Bubsy the bobcat returns in Bubsy: The Woolies Strikes Back, out now for Xbox One, PS4 and Steam. We reviewed the Playstation version after playing the original game back in the day on the Atari Jaguar.
The fact that Atari’s Jaguar was one of the initial platforms for Bubsy shows how far back the franchise goes, but it’s also been a long time since we’ve seen this particular bobcat in a videogame. It’s been over 20 years since Bubsy 3D, and that’s the only title I never played since I didn’t own a Playstation. The Woolies Strikes Back returns to the series’ 2D roots, and it also brings back the famous Accolade label from the eighties and nineties.
Gameplay-wise, Bubsy: The Woolies Strikes Back feels closest to Rayman – although it’s a budget version that doesn’t feel quite as polished. Where Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends both evolved the 2D platformer to incorporate modern day elements, The Woolies Strikes Back feels like it was lifted straight from the early nineties and released on a brand new platform – a bit like the Bubsy Two-Fur Pack on Steam that came out not too long ago.
On the plus side, Bubsy’s retro approach makes it instantly accessible and easy to play. Running and jumping around is both familiar and functional, and it’s just the pounce move that takes some getting used to. Where Rayman has his punch, Bubsy launches himself forward to attack, bobcat-style. Satisfying when it works, but frustrating when it doesn’t – as long as you’re not inside a narrow space you’ll often resort to jumping over or on top of your enemies instead. This works for most enemies, though you’ll still need your pounce attack on breakable walls every now and then.
Aside from regular foes, you’ll also frequently run into bosses that require a bit more finesse – focusing on their attack patterns in order to stay alive and deal damage. Though bosses aren’t as diverse or fun as they are in other platformers, they are a nice change of pace from the standard platforming. Bosses clearly show their weak spots, but they’re shielded for large portions of the boss fights – making these boss fights a good test of patience and ability.
Bubsy: The Woolies Strikes Back is a relatively short game, featuring no more than 11 stages without offering too much diversity between them. The settings differ between levels, but gameplay styles mostly don’t – aside from the boss fights. Here too, the comparison to Rayman doesn’t help the game – especially when you consider that Rayman Legends and Rayman Origins can be bought for approximately the same price.
Within the retro-inspired 2D platforming genre, there are better choices available than Bubsy’s latest. Still, it’s good to see a beloved character like this return to the screen – and we’re hoping a more elaborate and diverse sequel is somewhere on the horizon. Until then, this is worth a look if you’re fond of the original and don’t mind a lack of innovation. So if you were excited about Bubsy Two-Fur then you’ll certainly enjoy this slice of retro platforming as well. If not, then you might want to stick with some of the better alternatives out there. Bubsy’s latest relies too much on its legacy to truly warrant a recommendation.