Bubsy in: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind was designed by Michael Berlyn and published by the now defunct Accolade. It received a lot of attention in the early nineties for its claims of Bubsy being the next big video game superstar like a Sonic or Mario. Of course, we know that Bubsy never became the next Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario, but instead became an obscure character that is often marked a failure.
Bubsy is about a race of aliens known as the Woolies that have an unbridled lust for yarn. The twin queens of Rayon, Poly and Ester, order an army of Woolies to invade Earth and steal their supply of yarn. Unbeknownst to them, Bubsy – a wise cracking bobcat that also happens to be purr-fectly fur-ocious – will stop at nothing to protect Earth’s yarn supply.
There you have it, a weird, yarn loving alien race threatens the earth’s supply of yarn and Bubsy must save the day. Not an overly complicated story by any stretch of the imagination, but one that definitely explains the game’s abundance of yarn. However simplistic the plot may be, it is never criticized for its story.
Bubsy’s gameplay has often been described as unfair, and that’s somewhat true. Bubsy himself is fairly easy to control with only a jump and gliding technique to be concerned about. However, once you start moving, Bubsy will gain speed and the control becomes more difficult. Bubsy’s jumps feel a lot heavier and his glide becomes nearly uncontrollable. In safer situations, this madness can end well, but the problem is that danger is around every corner in Bubsy. Also, one hit from just about anything will do Bubsy in.
The biggest issue is that you can barely see anything in front of you, even though the screen does adjust to compensate, a la Sonic. If you do manage to see an enemy or obstacle in time, jumping may cause the situation to turn from bad, to worse. Bubsy was designed to help you navigate its often poorly crafted levels by giving you the option to look ahead by holding down C and using the D-Pad to look around. This can help, but you’ll need to slow down to make this work.
With patience, Bubsy can be a fun platformer, but there’s another flaw that makes Bubsy difficult: his hitbox. Even when you’re confident that you’ve maneuvered around danger, this flaw will rear its ugly head. You have to be precise with every movement that you make; otherwise you’ll lose one of those nine lives. There have been times when I thought I was safe only to have eggs fly in from the right side of the screen, seemingly out of nowhere. These moments along with the poor camera and level design can make Bubsy a frustrating adventure, so why do I still like to play Bubsy?
The game definitely has fun moments, most of which are from the beginning of the game. The first nine chapters (of fifteen) are designed with more care. There are less moments of, “Holy crap, where did that come from!” The patience strategy works better because of this, whereas in later levels the unpredictability factor is cranked up a lot. When you take your time, the platforming is more enjoyable and you can easily reach the end goal. Bubsy also blesses you with many mid-level checkpoints and a password system, so it’s possible to make gradual progress.
I also like the settings for the first three levels with the amusement park being a personal favourite of mine; you get to ride in spaceships and rollercoasters, plus fight giant hotdogs and ice cream cones. It’s also a lot of fun to collect balls of yarn; they seem to have the same effect on me that coins do from Super Mario Bros. I also quite like Bubsy’s cheesy, fourth wall breaking humor; something that I’m sure will make others groan.
Bubsy is also an extremely gorgeous game. Each level is visually stunning which adds to the cheery atmosphere of Bubsy. The characters are well designed and their sprites showcase that with great colors and detail. The levels aren’t full of generic designs like some shovelware platformers; instead, the art gives off a vibe that is unique to Bubsy, this includes its backgrounds. I can’t end this review without mentioning Bubsy’s glorious soundtrack. I haven’t played the game since the nineties, but when I heard the level one theme song, I got hit in the face with a tonne of nostalgia bricks; that’s a ton of bricks. The tracks are upbeat and very fitting for each level. You’ll hear carnival music in the amusement park stages and western themes when riding through the Wild West.
2.5/5 D-Pads: There’s no denying that Bubsy is a flawed game, its enemy placement, poor camera, and finicky controls make it a frustrating ordeal, so it’s easy to see why there’s so much hatred for this title. However, after learning its quirks and overcoming its flaws, Bubsy can be an enjoyable game. Maybe nostalgia is clouding my judgement – I did happen to play this game a lot in the early nineties – but the bobcat is legendary in my mind.