It’s been 21 years since the last Bubsy game, and time has not been kind to the little fella. The first two titles were actually pretty well received, and the third one was quite popular with the twelve people who bought an Atari Jaguar. The fourth title, Bubsy 3D, received generally positive reviews at the time, with reviewers being initially enthusiastic about the character’s first foray into the third dimension. The problem was that Super Mario 64 came out, and people changed their mind about him quicker than a diner who’s just spotted the chef jerking off into the clam chowder. The game is now lauded as being one of the worst games of all time and later reviews have been highly critical. Regardless of how you feel about Eidetic’s debut title, it’s been over two decades now, so it’s time for Bubsy to get a clean slate in his fifth outing, created by Giana Sisters revivers Black Forest Games.
There’s a few things that have been kept from the previous games, including the ability to glide over larger gaps and Bubsy’s “attitude”. This means that he makes snide remarks every 30 seconds, which is amusing initially, but after you’ve heard him proclaim “What could paw-ssibly go wrong” or ‘I LOVE this new ability” for the umpteenth time, it’s not funny any more. Back in the days of the Mega Drive, having sampled speech was a pretty big deal, nowadays with full voice casts present even in many indie titles, it’s just not necessary other than for a retro feel. It’s not possible to turn it off so you’ll probably just end up muting the sound entirely.
The repetitive voice of our titular hero isn’t the only thing that will have you reaching for the volume control as the music, whilst nicely composed, is very grating. There’s only a small number of different tunes in the game, with different levels sharing the same music. It’s nice music, but if you’ve heard it a few times too many, you’re unlikely to be adding it to your latest Spotify playlist.
As in the original title, you’re collecting yarn balls in order to... Well actually, you’re collecting yarn balls for no particular reason at all, just because they’re there. You can complete the game without collecting any of them if you want, they serve no purpose other than increasing your score. They make a nice little popping sound as you run over them though, so there’s that.
With all the negatives that I’ve aired here, it’d be easy to assume that I didn’t really enjoy Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back, but actually that’s not the case. Whilst this isn’t the best platform game I’ve played, I still enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. In a year where I had Sonic Mania, Yooka Laylee, Cuphead, and the Crash Bandicoot remake, it was never going to be an award winner, but I’m glad that the little dude got taken out of retirement for this.
Let’s talk positives then. Fall damage is no longer present as it was in the early titles. Seriously, whoever decided fall damage should be a thing in a platform game needs to consider their life choices. There’s still plenty of things to kill you though, with sand sharks, aliens and spiky balls being among the most common. The good thing though is that you get nine lives at the start of each level (naturally) and checkpoints are scattered liberally throughout the levels. There are a number of times that the game is probably more easy than it ought to be, but at least it means that you’ll be able to achieve progression.
When you get to boss battles however (of which there are only three in the game) things get a little bit harder, with Cuphead style multi-phase bosses that require timing and precision to defeat. It’s an incredibly uneven difficult curve as a result, but the fact that you have nine lives, combined with the fact that the boss starts with the health it had when you died after a loss of one of those lives means that it’s not up there with the hardest games in the genre.
Overall, whilst the latest Bubsy isn’t going to go down in history as one of the greatest platformers ever, it’s also not going to become as infamous as that PS1 installment. If you’ve completed all the other big platformers of 2017 and you’re looking for another cute game to keep you occupied, then this one’s worth a look.
Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
With an awkward difficulty curve and some questionable sonic choices, this isn’t a purrfect platformer, but it’s certainly good enough for meow. I’m not kitten around when I say this is a competent platformer that deserves a look in if you can get it fur a decent price.