Retro Respawn – Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind

Sometimes I wonder if I just lack the commitment to truly hate things. I say that because when the two Bubsy games from the Super Nintendo were re-released to Steam back in December 2015, I may have been one of the few people who didn’t have an immediately violent reaction to it. I never played Bubsy 2. In fact, it wasn’t until long after the fourth generation had ended that I even knew the game existed, but I did play Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind, and I didn’t hate it. Yeah, I found it frustrating, for reasons I’ll go into in this upcoming feature, but little more than that. I wonder what it is about this game that has caused me to miss the cultural zeitgeist?

In a lot of ways, Bubsy was little more than a cynical attempt to cash in on the mascot craze that threatened to swallow the console market whole in the 90s. In an attempt to ape the success of Sonic the Hedgehog, developers Accolade decided to create a pun spouting critter to star in a new platformer IP. Thus, Bubsy the Bobcat was born. For some reason, Accolade decided to stick him in a white t-shirt (I guess to give him some form of recognisable attire like most mascots from this time period had?) but neglected to give him any pants, thus you’d think negating the purpose of having him wear clothes in the first place?

I mean Sonic had sneakers on, cos he runs fast, but aside from that he was naked. However, I don’t tend to think of Sonic as actually being naked, if that makes any sense? I never sat there and thought, “Man, I really wish Sonic would go cover up his modesty”. But with Bubsy, I just can’t avoid the cold hard realisation that he is naked from the waist down. The t-shirt only serves to emphasise that nakedness. I just want to give him a pair of slacks and wrap a blanket around him, you know? I fear that he’s the living embodiment of that bloke in the Levi’s commercial who had to pawn his jeans just so he could afford money for gas. Every time I look at Bubsy I think that he was in desperate need for $20 to avoid getting shanked in a back alley for not paying off illegal gambling debts, and the only way to raise those funds was to sell his last remaining pair of trousers. That or he had an especially heavy night out on the razz and awoke with his pants sodden from a drunken “accident”, and now he’s forced to traipse around trouserless while his pants are laundered to get the stench of Bobcast piss out of them.

In fact, that should probably be the next game in the series. Now that the games have been re-released, they should follow it up with the natural sequel where Bubsy is a washed up game mascot living on the street because his game was a flop. His shirt could now be grubby and torn, and he could be desperately addicted to yarn balls, doing anything he can just to get one more precious hit of the stuff, while passers-by look on his disgust. He could be constantly reliving the events of his past games in his head, and you could write off the terrible attempt at a 3-D game on the PlayStation as some form of hallucinatory episode when he took too much catnip once while on a massive bender with one of the Cheetahmen.

He could go into off-licenses and then screech at the long suffering clerk behind the counter, “Do you know who I am? I was on the Super Nintendo AND the SEGA Genesis, young man!”, as the poor bloke tries to tell him that a dead pigeon doesn’t qualify as legal tender. You could call it Bubsy III: Thanks Furr Nothing!. Hey, if anyone from Accolade is reading this and likes the sound of it, let me know. You can have the rights to it in exchange for a bottle of branded cola and large Hawaiian pizza (stuffed crust, of course).

Anyway, sorry for that tangent. My fingers started typing and I decided to go with the flow. I’ll actually talk about the game now, as you can see the Sonic inspiration very clearly in it. Bubsy can jump if you press B and he also has an option to glide if you press Y. The enemies in the game are mostly bizarre looking aliens (although there are also self-aware cars that try to kill you, making me think the developers watched some Monty Python prior to releasing the game and decided to stick them in at the last minute just for fun), who plan to steal all the world’s yarn, which Bubsy simply cannot countenance.

The Sonic comparison comes from the fact that Bubsy can run really fast and there are multiple routes for him to tackle certain levels. However, the big difference between Bubsy and Sonic is that the former has instant one hit deaths. The rings in Sonic were added deliberately as a sort of fail-safe for the player. You could run as fast as you wanted and, so long as you had some rings, you could collide with the enemies and still not die. This encouraged the player to play speedily on the wider more open levels as you had something to fall back on if your recklessness got you in trouble. Bubsy doesn’t have that luxury, aside from the brief moments where you can get momentary invincibility.

As a result, you never feel like you can truly cut loose and indulge in some high octane speed because one collision with an enemy will result in instant death. It’s ultimately very frustrating as it is certainly fun when Bubsy really picks up a decent amount of speed, but you so rarely get to do it. Enemies are dotted all over the place in very opportune positions, thus making running a treacherous activity that you’ll normally avoid, favouring instead to gradually feel your way through a level, which isn’t anywhere near as fun.

The jump physics aren’t especially good either, with it never really feeling like you get much momentum from jumping on enemies. In addition, Bubsy himself feels relatively flimsy, with his jumps lacking much weight to them. It’s kind of the equivalent of playing a game of football with a fly-away plastic ball as opposed to a proper leather one. The weight detection just doesn’t feel “right”, and that’s never a good thing in a platformer where jumping and timing are everything. It’s not as if the game is unplayable, but it certainly could use tightening up in a lot of ways.

Bubsy himself does what he needs to do as far as not being a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist. He certainly doesn’t warm the heart like a Sonic, Mario, Spyro, or Crash do, but he’s serviceable enough in the first game, before going off a cliff in the later games and becoming highly annoying. Before every level he will deliver a quip in line with the chapter’s puntastic title. On the stage set on a theme park called “Night of the Bobcat” Bubsy quips, “Hey I thought I saw Elvis back there”, and on the level with a lot of dangerous drops called “Forbidden Plummet” he states, “Did I mention that I don’t like heights?”, and so forth.

So, despite hardly being the most charismatic cat in town, Bubsy at least evades tumbling into “Poochie” territory when it comes to his first outing. One thing I will say about this game is that it does have some very funny death animations. Should he fall afoul of an enemy, Bubsy will stumble over with stars over his head, shatter into a million pieces, or sometimes even outright melt into a pool of orange Bobcat drool. If he falls from too far a height, Bubsy’s mid-section will turn into an accordion as he tramples disgruntledly out of camera shot. But my personal favourite is if Bubsy happens to tumble into a nearby water hazard. Should this happen, Bubsy will affix an admiral hat, salute the player, and slowly sink to his watery grave. I shed a tear every time for his bravery in the face of such hardship.

Bubsy is hardly a great game. It’s bang average. It just about does what it’s supposed to do and ends up being a mildly passable platformer. I played it quite a lot as a youngster and didn’t hate it then, and I still don’t hate it now. Would I go out of my way to play it in 2016? Probably not, but it’s certainly not in the worst game of all time bracket. It doesn’t cause any harm or cause any happiness. It merely exists.

As always, I’ll post some game footage below.

Thanks for reading

Nil Satis, Nisi Optimum

We have a ten year cut off here at Gaming Respawn when it comes to what we class as “retro”. It may seem arbitrary to some, but we feel it’s a good barometer. It’s far back enough to be nostalgic about something while still recent enough that it that it settles on our collective consciousness.

You can view YouTube Footage of the game, courtesy of NostalgicAnFun, by clicking right HERE

Looking for other great content here on the site? Well, why not take a goosey gander at the following?

James has a rant about “Timed Games”, and you can read all about it by clicking HERE

I hear all the cool kids are playing some game called Dark Souls III these days? Well, Kane has done a smashing review of it that you can read by clicking right HERE

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