Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is what happens when a meme goes too far. Often cited as a mascot character that never had a good game, Bubsy was subject to the attention of aspiring YouTubers taking a cheap shot. This then sparked the attention of one entrepreneur, who then revived the Accolade brand and thus tasked Black Forest Games to grab a defibrillator and resurrect Bubsy for one more game.
I will hold my hand up and say that I was one of those children who bought Bubsy the Bobcat on the Sega Mega Drive, oddly shaped cartridge and all. For what it was worth, I did like the game at the time, but I persevered through what were obvious flaws and somehow managed to complete the game – great elation as I beat the final boss. Beating Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back in one sitting in under 2 hours left a bitter taste in comparison.
That’s the game’s major problem: It’s far too short as a typical platforming experience. From booting the game up, I had managed to finish the game in such a short amount of time that I think writing this review has taken longer! For the asking price, even the special promotional price that was on Steam at launch, there isn’t enough content. When a game can be finished in one sitting without breaking a sweat or getting that fulfilment some shorter games have, it leaves the buyer feeling hollow.
Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is also rather slow paced. No longer wishing to hurl himself into danger at breakneck speeds or die due to falling without gliding, it’s probably the most playable game Bubsy has ever starred in. He has two moves on top of his jump; gliding and bouncing. Bouncing hurls him for a short distance, breaking walls and killing foes. It’s surprisingly useful for clearing certain gaps, but as movesets go it is rather barebones.
Visuals are inoffensive, in keeping with Black Forest Games’ art style to the point I could tell it was them who made it without seeing their name. Yet despite some pretty backgrounds, the enemies are a bit bland. One of Bubsy’s best achievements in the first game was kitting the Woolies in various hats and wigs. It created a distinctive look that made enemies seem more varied than they actually were.
That said, Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back has even fewer enemy types that one can count them on one hand. Each of the handful of levels spanning three worlds have tons of flying enemies circling around wool, as well as two walking variants, a robot, and a UFO that shoots projectiles to dodge. Things pick up a little bit in the third world, but by that time the damage is already done.
Bosses in Bubsy have been anywhere from chaotic projectile filled messes or ridiculously easy. To Black Forest Games’ credit here, they’ve created three bosses with multiple phases that have set patterns. While the first and last bosses aren’t too much to write home about, the second boss uses the environment to enable Bubsy to avoid attacks, making for a fun encounter. Even if Bubsy dies though, your progress is saved; meaning none of the encounters should trouble anyone too much.
There is a sense of challenge in that the three side objectives in each level: Collecting 5 keys to open a vault full of wool, collecting all the wool in one level, and collecting all the t-shirts without getting hit once. For those who want to get more out of the game than it has any right to give, this will add a few more hours on top, but in reality you’d only be delaying the inevitable realisation that you’ve been ripped off.
Lastly, let’s talk about Bubsy himself. In the first game, he’d spout some puns or quips at the start of each level. In the two 2D sequels he’d spurt out more nonsense catchphrases that didn’t make any sense. In Bubsy 3D, he was essentially giving the developers a special massage with all the nice things he said about them. Here, he’s back to a more “wisecracking” self, but he talks way too much, often repeating the same phrase about gliding to the point where he becomes irritating. Mercifully however, there is a slider that when turned all the way down makes him mute.
Sound is also where Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back falls a little flat. Generic sound effects presumably taken from a sound library are combined with music that doesn’t massively impress and is repetitive. I do admit that the final world’s music is better than anything before it, but the repetitiveness makes even this outstay its welcome.
I do admire the effort, but in a year where Sonic Mania outdid its franchise’s reputation and Mario stands tall, Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is a mere afterthought. Its length is pathetically short and, surprisingly for Bubsy at least, the game is really easy. Not everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong, yet if this is the pinnacle of Bubsy games, then the poor Bobcat should be laid to rest in peace.
Version Tested: PC