Reviews: Bubsy

A good effort brought down by fundamental flaws

In this review, I'll be looking at Bubsy's: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind.

Bubsy has many things going for it as an early 90's platformer. It is colorful and pretty (especially the first set of levels, which are especially diverse in their level design / settings), has certain memorable musical tracks, and a protagonist that, while obviously a cash-in on Sonic's immense popularity at the time, is nevertheless very expressive thanks to some great animations. The same applies to the Woolies, your main adversaries throughout the game.

So, what went wrong?

Well, two important things: Physics and level design. The two run off in increasingly incompatible directions as your journey continues. Bubsy is fast, has a difficult time shedding excess momentum, and has a mighty jump that, at times, forces him upwards into unseen hazards. Had the level design been built around our hero's abilities (focused level paths, speed sections with minimal obstacles, the ability to foresee enemies with plenty of warning in slower areas), Bubsy could've been a much smoother experience, comparable to the well-designed Sonic Genesis titles.

Unfortunately the level design is anything but. Bubsy's levels are huge while managing to be packed with dangers. There aren't so much paths leading to the goal rather than a dense collection of platforms scattered in each part of a level, making level design extremely nebulous. That means that, while there's an incredible amount of terrain to explore in each level, there are also hazards potentially to the left, right, above and below Bubsy, very often just outside the current screen. This, combined with with Bubsy's tendency to quickly jerk towards wherever he goes and his inability to survive more than a single hit, means that players may die often due to things they could not possibly have anticipated.

The this doesn't truly become an issue until the second half of the game, when more projectile-hurling enemies crop up. But it does make Bubsy, at best, a stop-and-go affair. Rather than playing like Sonic as it probably intended, Bubsy is much more like Super Mario Brothers or Mega Man. And there's nothing wrong with that, but again, the fast-and-loose physics run counter to being a more slow-paced and methodical game.