Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bubsy: Insert Cat Pun Here

Back in the early nineties there was a race to create the next big mascot character. Publishers saw the success of Sonic the Hedgehog, and they wanted some of that sweet money of children. A lot of companies that didn't need a mascot ended up with one just so they could make a bland platform game based around him, and one of the best examples of this is Accolade's Bubsy. It may have not been that great of a game, but the character of Bubsy the bobcat had enough 'tude to sell a bunch of games and green light a few sequels.


Though the cartridge is simply labeled Bubsy, the full title of the game is the unfortunately punny Bubsy: Claws Encounter of the Furred Kind. It is also seems strange to have the subtitle reference a film that was out long before the target demographic was born. Of course, that didn't matter to the kids. Bubsy sounds sarcastic, looks smug, and has a wide variety of animations that give him personality. As long as the character had sufficient attitude, the game would sell, or at least the theory went. I don't know if they were right, but Bubsy sold pretty well, unlike a vast majority of mascot platformers of the time, and they were well stocked in 'tude as well.

When the game started I noticed the player is given nine lives, which seems like a cute detail, but after playing for a bit I realized this wasn't just to be cute, but to compensate for the fact everything in the game will kill Bubsy. Running into enemies instead of jumping on them, falling in water, being crushed, or even just falling from a considerable height will all kill him quite easily. This wouldn't be a very big issue if it weren't for the combination of strange controls and level designs.


Well, Bubsy's controls aren't so strange, but the physics definitely are. The B button is a normal jump, but the A button is a jump that will allow the player to glide afterward, though it is possible to use the B button's higher jump, then hold down A to glide. The physics on that are alright, but the real problem is with the momentum of running. Bubsy starts off really slow and builds up speed the longer he is going, getting to the point where he is moving really fast and it is difficult to react properly enemies and obstacles.

That's where the game sort of comes apart. With Bubsy filling up so much of the screen, he gets an awful lot of personality in his sprites, but it makes it difficult to react to things, since the screen is “zoomed in” so close. There are a lot of moments that require the player to make leaps of faith, and even when Bubsy isn't speeding through a stage it can be difficult to see enemies lurking on platforms that are higher up. This is particularly annoying because if an enemy is approached from any direction other than above, they kill Bubsy, instead of the other way around. It is nice that the levels have many different paths to the goal, but the levels don't have a good flow that is obvious to the player when moving through.


Don't get me wrong, Bubsy is alright, but it just isn't particularly good at anything, and I can't think of a reason to play it instead of any of the other dozens of mascot platformers. I played the Genesis version, and while there are probably some differences in the SNES version, I doubt it makes a difference to the core issues with the game. There was a sequel for the same systems, which didn't do as well, but was apparently a bit less murderous than the original. The most impressive thing about the Bubsy series is that it had a game on the Jaguar, and it is in no way the worst in the series, as that distinction belongs to the abysmal Bubsy 3D, which I am sure I'll write about one day.

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