appears to be a teenager robot with a disciplinarian father and an overbearing girlfriend, and he’s unerringly sarcastic in response to everything in the galaxy. And his animations are kind of amusing. That’s all B.O.B.’s got.

YuckSo Electronic Arts thought they could build a Sonic-esque empire on… a sassy robot.

Bite my shiny metal ass, 16-bit platformers. Be glad that the worthless cash-in games of today have migrated to the domain of cell phones. At least CSI: Match Three never wasted a bi-weekly video rental.

FGC #171 B.O.B.

  • System: Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and, oddly enough, it got a rerelease on the PSP. So very doomed.
  • Number of players: One player. Kind of surprised they didn’t give B.O.B. a goofy sidekick. Though I suppose they have to save something for the sequel.
  • Favorite Weapon: I’d like the flamethrower if it didn’t run out of ammo instantly. Oh, hey, this is yet another lousy game that forces you to use a weak melee attack when your guns run empty. That’s never fun, videogame designers!
  • PARTY OVER HERESo you’re not going to do anything special because you both have the same name? No. I am personally insulted that I’ve got B.O.B. and “the fat guy” from Tekken. There are better Bobs!
  • An end: So the finale of B.O.B. sees our titular hero finally meet his date… and she turns out to be a (literally) big mouthed shrew of a lady bot. So B.O.B. immediately ditches her for a quiet girl that appears to be a surfer girl (bot). Score another one for the patriarchy!
  • Did you know? Gray Matter was the name of a videogame company long before Breaking Bad. All the same, it still gives me a vibe that this game was maybe created thanks to meth money. At least you can’t say good chemistry was involved in this nonsense!
  • Would I play again: There is nothing here that encourages the player to replay (or even continue). I might hit some random website to view the level maps and see if there was some method to the madness, but it’s not happening anytime soon.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Pinball Quest for the NES! Never before has the phrase “Pinball Wizard” been so apt! Please look forward to it!

FGC #108 Bubsy 2

This is Sonic the Hedgehog.

ring sound

This is a photocopy of Sonic the Hedgehog.

less ring sound

This is a photocopy of a photocopy of Sonic the Hedgehog.

no sound

There seems to be a running narrative today that the Sonic the Hedgehog games aren’t any good. This is objectively false, because a man that denies the joy of running at top speed as a thorny blue hedgehog is not a man at all, but perhaps some manner of three angry ferrets stacked up in a trench coat. Yes, the Sonic the Hedgehog series, going all the way back to the Genesis, had some problems, there’s no doubt about that, but is it fun? Of course it is. Or, if you don’t personally enjoy it, I’m sure you can see how it could be fun to find just the right way to run and bounce along beating badniks and saving bunnies. I’ve never been a big fan of The Godfather, but I can acknowledge how it’s a well-constructed trilogy (or at least a pair). So let’s all agree Sonic the Hedgehog is a legend for a reason.

Of course, that is, more or less, the problem with Sonic the Hedgehog. Like with any legend, there are people on either side of the “is Sonic the Hedgehog good?” divide, and the major stumbling block for everyone involved seems to be… hm… video game studies needs more words… let’s call it “level interpretation”. In short, even in recent weeks, there have been a number of Gotta go fast?academic, objective looks at Sonic the Hedgehog levels/gameplay, and, unfortunately, no one seems capable of coming to a consensus. Somehow, we can agree that Super Mario Bros. 3 and Mega Man 3 and Final Fantasy 3 (USA) all have stages that are designed thoughtfully, but Sonic the Hedgehog 3? There are those that love those stages, and those that think the average STH level was created by Jackson Pollock randomly smearing pixels across the digital canvas. And this debate rages on, decades after the release of the original Sonic games, because games are important, dammit.

So what hope did anyone have of interpreting and copying Sonic the Hedgehog back in its prime?

Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind, aka Bubsy 1, was designed by Michael Berlyn, a man who previously worked on PC adventure games. Anyone from the era can see the “PC Adventure” aesthetic on display in Bubsy, as the titular feline mugs for the camera and makes tass comments with fur-real voice acting. While console games of the time seemed to focus on gameplay above other indulgences (a tradition that Nintendo seems to still follow with its generally mute Bowsers and Links), the PC was a land of daring narratives and living cartoons, so, while you might not see King Graham leading a physically-demanding adventure, you were pretty much guaranteed he’d be accompanied by a cowardly owl that narrated every damn thing. Oh no, Graham, the PC is so much more expressive than the console games of the day, but Bubsy is here to try to bridge that gap.

Get it?But that was only one half of Bubsy’s creation. As the legend (or Wikipedia) goes, when Berlyn encountered Sonic the Hedgehog, he liked the game quite a bit. In a mere week, he played nearly 100 hours of Sonic. That… does things to a man (I speak from experience), and, vowing to make his own dang Sonic game (I also did this… but all I had available was graph paper), Bubsy (Bubsy Bubsy) Bobca(aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa)t was born.

Of course, if gameologists still haven’t cracked the Sonic the Hedgehog code decades later, Berlyn wasn’t going to uncover “what makes this good” in time to cash-in on the fad. Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind isn’t the worst game in the world, or even the worst mascot platformer, but it isn’t all that great, either. You run, you jump, you have a little bit of a glide to better control Bubsy’s descent, and that’s about it. The whole game wears its Sonic influence on its sleeve, and, like Sonic, the game is at its best when you’re just barreling forward and expertly hopping over enemy after enemy. Unfortunately, not all the right lessons were learned in the transition from rodent to feline. For one thing, and one very important thing, Bubsy has a more traditional life meter in the form of, basically, three hits and you’re dead. This, as even Tim the Toolman Taylor learned in the 16-bit era, is the antithesis of a game where you’ve gotta go fast, as no one moves at full speed when they’re one hit away from a lost life. Without Sonic’s easily reclaimed rings, Bubsy is dramatically more fragile, and, ultimately, it detracts from the experience immeasurably. Luckily, the game isn’t that difficult, you just can’t Weeeezoom around at quite the speed of sound, and, at that point, you’re playing a weirdly unwieldy Mario clone. Not the worst thing in the world, and usually the kind of thing that gets worked out in the sequel.

Bubsy 2 was released a short year after the original Bubsy. This wasn’t super unusual for the era (I’m moderately certain there was a new Mega Man game in time for every third issue of Nintendo Power), but, presumably to speed things along and cash in on Bubsy-mania (not a thing) Berlyn and the original Bubsy team were completely replaced and/or ignored. A new design team set to work creating Bubsy 2, now faced with the conundrum of iterating on a game that they had only experienced as players. On one hand, that’s maybe not the worst thing in the world, as it’s probable this new team would be less likely to immediately fall into the trap of missing the flaws of a successful game thanks to being too close to the project; on the other hand, well, does creation work like that? It’s only natural that a creator will revisit a previous work, notice its issues faster than a casual consumer, and wish to create a refined, “perfect” version… which will inevitably look like crap in six months. Don’t blame me for this thinking, Lucas shot first. Point is that the new Bubsy team probably had a fifty-fifty chance of making an actually worthwhile sequel, and, spoilers, this toast landed butter side down. Into a sewer. An… unclean sewer.

Bubsy 2 is exactly what you’d expect of a clone of a clone. It improves on none of Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind’s flaws, and merely adds new, completely useless gameplay gimmicks. Bubsy can now shoot a gun with limited ammo (presumably in pursuit of that damn chaos emerald), use a smart bomb to clear the stage of monsters, and drop into a portable hole to avoid damage. There are also vehicle sections that wind up working like shoot ‘em ups. And… that’s about it. A handful of new gameplay features, none of them particularly exciting, and a Frog baseball?complete lack of even so much as acknowledging problems from the previous game.

