Also available on Genesis and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 08/01/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
During the 16-bit era, platformers – especially mascot platformers – were a dime a dozen. Mario was a juggernaut, Sonic was gobbling up market share at a speed matching his gameplay, and everyone else wanted a piece of the action. Enter Bubsy the Bobcat, Accolade’s attempt to cash in on the fad. Now Bubsy isn’t as bad as, say, Awesome Possum, but he’s definitely a B-tier gaming mascot.
Sonic’s influence on Bubsy is obvious almost to the point where Bubsy is more copying Sonic than inspired by Sonic. Like Sonic, Bubsy builds momentum as he runs and gets a jump boost from landing on enemies. Like Sonic, the level end marker is a spinning marker of Bubsy’s face. Like Sonic, the bosses are enemies in flying contraptions that you have to jump on to damage. To be fair, those are the best things to copy from Sonic; they’re what gave Sonic a distinct and unique style of platforming gameplay and kept him from being a clone of Mario. Unfortunately for Bubsy, there wasn’t any real innovation. The major differences from Sonic that I noticed are pretty much all negatives.
My biggest issue with Bubsy and something that I think just has no place in a 2D platformer is falling damage. In Sonic games, if you fall from a high platform down to ground level, whatever, just keep running. In Bubsy, you’re dead. In Sonic, if you run super fast and hit a wall, whatever, just jump and keep going. In Bubsy, you get stunned and stand around dazed for a few seconds. These are not deal-breakers per se, but I can’t see how they could add anything fun to a speed-based platformer with enormously vertical stages. My other problem with Bubsy is the controls. It felt too slick, and his momentum was hard to get a feel for and control. It constantly felt almost like I was playing on an ice level but for the entirety of the game. Unlike the falling damage and collision stun, this actually does kind of ruin the whole game for me as controls are pretty much the most integral part of a gameplay experience. Screw up the controls, and your whole game suffers for it.
It’s a shame that Bubsy: Claws Encountered of the Furred Kind is such a deeply flawed game at the mechanic level because there’s a lot of potential here. Buried beneath the flaws and poor design choices is a likable (and uniquely 90s) character and a competent platformer. I like Bubsy’s personality. I like his spunk. I like the whole premise of the game – a cat not saving the world from aliens but just the world’s yarn ball supply – is a stupid juxtaposition to its obvious and much more punk-feeling influence, Sonic. The character is absolutely fine, but the game sucks, and that’s just something that no amount of spunk or silly humor can fix. I haven’t played any of the other releases in the series (and I’m shocked it had a whole series), but there’s just nothing worth recommending in this entry.