Bubsy: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind

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Introduction

Cats love yarnballs and Bubsy is a bobcat, so he’s got to as well. A fabric loving alien race known as the woolies have come to earth and taken all of our planet’s yarn! Help Bubsy get his yarn hoard back and save the fabric of the world itself. Run, jump, glide, and get dead repeatedly to help Bubsy reach his enemies and destroy them. (Not that you would know the things about aliens or the plot without the manual.)

Development

Bubsy was published by the Accolade company. Accolade started in 1984 making games for systems like the Commodore 64, Apple 2, Amiga, PC, the Atari 400, and the Atari 800. Accolade is most well known for Star Control II. A game, which today, is considered a classic. They have a very diverse library of games, from science fiction to sports games. Bubsy, Star Control II, and Test Drive 4 are probably their greates hits. In 1996 however, the company began producing less than stellar games until the release of the Test Drive series. In 1999 Accolade was purchased by Infogrames.

Funny story, Sonic the Hedgehog was created when Yuji Naka when he played through the opening level of Super Mario Brothers until he was able to go through it as quickly as possible. Bubsy was developed by Michael Berlyn. At the time he had only worked on adventure games so Bubsy was a completely new beast to him. After burning out on adventure games he played Sonic the Hedgehog for 14 hours a day for a week in order to find the right way to make it his own.

Bubsy was released in May of 1992 for the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and PC. It went up against Wolfenstein 3D, Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, and Kirby’s Dreamland.

ImageYou’re standard level for Bubsy. (BTW that gumball machine can kill you)

Nostalgia

I loved this game when I was younger. I purchased it solely because there was a cat on the box. I adore cats, I play as a cat in the game, this sounds like the best game my 9 year old head can wrap itself around. It was so hard, but I figured that I started the game with nine lives and so it would be easy (I did think the nine lives joke was pretty funny). But how wrong I was. The big issue is that everything kills Bubsy in one hit, enemies, thumbtacks (which cause him to pop like a balloon and fly around the screen), water (But not water slides. The game is filled with water slides that lead Bubsy to new places and sometimes death. I always really liked going down water slides until I hit a few dead ends and then I didn’t trust them enough to take them again), and falling (But more on that later).

Bubsy can pick up speed and start running ridiculously fast. But the adventure will probably get brought to a screetching halt by running into a wall, which have Bubsy seeing birds (which he will then try to grab and eat) or into something that will kill him. The fact that everything that can hurt Bubsy kills him in one hit (except ice cream, just gives him a brain freeze. I was so shocked that I wasn’t dead that I kept running into it just to see Bubsy get a headache again and again) didn’t really hit me as a bizarre mechanic for this kind of game. In addition to running, Bubsy can glide. Boy can he glide, he glides as fast as he was when he was running. But there’s not delay in changing directions so sometimes after jumping over an enemy that gets in the way I’ll try gliding back to where I was to jump on it and destroy it but I’ll glide so fast that I can’t control my descent. I thought it was so fun to get as high up as I could and see how far I could glide.

I was pretty impressed with the areas of the game. There was a carnival zones that didn’t have any creepy clowns in it (Blasphemy in old videogames) and a Wild West area with killer tumble weeds and land sharks. I never beat this game when I was a kid. I would get to the 4th chapter, Canada (seriously. A super racially insensitive version of Canada. Filled to the brim with beavers and plaid.) and would run out of lives. I could never remember the passwords and even when I did I always felt shortchanged because the game starts off on that stage with nine lives. Not how ever many lives I had been able to get, but just nine. So I’d end up playing through the game every time to get more lives to see if I could get through Canada.

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Doesn’t this image just amp you up to play the game?

The Gush

When I was 22 I decided that I couldn’t let Bubsy go unconquered. I had to beat it, I needed to know what was after Canada. The answer was overall disappointment. I got really frustrated with dying all the time. I didn’t have the muscle memory and area memory I had of the game when I was playing it constantly. So instead of struggling against game overs I decided to cheat a little. I got an emulator for the game and used the emulators ability to save in any location to keep the game going. I did only use them at game check points, so I was basically playing with infinite lives. It was still frustrating as hell but there was no way I would get pushed back to the beginning of the game. It didn’t help much.

The reason Sonic the Hedgehog is the better of the two games is simpley because nothing kills Sonic in one hit. As long as he has rings then they just pop out of his body and he’s able to continue and take more hits if he gets more rings, not the case with Bubsy. I think it was a very bad design decision. The game has powerups to protect Bubsy in the form of shirts. (Speaking of shirts, my college roommate and I played the game and wondered why Bubsy could glide, or talk and run on two legs for that matter. We thought that it would make more sense if Bubsy’s shirt was mechanical. There are worse game plots out there). The dark shirt makes Bubsy invincible and the invincible shirt also makes Bubsy invincible, but the game has different themes for the effects.

If Bubsy falls too far the he dies, but he can glide to prevent the death. The issue is that the gliding controls can be really slippery if Bubsy was going really fast so I usually end up dying anyway. I just don’t understand what the design decision or benefit of falling damage did to the game. Add another way to die? To crush the player’s spirit?

The games have secret passages in sewers and other underground areas. But some of them just lead to pools of water that result in instant death bor our dear bobcat. So there’s no incentive to search them because they might bring the game to a grinding halt. I never found anything good enough down them to justify the risk.

I did end up beating the game and Canada was by far the hardest level. The game takes Bubsy to a jungle and the to the Woolie space ship in space and Canada is the hardest area. The game ends with the whole thing being a film that they’re making. But then the limo driver is a Woolie and I have no idea what’s supposed to be happening now. I thought it would set me up for Bubsy II but that’s not the case.

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The water slides were still fun as hell though.

The Verdict

I may have loved this game as a kid but I guess I didn’t know any better. The unfairness of its secret areas, fall damage, and the instant lethality of every object or enemy really turned me off to the game. I cherish the memories I had with the game but I have no idea why they formed. The only thing this game has brought me at this age is the knowledge that I did eventually beat it. I was able to face its difficulty (even if I did have to cheat a little).

Next week: Super Mario Brothers 2

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