By: Johnny Marcondes
Yes you read that right, Bubsy the character that was once projected to be the next Sonic or Mario when his initial game was coming out back in 1993 is finally making his return in 2017. For those who are too young to remember the Bubsy character and games, here’s a brief history lesson on the character and why this new release is such a bizarre announcement. When the Bubsy games were first announced it was actually kind of a big deal, this came at a time when platformers ruled the consoles and each company had their own staple character. Nintendo had Mario and Sega had Sonic, both were these incredibly marketable and successful characters that spawned numerous successful titles and helped their respective companies build an empire. Bubsy, a quirky bobcat was supposed to be the new face of Accolade, a now defunct gaming company that has been around since the 80’s. Seeing as how Mario and Sonic were so popular the company developed Bubsy in order to get in on the action if you will as well as expand themselves into the current generation of gaming and gamers.
In fact, at first Bubsy was incredibly well received and even won some awards including the “most hype for a character” award by Electronic Gaming Monthly as well as “best new character” by gaming magazine award. When the first Bubsy game released it was met by some initial praise and high scores but I assure you, it by no means was a good game. As a video game reviewing and discussion site I know this statement may sound counter intuitive but reviews don’t really matter. At the end of the day a thousand people can tell you something was great and amazing but once you experience it first hand you might think that it’s not as great or even as good as someone made it out to be. That’s the case with Bubsy. When first released it was met with praise by a lot of critics but even as a kid when I played it I knew it was being lied too. It was actually one of the first moments in my childhood where I knew I was lied too and had this nagging sense of guilt and disappointment for not liking something so many people told me were good.
Accolade wanted a character that rivaled Mario and Sonic and they drew inspiration from the two in order to create another successful character and fun platformer. While essentially a great idea on paper, the game and series itself had numerous issues that held the game back significantly and ultimately made it seem dated upon it’s release. With the main issue of the game being that it’s a straight up Sonic the Hedgehog clone and a bad Super Mario impersonator. There’s almost no real sense of life in Bubsy which is a little remarkable considering how bright and vivid the levels are. Since the game physics are so incredibly inconsistent and each level feels like more of a chore than exciting run through you’d think the mechanics would see a change following it’s sequels. Wrong.
Each entry in the Bubsy series has been comically flawed and while they weren’t particularly good or memorable games for some reason they were fairly well received. When the Bubsy games first came out platform games were at it’s pinnacle and Bubsy actually borrowed a lot of it’s designs from other games like Sonic but there just wasn’t enough originality or creativity in them to really hold the series over through time. Eventually the series died out after it’s fourth game titled Bubsy 3D for the PS1, now while I have a lot of negative things to say about the series due to pent up childhood rage remembering that sadistic smile of Bubsy mocking me the prospect of a new game is a little too bizarre to process.
Bubsy: The Woolies Strikes Back is interesting simply due to the fact after nearly twenty one years away the series is making a return and it isn’t being billed as an official reboot. As of right now Bubsy’s newest adventure is the fifth title under the series making it a really delayed sequel and honestly it doesn’t look all that bad. Returning to it’s 2D side scrolling play style while having 3D character models this could actually be what Bubsy needs. Retro games and nostalgia have played a massive part in a lot of older games finding new success especially this year. Nintendo for example found great success re-releasing their NES and SNES classics with retro games and through Kickstarter we’ve seen a lot of older titles able to get a second chance at competing with today’s best on modern consoles. Even though I don’t personally care for the Bubsy series or character, seeing a game from my childhood resurrect itself and try to re captivate a crowd is always heartwarming.
Being developed by Black Forest Games, for the first time in the series Bubsy will be rendered with a 3D model and his familiar abilities make a return like his air glide which hopefully this time around is handled better mechanically. Even though Bubsy’s return has been met with less than favorable responses, Black Forest Games are really putting their all into this Resurrection. As a development team, Black Forest Games aren’t new to the concept of resurrecting old obscure games for a more modern time, they were the team behind Giana Sisters: Twisted dreams a crowd sourced resurrected version of Giana Sisters for the commodore 64. There have been so many great platformers and nostalgic games that could thrive off of a resurrected title today, games like Spyro, MediEvil, Ghosts n Goblins and more but yet we get a new Bubsy game instead. Forgive me pouring negativity on this game’s announcement but much like George Michael’s girlfriend in Arrested Development I’m left looking at Bubsy with a confused look while other titles float around in my head and the only words I can muster up are “her/him?”
Perhaps I’m being too cruel and holding on to nostalgia too much, perhaps twenty one years is enough of a time gap to erase the bad taste Bubsy left in a lot of peoples mouths. The gameplay trailer of the game doesn’t look bad truthfully, in fact this is the best and most coherent Bubsy has looked in years. We need more old school platformers today, there’s this unique charm to them that you don’t get in any other genre. It’s one of those genres that anyone at any age can enjoy, however even with that love of platformers I have personally speaking I’m both intrigued and scratching my head at the prospect of a new Bubsy game in 2017. This is truly an interesting year in gaming and I can’t wait to see just how this pans out. Scheduled to be released this fall on PC and PS4 on October 31st, 2017 Bubsy: The Woolies Strike back has my attention, albeit for not all the right reasons. Make sure to check back for more updates and news for what I still can’t believe will be a new Bubsy game.