If you had told me one year ago that I’d be reviewing a Bubsy game, I would’ve thought you were crazy. Bubsy the Bobcat seemed like a cringy 90’s mascot that would forever be stuck in that era and only live on through videos about him and memes on the internet. But lo and behold, developer Accolade was revived earlier this year, and alongside this revival it was revealed that Black Forest Games was working on Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back — the first Bubsy game in over 21 years, following up the famously atrocious Bubsy 3D.
Since the news broke about Bubsy’s return, I have been the unofficial DualShockers hype man for the game, even managing to get @’ed and followed by the official Bubsy account on Twitter. Behind all the jokes and sarcasm, I was actually really curious to see how Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back turned out and was willing to give the title a fair chance.
Unfortunately, while the Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is passable at its core and is probably the best game in the Bubsy series, it is incredibly short and extremely overpriced for what it is. The game is really only worth checking out if you are super obsessed with Bubsy because you will otherwise be left with a really underwhelming experience, and even that is hard to endorse due to the hefty pricetag.
Plot is almost non-existent in Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back, as you’d expect it to be. As soon as you boot up the game a very short cutscene shows that they Woolies have stolen Bubsy’s prized Golden Fleece, so it is up to Bubsy to get it back. That plot never goes any deeper than that, but it doesn’t need to. Most 2D platformers from Bubsy’s era barely had any story, and Bubsy’s large… personality is what mostly drew people to his games.
While Bubsy is equipped with a few quips to say throughout the adventure, I even found that part of Bubsy’s distinct character underplayed in Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back. There is actually a meter in the game where players can adjust how many quips they want to hear from Bubsy throughout the adventure. Wanting to fully “immerse” myself in the game, I cranked it up all the way, and it honestly didn’t feel much different than when I only had the meter at 50%.
There seemed to be very few lines for Bubsy to pull from, and even those only applied in a few situations, like when Bubsy glides or pounces. Some of his remarks can be funny but in general they are highly forgettable and fell flat most of the time for me.
Even if Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back had other problems, I was hoping that the meme and cringe factor of Bubsy as a character would help the game stand out more. But as is, Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is just a mediocre platformer with the occasional underwhelming quip to remind you that you are playing a Bubsy game.
Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is also a fairly basic platformer, though Bubsy has a few moves that can spice things up. His nonsensical glide is back and can serve as a double jump if players decide not to hold the glide button. This ability is useful for getting to a few hard-to-reach areas, but can also make some levels a breeze. Bubsy also touts a new ability: pouncing. At the press of a button, Bubsy can pounce at an arc to break through some walls and attack Woolies. The attack’s arc made it somewhat hard to aim pounces at first, but once I got used to it, the ability brought some welcome mobility to the table.
While Bubsy dies after only one hit (which can be frustrating), players start each stage with nine lives (get it?) and there are checkpoints aplenty within each level, which makes the game pretty forgiving and easy. Bubsy feels better to control in Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back than he ever has before. He is no longer going at a frustratingly fast sonic-speed or relying on tank controls to get around.
Developer Black Forest Games has quite a lot of experience developing platformers, so they at least know how to make them work well fundamentally. From a pure, unadulterated gameplay perspective, Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back probably plays the best out of any game in the entire series. Regrettably, the level and general graphical design don’t really compliment the gameplay as well as the should.
The backgrounds of each level actually look quite nice as they are colorful and varied in design, and a catchy soundtrack helps to provide some nice atmosphere for each stage. The actual levels and characters in the foreground, however, look very low-budget and out of place up close. I found the character models of Bubsy and the Woolies to look very crude and basic when compared to the more vibrant backgrounds.
The level select menu also looks very bland and fitting for a mobile game, which is extremely disappointing for a $30 console release. A little more time put into the graphical design would’ve gone a long way, especially for a series known for having terrible graphics.
Levels are fairly straightforward, left-to-right affairs but have a lot to collect within them. Hundreds of balls of yarn populate each stage, and collecting several of them in a row will build up a combo meter to increase one’s score, which can be displayed on online leaderboards. Each platforming stage also has five keys for players to find that will unlock a special vault which contains tons of yarn at the end of the level. Shirts that give Bubsy extra hits points or lives are also placed throughout and will fulfill items on checklists that will scratch the completionist itch for many.
Every four stages a boss level is thrown in, where players fight larger enemies in a UFO. These bosses actually brought a refreshing change of pace to Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back, and all build on each other. With that said, they can get very boring once you get the hang of their attacks and are just waiting for them to go through the motions so you can attack again. There are also only three bosses, which highlights the game’s biggest flaw: it’s way too short.
There are only fourteen stages in Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back, and all of these levels can be beaten between two and ten minutes depending on how many collectibles you are aiming to find. Those looking to just breeze through the game can probably finish it in around an hour, and completionists will probably end up spending only four or five hours on it.
With only three worlds and fourteen levels, the level designs are never in play long enough to become interesting or tough, leaving Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back with a very bad value proposition at its $30 price tag.
If Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back cost around or under $10, it could be written off as just another mediocre platformer with a somewhat catchy soundtrack that is testing the waters to revive an older IP But as it stands, the title is extremely overpriced. It didn’t deliver on Bubsy’s trademark cringy and snarky nature enough to entice those here for the infamous character himself, and its price-to-content ratio is really off. Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is probably the best Bubsy game ever made from a pure gameplay standpoint — but to be fair, the standards weren’t that high to begin with.
I really wanted Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back to be good, or at least entertainingly bad, but I was just left with a tepid, overpriced, and somewhat generic 2D platformer that wasn’t funny or fulfilling enough to justify a $30 purchase. If you are really dedicated to the character, I would wait until it drops to around $5 or $10. Once you beat the game, Accolade promises that “Bubsy will be back soon,” so let’s just hope his next outing is funnier, lengthier, and more memorable than Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back. Bubsy 3D 2 anyone?