And, let’s be clear here, Bubsy 2 has its own share of problems. First and foremost, the level design is terrible, and, thanks to a glut of doors that go basically nowhere, confusing as all hell. The stages aren’t difficult, mind you, you just often find yourself inches from the goal, but there’s a wall, so you enter a nearby door, and you’re teleported somewhere on the clear other side of the world, and, go left or right, it doesn’t matter, just hope that the next door you find puts you on the other side of that wall, and not, as is a possibility, right back at the beginning of the stage (not that you’d notice you’re at the beginning of the stage until you see a checkpoint you’ve already cleared…). In 1994, this level design was just confounding, but in 2016, every (and I do mean every) level feels like trolling Super Mario Maker levels that play fast and loose with door placement and mocking the player with spike fields blocking goals. Sonic the Hedgehog is never this terrible: at least 90% of his stages are left to right affairs, or, if you’re backtracking, it’s only temporary and generally illusory, like ascending a spiral staircase. In Bubsy 2, you are literally all over the map, and whether it’s because the team was dealing with limited pixel space or simply had no idea what they were doing is immaterial in the face of the fact that the end result is about as fun as unscrewing an electrical socket with your tongue. The unfriendly skiesYou might accomplish something, but it’s more likely you’re going to come out of the experience a little fried.

So, you know what? Even with our finest scientists working on it, we still may never find what makes Sonic the Hedgehog tick. I don’t know, you don’t know, and Sonic Team clearly has no idea. But I can tell you what Sonic the Hedgehog would look like if it were awful, and it’s Bubsy 2.

Bubsy 2 is a copy of a copy, and, in the end, it’s just blurry and unrecognizable.

FGC #108 Bubsy 2

  • System: Super Nintendo for the review, but there’s also a nearly identical Genesis version. A Gameboy version also apparently exists, but I hear it’s terrible, and I’m not willing to try it, even if it would only make my photocopy of a photocopy metaphor all the stronger. Also, against all odds, this game was apparently released on Steam a few months ago. It’s $3 for both Bubsy games? That’s too much.
  • Number of players: 2 player alternating, like a lot of platformers from the era. Two player simultaneous Bubsy would be a cat-astrophe.
  • Favorite stage: If I had to choose, I’d say the Egyptian stages, because they seem to contain the most period appropriate enemies. Though if I can use this bullet point to complain about the game some more, I’d point out that you can reenter completed stages, Not a favoriteeven though there’s absolutely no reason to do that, but you can’t just exit a completed stage, you have to finish the whole thing all over again. Damn everything.
  • Favorite gag: The music levels are dreadful and generally boring (I’m not going to say “flat”), but the idea of using sharp symbols (♯) as spikes is inspired. That’s some pointed punnery!
  • Refreshing: I guess one other thing that Bubsy has that Sonic doesn’t is “water slide” areas where Bubsy is just ushered along by the current. I don’t know what pisses me off more: that Bubsy somehow made waterslides (waterslides!) not fun, or that Sonic eventually adopted a similar mechanic for its 2-D “rail grinding” sections.
  • Is there a mascot platformer worse than Bubsy 2? Oh, certainly. At least one involves a circus acro-bat.
  • Just realized: This entry should have been Suikoden related.
  • Did you know? There was a pilot produced for a Bubsy animated series, and it even starred Rob Paulsen, aka the voice of Raphael (80’s), Donatello (10’s), and Pinky (narf). Paulsen is the voice of Bubsy in the games, too, but I’d assume that those recording sessions lasted a whole seventeen minutes. Hey hey it’s talking Krusty.
  • Would I play again? Perhaps as a cautionary tale for others, but that’s about it. This game is so bad!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Disney Adventures in the Magic Kingdom for the NES. Oh boy, Donald and Goofy and 999 or so ghosts! Please look forward to it!