Bubsy 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! And 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, Chaotix 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
- 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…
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!
Yes, you can die while invincible.