Games from the Landfill: Bubsy 3D

I could very well be writing this article about any number of mascots, but I guess I feel the need to single this guy out. I mean, I already singled Astal out and he only lasted one game, poor fella. This cat had a bit of a go at the big time before crashing and crashing hard. Here’s the Bubsy history before I get into one of the worst games ever released.

Bubsy in Close Encounters of the Furred Kind originally came to life on the SNES and Genesis as a side-scrolling platformer (remember those?) It offered up colorful levels and whimsical music to accompany the usual jumping on enemies’ heads, the standard way to defeat most low-level enemies. Here the enemies were strange creatures made of wool from the planet Nylon who wanted to steal balls of yarn and only a bobcat with a shirt could stop them. Ah, the days when the story was secondary to the game.

My main problem with the game was the control and difficulty. Bubsy tried to be like Sonic and moves very fast but with enemies littering all areas of the screen, trying to emulate Contra’s one-hit one-kill gameplay doesn’t mesh well. Landing on an enemy’s head or near it counts but if you land right beside him or land in water, you gotta start from the last checkpoint you hit with no second chances. And there are enemies everywhere, not just the yarn aliens, but there are cars, water holes, trains, all sorts of shit to kill you while you collect balls of yarn. It’s better if you steal it before they do.

If you double tap the jump button, you get to glide, but don’t ask how a cat can glide. It can be helpful at times but your air time isn’t very long and you could just as easily land in front of an oncoming train or fall through a hole full of water than land on safe ground. It’s also difficult to land on anything while gliding, if you don’t fly over it by accident then you may do it on purpose trying to figure out how to land while Bubsy is stretched out in the glide animation. If you land your head on the target, you’ll be safe somehow.

The game gives you nine lives (hee hee) and you could go through them all before finishing the first level if you’re not careful. If you take your time, you’ll be able to make it through, especially with the help of plenty of free men (in the form of t-shirts with the number of free lives you get for collecting it) and some invincibility and invisibility power ups. This is not a game you can breeze through as it may trick you into believing, although if you take too much time your ten minute time limit will be up. And that only matters in wrestling…I think.

The positive areas are definitely the graphics and sound departments. The game draws on its cartoony look and provides Bubsy with all sorts of hilarious animations for his deaths, so you’ll be briefly entertained before you see the same death sequence over and over and get mad. Bubsy also has a few funny one-liners (better heard on the SNES than Genesis) to go along with the music that sounds like it came from a Saturday morning cartoon.

Bubsy did well enough to receive a sequel, Bubsy II: No Subtitle. The developers went in a different direction here allowing the player to choose the worlds to play in a museum instead of just starting from point A and go to point B, you do that after you choose. It offers a bit more freedom, but perhaps much so as the levels are huge and hard to navigate at times. There are doors that act as portals and will transport you all over the level as you try to find that elusive point B.

Gameplay is essentially the same as the previous game with a few twists. There are flying parts in the game as well as a NERF weapon to shoot at enemies (NERF being a huge product placement, it was featured prominently next to Bubsy in advertisements) to go along with bouncing on their heads. The developers tried to make the game a bit easier by increasing the time limit to fifteen minutes, giving you more time to roam about aimlessly trying to find the exit, along with a three-hit death system instead of just one. Unfortunately, the maze-like levels were a bit less fun to play than the previous game.

The franchise then jumped into 64-bit (HA!) territory on the Jaguar with Bubsy in Fractured Furry Tales, transposing Bubsy into famous children’s tales like Jack in the Beanstalk and Alice in Wonderland. The game essentially played like the previous games, only it looked a little better. That’s about the only positive thing to say about the game as it still looked like a 16-bit game and was a bitch to control with the Jaguar’s stupid controller.  Seriously.

Published/Developed by Accolade

Released in 1997

Console:  PlayStation 1 (Sega Saturn port never completed)

Finally, the series ended with Bubsy 3D on the PlayStation 1. After the introduction of the awesome Super Mario 64, a lot of me-too games came out trying to emulate Nintendo’s finest game at the time. Some companies are still trying to this day. Accolade decided it was time to take their mascot to the next level and developed the last Bubsy game to ever (dis)grace a game console.

There is really nothing positive to say about the game other than it was so bad that no other Bubsy games have come out since. The graphics are a joke, the game looks awful. It’s somtimes hard to look back on what looked good a couple generations ago and still consider them good, but Bubsy 3D never had that luxury, it always looked like shit. The levels look terrible with the single-color platforms and backgrounds with just a little bit of shading. Maybe texture-mapping wasn’t a big deal back then, or even invented, but something should’ve been done to make this game look more cartoony like its 16-bit brethren. It looks like a huge step backward.

Bubsy was always a bit of a talker, but now with DVD size limits much larger than cartridges, there’s more than enough space to record whatever the hell they want, and they had Bubsy talk throughout the game. Constantly. He wouldn’t shut up with his annoying, whiny voice.

Control was again an issue, an even bigger one this time about. The camera sucked so whenever you had to make a jump, a precise jump, you had to stop, rotate the camera to line up your jump and then pray you’ve judged the proper distance to the platform to make it. I won’t even get into trying to jump on enemies’ heads.  It really makes me wonder if this game was even really complete when it was released.

Graphics: 2 – Ugly, simplistic and awful.

Sound: 2 – Forgettable music and Bubsy constantly talking will make you mute the game quickly.

Gameplay: 3 – It might be playable but there is no fun to be had.

Overall: 2 – Easily one of the worst games to ever come out for the PlayStation.  Or ever.

Legacy – The series had a good start but went downhill pretty fast. Bubsy 3D was the final Bubsy game to be released back in 1997 and was received so poorly, critically and at retail, it was the last nail in the coffin for the series. Developer/publisher Accolade took a big hit and a few short years later were sold off to Infogrames and Atari. None of the Bubsy games have been re-published on any other platform, even digital download, and as of this writing there are no plans to do so. Bubsy 3D has left a taste so bad that even over ten years later people who’ve played it can still recall the horror of this shitfest. Good riddance.

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