Monday, November 30, 2015

Bubsy 3D: A Second Opinion

There's an old joke I like about a guy who goes to his doctor for a check-up. The doctor tells him, "You're overweight," and the guy responds, "I want a second opinion!" Without losing a beat, the doctor quips, "Okay, you're ugly too."

The platforming... could be worse.
Really, it's theoretically possible.
This is going to be one of those second opinions. I recently played Bubsy 3D: Furbitten Planet out of morbid curiosity, and while I can't really disagree with the reviews complaining about its horrendous gameplay, I don't think it's what hurts it the most. Keep in mind that Bubsy 3D came out in 1996, when analog thumbsticks weren't standard equipment for game systems. Aside from rare gems like Jumping Flash!, turn-walk-turn was just expected from 3D platformers. Bubsy 3D is certainly not one of the better games in this genre, but it doesn't seem to play much worse than its competitors. I remember Croc on the Sega Saturn being just as cumbersome, with a turning radius that would be more appropriate for a semi hauling lead bricks than a video game mascot. At least Bubsy 3D lets you make minute adjustments to your position and grab the edges of hanging platforms that other characters would miss.

A face even a mother would love
to punch into mush.
No, the big problem with Bubsy 3D is that it's just so damned annoying. I mean, the Bubsy character has never been particularly lovable before, but in Furbitten Planet his personality has shifted into weapons-grade obnoxious. He's now voiced by Lani Minella, doing her best-worst imitation of Flim-Flam from the 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo. (You don't remember this short-lived sidekick, huh? It's probably better that way.) Lani's Bubsy spits out tired catchphrases after hopping on his enemies, or more likely, missing them by a couple of inches and getting injured in the process. If it tells you anything, he actually squeals "Aye caramba!" from time to time, an exclamation even Bart Simpson wouldn't have touched in 1996. Salting the wound is a soundtrack that desperately tries to give the action wacky cartoon ambiance, and only succeeds in giving the player a splitting headache. This is probably the worst music I've ever heard in a video game, and I've been playing them since the 1970s. Wherever Osama bin Ladin is right now, he's probably hearing this soundtrack on endless loop.

So everything you've heard about Bubsy 3D is true. It really is awful; just not for the reasons you were expecting. I could forgive the limitations of mid 1990s technology and the flaws in a genre of games that weren't properly addressed until Super Mario 64 and Spyro the Dragon were released a year later. It's Bubsy himself who ruins this release, with a forced, creaky sense of humor that's too little to entertain and fifty years too late to be relevant. There's a rumor that Bubsy is planning a comeback for 2016... one can only hope he brings new material with him.

Special thanks to Stranno, whose Bubsy 3D playthrough on YouTube provided the images for this blog entry.


  1. Actually, Bubsy 3D came out a month after Super Mario 64 did in the US, so in addition to being a game with an annoying protagonist who won't shut the fuck up it was also directly competing with a game that had a better control scheme than it did thanks to this new revelation called "analog controls."

    Speaking of Croc, at least on the PSone it supports the DualShock Analog to allow for a more free style of movement as an alternative to tank controls. Just so happens it released around the same time window as the DualShock (November 1997), so support for it was added to the game.

    1. I don't think a month makes much of a difference. They certainly couldn't have hit the brakes and fixed all of the game's problems in that span of time (not that they seemed terribly interested in doing that).

      I only played Croc on the Saturn, and lemme tell you, it doesn't play well there at all. I don't know if it had support for the 3D pad that was released later, but I doubt it.

    2. Well yeah, it wouldn't have made a difference control-wise. Bubsy 3D was a PlayStation exclusive, and the PSone wouldn't see an analog controller until a year later. Even so, the game releasing right after Super Mario 64 showed how much better 3D platformers could be with analog sure as hell didn't do the game any favors.

      And according to a quick search, Croc did in fact support the Saturn's 3D controller. Actually, since the pad came as a pack-in with NiGHTS over a year before Croc came out, I would've been more surprised if it hadn't supported it.

      You really need to check your release dates, dude. ^^;

    3. Nobody likes a know-it-all, you know. -_-

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