Released On: October 31, 2017 Reviewed On: PC Also Available On: PC, PS4
Developer: Black Forest Games Studio Publisher: Tommo (PC)/UFO Interactive Games (PS4)
The last time a Bubsy game was released I was just four months old and hadn’t even touched a gaming console yet.
That game was the critically panned Bubsy 3D that was released October 31st, 1996 on the original PlayStation. It looked unfinished, uninspired and in an era of innovative and genre defining 3D platformers hitting the market for the first time – Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario 64 both released earlier in the same year – it put the final nail in the coffin for the pun slinging bobcat.
So, imagine the disbelief and confusion the gaming community displayed when in June, a trailer for a brand new Bubsy game popped up on social media. The game that became a meme at the hands of several famous internet personalities was attempting a comeback – and people seemed relatively excited.
The trailer didn’t show much, only a small amount of gameplay that looked to be on the same level with most other indie titles – something countless people took as it just being unfinished. But upon playing it – I can’t see a lot of difference between the trailer and the actual game. Graphics and textures remained almost identical and took what could have been just a prototype, and made it clear the game wouldn’t be anything special.
Through my hours of gameplay Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back never managed to frustrate me, but it also never impressed me in any drastic way either. The game follows Bubsy Bobcat on a mission to reclaim the stolen Golden Fleece from some enemies that are anything but memorable.
Armed with his glide – an ability that allows him to slow down and move while falling – Bubsy has returned with several new tricks, including the ability to climb certain walls with his claws, and do a sort of pounce or lunge attack that can hurt enemies and breakdown obstacles in his way. These new abilities were another nice addition to a franchise that lacked the variety of movement options that competitors had over it back in the 90s – it’s just a shame that they only work about half the time.
Most of the time it would appear that a jump was set up perfectly, only to become apparent soon after leaping that I was falling to my death due to something out of my control. The jump animation takes so long to implement itself after I input the command on the controller, that the delay often caused me some frustrating deaths. It was never enough to make me quit the game, but the fact that something like this wasn’t double checked and fixed did really hurt the gameplay. Bubsy also runs at a pace that is just fast enough to feel awkward when avoiding falling obstacles, or when making a tight jump to a platform.
One thing I will credit the new movement options for is the implementation of the ability to chain them together with other skills. Being able to use a double jump after a pounce and then glide in the later levels did add some challenge and a versatility of movement to an otherwise simple and straightforward game.
After having gone back and played a few of the previous iterations in the franchise – one of the things I was looking forward to when playing the newest Bubsy game was the creative level design. In the past, Bubsy levels were themed after movies or specific genres, and included puns or other charming features that brought added joy and colour to otherwise mediocre platforming games.
This time however, each stage is visually boring and they are quite repetitive. They replaced the creative – albeit long and sometimes tediously difficult – levels of older Bubsy titles, with plain, dull and otherwise generically forgettable ones. Various rocky environments with different backgrounds, and shading and colors added in quickly make for a samey feel that gets old quick. You will spend most of your time in the game pouncing on the same handful of boring enemies – almost all of which are just reskins of the main, alien-like creatures known as the Woolies – doing the same traversal through wall climbing and using badly implemented bounce pads, and collecting yarn that does absolutely nothing other than add to a score at the end of the levels. You won’t be able to tell most of the game apart from the rest of the unmemorable logjam.
Every level was filled with enemies, collectible yarn balls and small obstacles that at least made sure you weren’t left with nothing to do as you traipsed your way from start to finish. The difficulty has been greatly reduced in comparison with older games from the same series. There is no fall damage in the game to make missing your jumps more dangerous, and checkpoints are littered throughout each level to ensure that you’re never far from an easy restart. If you do feel challenged, each level also has a shield power up that can protect you from damage should you go off the beaten path to find them.
The game was not hard to get through at any point, and in a market filled with games that make levels fun and challenging, I’d argue you can do much better. Nothing is inherently broken here, but you will occasionally come across areas of the game that will irritate you and leave you wondering why the game designers set it up that way. An example that comes to mind right away is in the fourth level. There is a key to the large yarn vault in level that was placed between a pit where you can fall to your death, which is consistently being bombarded by flaming rocks that you had just avoided moments earlier.
After completing the first five stages you will face a boss. In each boss fight the difficulty scales up dramatically in a way that doesn’t seem reasonable. None of the fights are original – all of them being the same boss with different variations added in. The fights all seem tedious and involve lengthy periods of avoiding attacks before hitting the boss for minimal damage. The difficulty of these fights largely come from the lack of telegraphed pattern of attacks. You could be perfectly comfortable for five rotations of the bosses’ attack before it randomly switches it up and you are forced to accept a cheap feeling death.
In that regard, you could call the game’s length either a blessing or a downside depending on your experience. There are only 14 levels in the game – a relatively small amount that you can probably best in just a few hours like I did. Once you finish with the main campaign, the game tries to entice you into finding all of the yarn vault keys in each level in an attempt to add some semblance of replay value. It didn’t work for me, and as much as I enjoy the cheesy puns and one-liners the endearingly terrible bobcat throws out, after beating the game I saw no substantial reason to revisit the levels.
Even with that being said, I can’t honestly recommend this game to anyone when for the same price you can go out and play games like A Hat in Time or Snake Pass instead. If you want to play a Bubsy game, I would recommend the originals before this one, because at least those had some memorable moments held within lively and entertaining levels.
Final Score: 4/10
A mewment like this doesn’t last a lifetime.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.
Author: Cale Michael
Cale Michael is a student at Oklahoma Christian University who studies Journalism and Marketing with hopes to forge a career in either sports or entertainment media. Since starting his career as a journalist online he has posted hundreds of articles featuring topics around sports, tech, film, animation, comics and video games.