-WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?-
A lot, actually.
ACCORDING TO THE Internet, this is one of those games you either love to death, or hate with the passion of a thousand burning suns. I fall somewhere in between. Bubsy was developed and published by Accolade in 1993, and is one of the games I was acquainted with rather early on in life, so I have something of a soft spot for it. My first memories of this furry, orange bobcat can be traced back to a friend’s house, on one of those summery, snack-laden afternoons where the sunlight would stream through the window, and we would ignore the outside world in perfect bliss.
Bubsy was there, somersaulting happily on the menu screen with a big, toothy grin. I remember pressing start, eager to try out the first level, Cheese Wheels of Doom. Bubsy uttered his immortal catch phrase, which sounded very much like Bugs Bunny, and suddenly, the pixels exploded onto the screen before us.
At first glance, it’s easy to classify Bubsy as a friendly, easy platformer that will delight children of all ages. Its vibrant visuals and bee-bopping soundtrack are like comfort foods on a rainy day, which in this case translates to classic, feel good gaming, and instant fondness. But it’s when you start trying to manoeuvre this little critter that you realise something important—you have been deceived. Bubsy moves smoothly in general, until you stand on a slope or incline, which is when things get really slippery. This often leads to death, since the alien enemies of the game (referred to as ‘woolies’-no, not Woolies) are often positioned in rather inconvenient spots (joy!). They can be eliminated if Bubsy jumps on top of them, which is rather satisfying, and this brings me to some of the cooler moves in the game’s repertoire. Bubsy can jump normally, but is able to jump extra high if he finds special springboards, which are often a component of many trees. He can also glide, which is a fantastic feature to include in the move set but also necessary; Bubsy picks up speed and momentum as he runs, and if he jumps at the end of a large cliff without using glide, he plummets beautifully into a flat pancake death sequence. This is hilarious the first time around, but after you hear him repeat his catch phrase a few times, you feel like modifying it to Murphy’s Law.
Throughout the levels there are these collectible circles, which I always thought looked like Froot Loops. In actual fact, they are balls of yarn. Bubsy’s objective is to collect as many of them as possible lest the aliens steal them all, which is a good incentive and propels gameplay nicely. The first chapter in the game (Cheese Wheels of Doom) introduces players to the checkpoint system, a series of red exclamation marks like the one emblazoned on Bubsy’s top, and these are especially useful considering the time limit and the number of deaths you may encounter. You might also notice that Bubsy has a limited number of lives, which are indicated in the bottom right hand corner. There are more than enough to give you a decent playthrough, but on the flipside, there is no health system. That means that any hit will instantly kill Bubsy. Naturally, that can get annoying very quickly, but at the same time it makes players improve their accuracy and platforming skills, so it’s not all bad.
—visuals & sound—
For anyone who is a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog games, Bubsy’s aesthetics are a treat. The backgrounds are booming with colour and have this awesome conglomeration of trees and mountains and rocks. It’s just beautiful. This holds true for Bubsy’s character design too, which looks equal parts Sonic and Garfield and is cartoonish and memorable.The music is composed of a catchy, upbeat pop soundtrack that seems to be the blood and guts of the SNES wonder years. It complements the artwork well and highlights different parts of the level by creating a varied atmosphere, such as when Bubsy rushes down a waterslide. Sometimes Bubsy’s world even flips upside down, which can be slightly disorienting but is a cool idea nevertheless.
Bubsy certainly isn’t an easy game, but its difficulty level isn’t impossible either. In my view, it’s the combination of the one-hit death and the large amount of giant drops and slopes that sometimes hurt the enjoyment factor of the game. Sonic accounted for this through the use of rings, which acted as a safeguard and gave players another chance in case they accidentally hit some spikes or brushed against an enemy. With this in mind, I think either having a massive slice of cheese representing Bubsy’s health or perhaps adopting the same mechanic used in Sonic would have benefited the game. On the plus side, Bubsy delivers players a crazy amount of ways to die which range from: tunnels that unexpectedly pop their lids, flying robot drones, villainous pianos that rumble down hills, massive falls, and literally any kind of water. There are some funny death animations for each situation, lighten the mood and give Bubsy its unique personality. However, once again the repetition of certain (often difficult) sections can be frustrating even with such a side dish of comedy. The first two chapters of the game are of reasonable difficulty level, and like any good game, the third chapter begins to turn up the volume. Overall, I enjoyed my playthrough, and it brought back pleasant gaming memories that are nestled in my heart. Bubsy can be infuriating at times, but its music, level design and gameplay combine to portray an interesting platformer that makes its own mark.
WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT:
- You love difficult 2D platformers
- You have an appreciation for retro games
- You like games with mascots
- You are a fan of Froot Loops
- Exciting, colourful visuals
- Cool character abilities
- Good replayability
- Full of puns
- Very easy to die
- Repeating certain sections can be frustrating
A Bubsy playthrough from SNESguide.com: