BUBSY: THE WOOLIES STRIKE BACK ON PS4
If there was ever a punching bag in the video game world then it would most certainly be the Bubsy franchise. While it may be popular to hate on or criticize other big-name franchises, few have ever gotten anything close to the universal hatred Bubsy has suffered over the years. Not that it’s hard to see why. Across four different games, only one of them is considered playable and the less said about the others the better. Which makes it both odd and surprising that a new Bubsy game was announced in June of 2017.
Right out of the gate the game was met with near-unanimous scorn and disdain. Nobody wanted this, nobody welcomed it, and nobody came around to liking the idea either. The bar was set so low that it wasn’t just on the ground; it was buried under it. Still, if Accolade Games saw a chance in this age of video game revivals to do Bubsy right once and for all, then they most certainly had a right to do so. As a certain obnoxious bobcat once infamously said, “What can possibly go wrong?” As it turns out, quite a lot.
Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is indeed a Bubsy game for the modern era. In that it is a pitiful, cheap-looking experience that remains functional but actively strives away from anything resembling fun. At its core, the game emulates the classic 2D platforming experience of the SNES-era Mascot Platformers. The story is basic to the point of near-nonexistence and with little explanation you are thrust into a level to begin platforming right out of the gate.
Still, for those interested, the story goes a little something like this: the Woolies from the first Bubsy game have come and taken his Golden Fleece. Now Bubsy is chasing after them to get it back. That’s it; and if that summary sounds a bit bare bones, cheap, and phoned-in then that would be because Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is a rather bare bones, cheap, phoned-in game.
There was a notable lack of effort I noticed when playing through Bubsy. It feels less like a completed game and more like a tech demo. Graphics approach PlayStation 2 quality, maybe early PS3 if you want to be generous; and the level design is un-intuitive and requires frequent detours in order to gather the few collectibles in the level. What platforming there is in the game is incredibly basic; and every sound effect in the game aside from Bubsy’s one-liners are the sort of stock sound effects nobody even uses anymore.
From the start of the game Bubsy can do three things: a pounce attack, a jump, and a glide; and all three are terrible. The pounce attack uses an unreliable arc that makes it near impossible to accurately hit enemies. The jump is stilted and looks unfinished; and the glide is never quite as useful as it should be. While technically functional, there’s never a point where Bubsy feels like you can reliably control him. Which works out, since there’s also never a point where the game offers anything clever or interesting in its limited design either.
Levels are of the typical classic 2D platformer variety. You have your grassy field world, a Western desert world, and a space world, and that’s it. Because on top of being a poorly designed game, Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is also an incredibly short game. There are 15 levels when all is said and done, three of which were bosses. After completing the game, my total playtime was around 80 minutes, 20 of which were deaths and retries thanks to the cheap nature of the level design.
You see, Bubsy is an incredibly fragile creature. On top of having rather ineffective attacks with bizarre hit-detection, he also tends to die after one hit. You can get a power-up to extend his life to a whopping two hits, but the game’s reliance on cheap enemy placement and giving the player no time to react to hazards will ensure that you die many times through no fault of your own. Though the game is just as generous with extra lives as it is with enemies, so in a strange way the two balance each other out.
This by itself wouldn’t be too bad if Bubsy would learn the value of silence once in a while. True to his grassroots as a wise-cracking animal, Bubsy never shuts up. Every enemy I beat was accompanied by some attempt at humorous commentary and it never worked. I’d be inclined to say they were jokes, but they weren’t even that. It was just noise Bubsy made for the sake of speaking and it takes all of two levels before you’ve heard everything he has to say. On the plus side however, the game is still short enough that it never becomes quite as grating as you might think.
Though I will give the game this. The level names got a legitimate laugh out of me. They’re all groan-inducing cat puns, but the sheer silliness of some of them was enough to at least crack a smile on my face for a moment. “Reservoir Cats” was a personal highlight.
If it’s not clear by now, Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is not a good game. Very far from it. The animations vary from stilted to non-existent. The graphics would have been decent 10 years ago. The level design would’ve been terrible 20 years ago. And it never comes remotely close to being fun or memorable.
Yet, perhaps the biggest praise and condemnation I can offer it is that the game is perfectly mediocre. It’s just good enough to avoid being fascinatingly terrible, but it’s bad enough that it’s never enjoyable either. The game simply exists in that perfectly mundane gray area along with a thousand other dime-a-dozen cheap platformers. At least with previous entries in the franchise Bubsy was hilariously bad. This game though? I played it, and I will promptly forget about it two days from now. In a way that’s almost worse than being a bad game.
Nobody expected the latest Bubsy game to be any good and I’m sorry to say that those expectations were completely correct. Stay far away from it. Go play Mario or something instead.
Score: 2/5 – Poor