Games with Attitude: Bubsy in a Dated Movie Reference


Remember when I launched this series on nightmarish oddities from the early 90′s with Dino City, a game that, despite my best instincts, I quite enjoyed? Maybe it was the mental kind of successful, the kind which runs around with a trash bag on its head and starts a new fashion craze, but it wasn’t a complete failure.

Meet Bubsy in Clawed Encounters of the Furred Kind.

Modern gamers have about as much memory of Bubsy as they do of the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind whose title Bubsy “spoofs”. I give “spoofs” quotes first because Close Encounters of the Third Kind not only has become a relatively forgotten film, but also because it was released fifteen years before Bubsy in Clawed Encounters of the Third Kind.

Imagine someone making a first person shooter titled with a Titanic spoof: that’s the level of taste we’re talking about here. And in the game, too.

Bubsy (for the sake of my continued existence on this mortal plane, I’m going to refrain from using its subtitle; rest assured I am not referencing one of its unbelievable three sequels) reminds me most strongly of the terrible modern Sonic the Hedgehog games. Not ones like Sonic Adventure 2, which was secretly brilliant; or Sonic Colors, which was mediocre but playable. I mean things like Sonic’s self-titled adventure, or Shadow the Hedgehog, or that fan game some guy named Rufus made on the internet that played like Sonic exclusively in the fact that you went fast.

“What could possibly go wrong?” Bubsy the anthropomorphic cat himself intones at the beginning of the first level. The first time you play the game, he’ll do this nine times; he will repeat it every time you die unexpectedly and start back at the beginning. You will get the impression that Bubsy was made exclusively to show off the title’s ability to play prerecorded voice samples, and I can neither confirm nor deny this. Just know that Bubsy will ask you, “What could possibly go wrong?” every time the first level restarts. In later levels, he’ll quip terrible puns. They will be less fitting. What could possibly go wrong, Bubsy? How about early 90′s humor dying a painful death in the mid-nineties?

What else could possibly go wrong with Bubsy? How about everything. Okay, Bubsy is an attractive game, in the way 1992′s technical advances can be: the graphics are colorful, the music’s bubbly, the recorded voicework would have been damn impressive in 1992. It got decent reviews back when video game reviewers didn’t know Super Mario Brothers from Dino City. But the game itself, the one where you “pilot” Bubsy around generic platforming levels? Yeesh.

Bubsy represents a cold-hearted attempt to take Sonic the Hedgehog and make money off of it. Bubsy’s sole mechanic is that Bubsy (the critter) is a “fast” dude. Running fast is fun, the developers reason, and they’re not wrong. Going fast is fun! This is the polar opposite of last time’s title, Dino City, which started with a terrible mechanic: geriatric, overweight dinosaurs jumping. You’d forgive me for a shred of optimism: this game wasn’t starting out in the red.

The difference is that Dino City surrounded an awful design choice with a number of exciting ideas. They fucked up, kept on trucking, and produced something you can play in a sort of masochistic way. It’s terrible because its designers messed up one element of the game, and it was incredibly important. Bubsy’s designers took a decent central mechanic and then did everything imaginable to fuck it up.

Here’s my first few lives of Bubsy, rendered for your reading pleasure:

Life one!

What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, Bubsy, let’s do thi—wait. That guy is an enemy? That friendly looking cat? No. He can’t be. Bubsy, let’s go talk to hi—

Life two!

What could possibly go wrong?

Wait, why are we back here? I mean, I guess that guy was an enemy. I’ll give them that. But I kind of just…disappeared. Okay, let’s jump on this tree. Woo! It bounces m—okay, I guess only a third of this tree is bouncy. The rest is like landing on a lead sofa. Well, okay, let’s keep doing this—

Life three!

What could possibly go wrong?

Okay. So, wait. Wait wait wait. I fell. And I took falling damage? And I died? Okay, seriou—

Life four!

What could possibly go wrong?

Bubsy I wanted to jump over the first enemy, not restlessly drift towards him like Roddy Piper. No, Bubsy, I will not put on the glasses. Let’s do this. Jump over the first enemy! Okay! The second one. Hey, it’s a floating exclamation mark. It’s a checkpoint! Yes! Things are looking up! Let’s jump over this ho—

Life five!

What could possibly go wrong?

I guess that falling manhole cover just killed me? I don’t know. I feel like we should figure this ou—

Life six!

What could possibly go wrong?

Yep. The manhole cover killed me with absolutely zero fanfare. Not even an animation. Okay, this time let’s—

Life seven!

What could possibly go wrong?

Bubsy! You drifted into that goddamn manhole cover! You drifted! Okay, Bubsy. Let’s keep our cool.

Twenty magical, boring seconds later, where I jump over two enemies, go up a hill, and collect some shiny things—

Bubsy you beautiful animal! You got to another checkpoint! Let’s jump to the right! Whee—

Life eight!

What could possibly go wrong?

Apparently, I can not only take falling damage: Bubsy can fall down a hill at such intense speed as to trip and break every bone in his body. I guess I’m supposed to go…slower? I guess. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Okay, Bubsy. Slow down the hill. This is it. Slow down the hill—

Life nine!

What could possibly go wrong?

Bubsy! Bubsy! You drifted down the hill! You son of a bitch! Okay. No. Last life. We have to do this. Easy does it, Bubsy. Easy.


Down the hill. Nice, smooth motions. Okay. Okay, here we are. A flat path. A flat path, Bubsy! Now, let’s just go slow. Let’s go slow, Bubsy. Nothing can kill us if we go slowly. Nothi—


In the end, Bubsy, like most small rodents, gets hit by a car. But he’s hit by a car not before all the joy, all the happiness has been sucked from his sad, depressing life. Bubsy is an exercise in making a fun game and then stripping away anything that could possibly be an enjoyable element. In place of a video game is a random death simulator: arbitrary, unpleasant, brutish, and short.

  • BlackTar

    Bubsy was a fun game GFY