Retro recollections: Bubsy The Bobcat

Bubsy is often held up as the Internet’s 16-bit whipping boy, but I think that’s a tad unfair.
There are certain games that live in retrogaming infamy, because ultimately they weren’t very good, or at least were nowhere near as good as their hype suggested.
Rise of the Robots, for example, was meant to be everything that Street Fighter II was, plus ROBOTS plus a BRIAN MAY soundtrack. How could it possibly go wrong?
Oh yeah. That’s right. In every possible way.

Bubsy, or to give it its full title, Bubsy The Bobcat In Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind, because Accolade never met a terrible pun it didn’t like, is a 16-bit era platform game, originally released on the Super Nintendo and Sega Megadrive. There’s also a later PC port, dubbed Super Bubsy, as well as a couple of sequels.

Can’t say I’ve ever played the Jaguar version, but then I’ve never owned a Jaguar. That’s probably why.

I rented Bubsy a few times back in the day, but my meagre university student funds (yes, I’m old) meant that it was beyond my means. I’ve recently been playing the Steam based version you get with Bubsy Two-Fur, because it’s a (mostly) legal and quite affordable way to do so.
I say mostly legal because apparently there might be issues with the underlying emulator, but the folks selling it do indeed own the Bubsy IP, which is why you get Bubsy and its first sequel in the pack. More on that later.
Anyway, the more I’ve played of it, the more I think that the scorn thrown Bubsy’s way is rather unfair.
Now, to give the haters their due, at the time Accolade really did go all out with the advertising to a level that was, well, rather Daikatana, if you follow me.

I don’t recall Bubsy ever threatening to make Sonic his bitch.

The Bubsy press hype is now decades old and dusty, and playing the game with fresh eyes has given me an appreciation of it I don’t think I had back in the day.
Bubsy didn’t quite live up to the gold standards of the time, namely Super Mario World or Sonic The Hedgehog, although the designer did admit that they took a lot of inspiration from Sonic particularly when building Bubsy’s world.
However, in that era just about everything was a platform game, whether it made sense or not. Big movie franchises were platform games wherever you looked, as were fuzzy animal mascots. Bubsy is one amongst the crowd there, but he’s hardly the worst.
Remember Aero The Acrobat?

I could never decide if he was a bat, or a delicious chocolate bar. Just me?

Or Zool, Ninja Of The Nth Dimension?

That music is pretty fly, though. Or in this case, ant.

Neither of those are terrible games, but I’d argue that in the general mascot platform game hierarchy, Bubsy should sit above them.
For a lot of players, you’d start Bubsy, run frantically to the right, Sonic style, and whack into a Wooly in seconds, dying.
Bubsy would make his level starting quip, and you’d start again, and, most likely, do exactly the same thing. Two or more tries, and many gave up, declaring Bubsy to be a “bad” game.

If the quips annoy you, the Japanese SNES-only version might be for you.

If you just want to suicide lemming-style, then yeah, Bubsy might not be for you. Although obviously Psygnosis has your Lemmings needs covered anyway.
But if you take Bubsy slowly, and understand how the game’s balance works, it’s actually very playable. You can’t rush in, as fools often do, because it will kill you rather quickly. Instead, you take advantage of the game’s heavily branching structure, exploring as you go and remembering to use the glide mechanic when jumping, because that can more often than not save Bubsy from a squishy fate.
You’re still going to see him die quite a bit, because Bubsy does have a decent level of challenge to it. That’s where the production values come in, because he has a variety of death animations, as opposed to one or two, or just falling over once as so many of his platform compatriots did. There’s something entertaining there, even when you’re failing.

As distinct from the animated pilot, which contains almost nothing entertaining.

So if you’ve never played it, or you only remember the advertising and hype being on the annoying side, it’s well worth checking out. Thanks to its relative infamy, it’s even relatively affordable. If you’re happy running in a Steam/Emulated world, it currently costs $US4.99.
If emulation doesn’t do it for you, it’s pretty easy to score a genuine cartidge copy for around $20-$30 on eBay (affiliate link, keeps the site running, etc.)
tldr; Bubsy is a decent platform game, not a terrible one.

Bubsy celebrates next to a massive spinning disk bearing his face. He was never short of ego, this one.

Just don’t ask me to defend Bubsy 2, or for that matter Bubsy 3D. They’re trash that can very much stay at the bottom of the retrogaming drawer, or possibly in the big hole left over when they dug up all those E.T cartridges.
Retro recollections are just random musings on retro subjects, usually whatever I’m playing at the moment.

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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