Reviving a series that has long been dormant is very risky. It takes consumer expectations and dreams and hope the gamble pays off. Sadly from my experience, most of the time it does not. The problem is that developers either change the formula too much that they get backlash from the series’ most ardent fans for ruining the nostalgia, or they don’t change it enough and people end up calling it nothing more than a cash-grab. When Accolade announced that they were revivingBubsy there was no one more excited than me. Sadly, my excitement was all for nothing and once again I am let down by another overly ambitious attempt at pulling on my nostalgic heartstrings.
The original Bubsy is a side-scrolling platformer published by Accolade and was released in 1993 on the Sega Mega Drive, Super NES and Windows. The game features an acrobatic bobcat called Bubsy (who owns the world’s largest collection of wool) who is out to stop the yarn-stealing aliens known as the Woolies. In my whippersnapper days I owned a SNES console and my mum would rent games from our local video store to keep me occupied. I remember Bubsy being a repeat offender quite often, however as a child I had no concept of what the game was about, all I knew is that I was jumping around collecting balls of yarn and I had to do it very quickly. This brings us to Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back which is a remaster done by Accolade in an attempt to take us down yarn-collecting nostalgia lane.
Where did that blazing rock of fire come from?
The game is fairly straightforward and doesn’t contain much in terms of a story, which I find is better for a younger target audience. The narrative starts with a cutscene that shows the ‘Golden Fleece’ being stolen from Bubsy’s house by those darned Woolies. Before sending Bubsy on his way, players are given a tutorial of the game’s controls and systems such as the ‘T-Shirt’ system, which gives Bubsy protection and helps our lead furball gain extra lives.
Disappointingly, Bubsy’s poor level design and old-school gaming mechanics made this game a chore to get through. Not because it’s hard, but because it’s tedious. The ‘pounce’ move is your only form of attack and has no real range or control whatsoever, so if you’ve got a congested area and you’ve got no T-shirts there’s a fair chance you are going to die. Luckily, thanks to a generous number of checkpoints you won’t be set back too far if you do perish.
Accolade has kept a lot of the gameplay mechanics and features from the original games, such as having nine lives, not being able to fall into large bodies of water without dying, and you can’t take damage without dying unless you are wearing one of the protective shirts. There are fourteen levels and three boss levels in total, which makes for a relatively short experience; you could easily polish this game off within a couple of hours.
I never felt compelled to do any of the level objectives because of a lack of reward, unless I really wanted to collect all the trophies
What is the point in this again?
Each level is unique in it’s own way but also still manages to feel similar, with varying enemy types and object placement to distract you from everything. I am not going to lie, some of these levels were challenging at times, but I honestly think this was due to the level design. I found I was compromising my need and want to collect all the yarn for the need of simply passing the level. My main gripe with Bubsy is that in some levels there was too much going on. It was hard to see what was going on above, below and on each side of me due to enemy congestion and object placement. The game gives you many different options and ways to get to your wool and to navigate around your enemies, not all of them are necessary, in fact, most of them are not and I barely felt any of them actually worked in the larger scheme of things. At the end of each level you are given a scorecard that shows you how much wool you’ve collected, how many lives you’ve unlocked and your overall time for the level. Each level has three things to strive for in order to deem it truly ‘complete’. Collecting all the keys to unlocking the wool vault, beat the level without dying and collecting all the shirts.
I never felt compelled to do any of the level objectives because of a lack of reward, unless I really wanted to collect all the trophies. Games like Crash Bandicoot were made so cleverly that the urge to collect all the crystals so I could tell people of my conquests drove me to want to do more in the game. Busby just doesn’t give you that drive or need.
I believe I can fl….hover
Overall, Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back was a mixed bag. On one hand I had a fun with the game, but on the other I found there were too many issues with the game’s level design, which turned fun into tiresome. Without the nostalgic factor I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this game at all. I will admit there were a few great one-liners like “I’ve been waiting to settle this score since 1993”. The overall vibe is charming but there is no real risk and reward system to this game which made a lot of the gameplay pointless. Give this game to a child and they may find the chaos fun at first which will quickly turn into a tantrum once they realise its complexity and the mechanics aren’t going to help you navigate this one.
Reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro | Review code supplied by publisher