RetroSpective – Bubsy (in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind)

Bubsy 1 InfoBubsy 3D on the PSOne (the third and final entry in the series), will always be remembered by me as one of the most frustrating and excruciating experiences of my gaming life.  A game with no redeeming features, and one of the the lowest points in gaming.  So I feel it’s now time to go back to the start, to see the series’ 16-bit origins, and see whether Bubsy was always responsible for wasting the money of gaming fans worldwide.

First released in 1993 on both the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive/Genesis, Bubsy (in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind) tells the story of Bubsy the Bobcat as he tries to prevent an invasion from an alien species called the “Woolies”.  The “Woolies” want to steal all the balls of yarn from the world, and since Bubsy has the biggest collection, he needs to stop this happening.  This sounds crazy, and it is, but hey so are most platforming plots.  Bubsy was invented in order to rival the likes of Sonic and Mario, and as such attempts to play in a similar manner to these juggernauts of gaming.  In fact, Bubsy was created by Michael Berlyn, who found his inspiration after playing Sonic for over 14 hours a week.  So it should come as little surprise to find out that Bubsy is very clearly a rip-off of Sonic the Hedgehog, and that’s the biggest problem.

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First of all unlike Sonic, Bubsy is just not a likeable character.  I mean he really should be, he’s a furry cute animal who’s on an adventure.  But somehow they messed it up, and he just comes across as simply annoying.  This is especially seen through his catchphrases, that are heard at the start of every level.  These soon become grating, and since you’ll be dying an awful lot, prepare to hear them over and over again.

This nicely brings us to gameplay which has to be said is an extremely mixed bag.  Is Bubsy a horrendously broken game?  No not at all, but it’s also certainly not Sonic or Mario.  This game’s gameplay is definitely somewhere in the middle.  Gameplay follows the standard platforming model of three levels to a world and then the boss at the end of the third level.  However, of the six worlds three of them are forest, making up over half the game, and the enemies barely alter throughout.  It’s honestly as though the developers got bored half way through, and sadly the space world which makes up the end of the game is only one level long.  There should have been more of this and less of the forest.

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One of the many forest outings.

You’ll also have a tough time getting to this refreshing final level, as nine lives just isn’t enough to get you there, and it should be noted how this last level does lead to the near impossible final boss.  Thankfully there are level select codes in order to keep continuing from the same level.  The reason you’ll be dying comes in many forms, but one of the primary causes of this is the controls.

Bubsy’s controls can not be described as anything other than erratic.  Bubsy can both jump and glide, which sounds fine.  However, it’s his movement that causes the most problems.  Here you have two speeds, sloth-slow and break-neck, and when this connects to two other problems, in that one hit kills you and when you jump on an enemy you bounce up and around madly, you’ll find yourself flying round the level accidentally running into enemies and getting yourself killed.  Of course, you may not even get killed by the enemies as most things in fact will kill you.  These include water, spikes, gaps, and even just falling from a height, which is a massive issue given the earlier mentioned problems.

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Sadly even the gimmicks can’t make the gameplay any more enjoyable.

The graphics and sound on the other hand are two areas where the game begins to shine, well at least on the Super Nintendo.  Graphically the game looks nice on both platforms, the static backgrounds are nothing to write home about but Bubsy himself along with the enemies and foreground elements of the levels are bright, colourful and well presented.  The sound is also pleasant to the ears barring Bubsy’s annoying catchphrases, well at least it is on the Super Nintendo.  Here the power of Nintendo’s 16-bit console is clear as day, as unfortunately, what was once pleasant to the ears becomes tinny and grating when played on the Mega Drive/Genesis.

Replay-ability is another problem though.  This is mainly caused thanks to both the difficulty of the game, which soon makes the game become boring, and the lacklustre worlds.  If you do eventually make it to the final level after nine forest levels, then just before the last level begins Bubsy, in one of his annoying phrases, asks you “woah are you still playing this thing?” and it really does make you wonder.

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The fun final level.

Whilst it seems like I’ve just named an awful lot of problems with Bubsy, if you love platformers and are dying for another one then do honestly give this ago.  It may give you a quick fix but you won’t find yourself remembering the experience for years to come.  However, if you’re not a die hard platformer fan, then the mediocre nature of the experience may leave you wanting.  Moreover, whilst I am definitely someone to encourage broadening your horizons and trying something different, this may not be the time to do it – stick to Sonic or Mario here.

Bubsy’s original outing was thankfully not as bad as its final iteration Bubsy 3D, which is quite honestly unplayable.  However, at the same time I can sadly see how this series which began as a Sonic the Hedgehog rip-off, died trying and failing to imitate Super Mario 64.  It’s average, not good, not bad but average, and very clearly a rip-off that cannot compete with those it tries to imitate.

Bubsy Score

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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