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Bubsy II

Genre: Platform Developer: Accolade Publisher: Accolade Players: 1 Released: 1994

You know, I always wanted to like Bubsy Bobcat. He’s cute, he’s charming, he has “attitude”. The shirt with an exclamation point is a neat idea. Obviously, Accolade wanted Bubsy to be a popular mascot; unfortunately, the games were never much good to back it up. The first Bubsy was an otherwise generic platformer that suffered from broken controls and cheap deaths that made it a very bad game. This sequel, a much bigger game with themed levels, mini games, and purchasable items, is a big improvement, but still falls well short of the mark.

The story, which is told in a pretty cool comic book in the instruction manual, is that an evil pig-businessman named Oinker P. Hamm has stolen elements of the world’s history in order to put them on display in a museum called the “Amazatorium”.

When you start the game, you’re given a choice of what course you want to take. The Amazatorium is divided into two wings, each of which has three floors: an easy, a medium, and a hard floor. Each floor has five levels, for a total of 30 – there’s a pretty big game here if you want it. You can pick just one floor to play (5 levels and a boss), or you can play a “grand tour” and play through an entire wing (15 levels, three bosses). This is a nice touch, as it lets you decide how long to play and how difficult it will be.

The gameplay is pretty average platforming fare – jump on the bad guys to defeat them, multiple times in some cases. Bubsy can glide (fall more slowly) by holding B in midair, which is necessary to avoid death from high falls. Accolade improved upon the previous Bubsy and cut down on cheap deaths by making Bubsy take three hits instead of just one to die, but there are still plenty of instant-death traps that can be hard to see coming and make the game frustrating at times.

Bubsy II, being a 16-bit era platformer, naturally has plenty of collectibles. Marbles are scattered plentifully throughout the levels; however, they do nothing but give you points, so they really don’t add much to the game. More interesting are trading cards, which can be traded at the end of levels for items, including extra lives, a portable cartoon hole that lets you exit a level, and ammunition for Bubsy’s Nerf Ballzooka, an amusingly blatant product tie-in that makes disposing of the game’s many enemies a good bit easier. One of my favorite items is the diving suit, which, when you put it on and jump into some water, takes you to an underwater bonus level. It’s a throwaway element of the game, but turning a hazard into a bonus opportunity is a neat idea.

There are five different themes for the levels, and each floor has one of each type. The aviation stages feature side-scrolling shoot-em-up gameplay as Bubsy rides in a old-fashioned biplane. The plane on these stages is a bit too large on the screen for my liking and difficult to turn around quickly, making it easy to crash into things, and your weapon isn’t as effective as it should be, but these levels still have a nice fast pace and feature the game’s most enjoyable, fluid gameplay.

The big problem with Bubsy II is that there isn’t enough variation in the levels. Within a single theme, every level has all the same objects and enemies – only the level design is changed. With six levels on each theme, you’re bound to feel after a while that you’re playing the same level over again. For me, the aviation and music themes were interesting enough to stay fresh, but the others got old really fast. The bosses, which you’d expect to break the equilibrium, don’t help at all, as they have even less variety. The bosses seem to be thrown in as an afterthought and are so badly done that I think the game would be better off without them.

A two-player mode is also included, in which the second player controls Bubsy’s niece or nephew, who floats around the screen freely. If you select “two-player friendly” mode, the second player can attack enemies, which certainly makes the game a lot easier. In “two- player feisty” mode, the second player actually tries to disrupt the first by dropping banana peels in Bubsy’s path, something that is really frustrating and can’t be much fun – not for the first player, at any rate. Either way, the two-player mode is minimal at best and doesn’t have much for the second player to do.

The music is a bit of a weird point in this game – some of it sounds like it could have been decent, but as you play the game, the music changes so often that it sounds jerky and unnatural. The audio just gets the job done, including voice clips that, while sounding pretty good, just aren’t funny (as Bubsy says, “who wrote this stuff?”).

Graphically, Bubsy II has a few high points but is mostly bland, with dull colors, mostly static backgrounds, and generic-looking enemies. Bubsy himself is pretty well-animated, and he has some humorous death animations that might make you crack a smile. The music theme has some colorful graphics and weird enemies and objects that make for a nice change of pace.

Bubsy II starts you off with some pleasant surprises, but once you get past the novelty of the game’s extra features, it falls into repetition and mediocrity. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad game – you can still definitely get some fun out of it, especially if you choose to take one floor at a time. It does become boring after a while, though, and there are much better platformers on the Genesis you could spend your time on instead.

SCORE: 5 out of 10

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