Greetings, retr0pians. Over the past five months, I’ve reviewed quite a handful of Sonic clones. Some good, some not so good, and some so horrid that I feel to need to excessively shower just by uttering the names of them. However, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all of my years of surfing the web, you can’t call yourself a true expert on the “mascot platformer” sub-genre of games until you’ve talked about one that stands out from all the others, at least in terms of reputation, and that very one is Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind.
Based on an idea by veteran game designer Michael Berlyn and developed and published by Solid Software and Accolade respectively in 1993, the game’s plot (or at least, the closest there is to one) revolves around the exploits of Bubsy, a bobcat with attitude, as he comes into conflict with a devious alien species known as the Woolies, and must stop them from stealing all of the world’s yarn supply, especially since he has the largest yarn collection of them all. A bit offbeat, sure, but nobody scoffs at the concept at a fat overalls-wearing plumber who stomps on turtle-like creatures or a blue hedgehog that goes around destroying robots and annoying an egg-shaped scientists. Getting back on topic, while it did get plenty of attention and even some rather favorable reception during its’ release, Claws Encounters has went on to receive a large amount of backlash over the past decade, with some even going as far as to labeling it the game that set the demise of the “mascot platformer” sub-genre of video games in motion. With criticism THIS harsh, is there something about Bubsy that people simply don’t understand, or should this just waltz back over to the kitty litter where it belongs? Let’s find out, shall we?
THE LOOKS – If there are two things that even the most avid detractors of this game can say it got right, it would most definitely have to be the graphics and the music (which we’ll get to in a minute). Fitting in line with the strange premise, the graphics opt for a more Looney Tunes-esque look and feel (Heck, Berlyn himself said that he was inspired by the works of Max Fleischer when developing the look of the game), which is most evident by several of the character designs and animations, including but not limited to bouncing cars, wild takes, and even some slapstick death animations. However, if there’s one thing that I think kind of brings down the visuals, it would have to be the lack of variety. The backgrounds, while nice and pretty, tend to repeat the same themes. There’s a total of three forest worlds, all of which only having slight differences from one another. Of course, it isn’t TOO severe, but it does leave you with the feeling that not much thought was put into theming the levels.
THE SOUND – Like I mentioned earlier, the music is one of the two things that most people can say this game got right, and they are definetely not in the wrong. While it’s definetely no Puggsy or Plok, the soundtrack is still great as it is, ranging from a wide variety of styles and instruments that go together very nicely with their respective worlds. The sound effects also help to manifest the game’s cartoony approach, with many of them sounding like they would fit right at home with the animated saturday morning shows of old. But then comes the elephant in the room…Bubsy’s voice. While I will say that this isn’t his WORST voice, especially compared to the one in 3D, it’s still pretty irritating. Not only does his actor sound like he’s trying WAY too hard to be “sarcastic” and “wacky” (it doesn’t help that he even stumbles one line), every time you die, he says a qoute that either has nothing to do with anything, or is just a random pop culture reference. Either way, it still manages to bring down the overall experience, even more so than the lack of level variety. However, this is nothing compared to what we have next…
Pictured: The earliest known user of The DreamWorks Face.
THE GAMEPLAY – Oh my Miyamoto, it’s Buster’s Hidden Treasure AND The Lion King all over again…starting off with the controls, they are just bad. They’re stiff, loose, and slipperly, and there are times where you can go flying all over the place because of their aforementioned flaws. Next, there’s the fact that you die in one hit. Why is this such a problem? Well, unlike the game that it’s ripping off- erm, I mean, inspired by, there’s nothing that can shield you. NOTHING. Not even the yarnballs. This results in pretty much all of the levels being a complete challenge to navigate, and I do mean that in a bad way. Then, there’s the camera. Usually, cameras in 2D platformers don’t really tend to be that much of an issue, but it is most certainly one here, with the camera feeling the need to be zoomed in WAAAY too much, which can really make it hard to see incoming obstacles or enemies, which is made even worse by Bubsy’s speed, which is near-impossible to control. Then there’s the fact that there’s falling damage. Yes, you heard me: falling damage in a side-scrolling platformer. There IS a glide that can be used to break the falls, but still, why should this even be a thing, especially since this isn’t even a cinematic platformer like Prince of Persia or Oddworld? Oh yeah, and the level design? There’s really nothing special nor interesting about it. Like the visuals, they push away variety in favor of just repeating themselves to the point where it gets rather unimaginative. The desert world is the worst offender of them all, with all of the levels in it each starting off with Bubsy on a train, where he has to make it through an insanely trecherous area until he reaches a lever. After pulling the lever, the train stops and he has to jump off of it, where he has to make it through an even more trecherous area and screw this, I’m playing something else. It might not be as bad as Oscar, but the gameplay still leaves plenty to be desired.
THE BOTTOM LINE – Although it does have an appealing visual style and some good music, Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind still manages to cough up a hairball with a lack of variety, annoying voice acting, terrible physics, and level design that will just leave you blank. It shouldn’t be that much of a shock when I say that you should just go play the Mario or Sonic games instead, or if you’re REALLY craving a game that’s similar to them but still manages to have an identity of its’ own, go play Superfrog instead.