The original Bubsy is a mess, but it’s a lovable mess filled with sunglass-wearing giraffes, roller coasters, and egg-throwing enemies who have a yarn ball fetish. It takes a lot of practice to get used to its strange sense of momentum and instant deaths, but despite it being fashionable to see in Bubsy something truly irredeemable, the first game can actually be a lot of fun. I don’t remember a great deal about the second game, but something that’s stuck with me from the few times I rented it as a kid is how the items are really creative, with the black hole that allows you to escape the level really capturing my imagination back then. Point being, whatever your preexisting thoughts are about Bubsy, those first two games at least brought something to the table. Then there’s Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back, a game that breathes fresh life into the series in the same sense that characters being ripped to shreds in a zombie movie before returning as members of the undead technically have fresh life breathed into them. This is an abomination, and that’s coming from someone who could be considered a bit of a Bubsy apologist.
There are 10 levels and 3 boss battles
Oh, and a tutorial level. The kindest thing I can say about The Woolies Strike Back, then, is that it’s mercifully short. The story here is that the woolies steal Bubsy’s golden fleece (I can’t even tell if this is a joke or not), so he takes the fight to them. As a side note, the cutscene that establishes this is weirdly low-quality, consisting of a camera panning and zooming around a static image. The end cutscene consists of a static Bubsy image moving on a different layer than the background image to create the illusion of motion. I’ve seen free flash games with more effort put into their presentation. Speaking of presentation, Bubsy’s tone here is all wrong. In the first game, the shtick was that Bubsy was an unwilling party to the game’s stupidity. Memorable quips like “what could possibly go wrong?” were sarcastic lines intended to point out that the whole venture was ill-advised and that he knew what he was a part of. Here, though, he embraces the line and others without an ounce of self-awareness, which makes the whole thing uniquely cringe-inducing and tone-deaf.
Everything has gone horribly wrong
The physics aren’t great. That’s par for the course in a Bubsy game, of course, but we’re talking the kind of generically awkward physics that don’t manage to even be lovably strange. Bubsy can defeat enemies by jumping on top of them as usual, but just moving around is such a floaty, disconnected experience that I found it strangely unreliable. There’s also a pounce attack, but this manages to be even more useless because the pounce arcs slightly up, meaning you’re liable to jump over whatever enemy or obstacle (because the pounce can break certain barriers) you were actually aiming at. An even more brilliant decision was to make Bubsy shoot up as soon as he hits an enemy with his pounce. This isn’t a necessary component to any of the levels, and attacking enemies with the pounce during boss fights is a bad idea because you’ll inevitably be shot up right into the enemy space ship. Oh, and did I forget to mention that all three boss fights are against space ships? They are.
The boss fights are just awful
The Woolies Strike Back is an easy game, but cranking up the difficulty wouldn’t magically make it more fun. If anything, being able to breeze through the game makes it that much easier for those unlucky enough to have been plagued by its presence to put it behind them. The boss fights can actually be slightly challenging, though, and that difficulty is mostly mental; all three fights involve standing around for uncomfortable moments of time, occasionally dodging the alien ship’s attacks so that you can jump on top of the glass dome once when it deigns to become vulnerable. And you can only get the one attack in—I once managed to get in position for a second hit after the boss’ invulnerability frames ended, but ended up dying despite the “protective electricity” animation not having started back up again.
This highlights a sad truth about the boss fights in this game: they’re harder than the rest of the game, but only because of how incredibly awkward the mechanics are. At one point, I got hit by a projectile that was nowhere near Bubsy. Bad hit detection, check. At another point, the boss would insist on doing a bunch of absurdly long attacks that wore down my patience to the point where I died a bunch of times experimenting for other ways to damage it. There are none. The only way to damage bosses is to watch their ship dance around for 30-45 seconds, dodge a few attacks, and then jump on them. Like the game itself, the whole thing is a giant waste of time.
It also looks and sounds bad
While the graphics here are better than I expected them to be given how the trailers looked, they still have that kind of washed-out, low-detail indie look to them. Levels can be fairly colorful at points, but there are really only 3 different area themes split up over 10 levels, so there’s no opportunity to do anything particularly interesting. Then there’s the music, which is bright and cheery while also being completely forgettable. Part of that comes down to the sound mixing. The catchphrases don’t gel with the background music in the slightest, but that’s nothing compared to how the end-stage fanfare plays while also apparently starting up the new background music, with the two playing over each other in cacophony while a nightmarishly loud “boing” sound is added on top for good measure. It’s needlessly aggravating.