Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back is a mess in every single possible way. I had a far more well-written intro to this review already done, but I don’t think I can convey how utterly terrible Bubsy is while trying to remain as professional as I usually am. Bubsy represents a terrible trend of tired self-awareness that tries to excuse bland gameplay and miserable level design. Don’t play Bubsy, and don’t buy it ironically.
Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back
Developer: Black Forest Games
Platform: PS4 and PC
MonsterVine was supplied with a PS4 code for review
Who wanted to bring Bubsy back? I’m actually asking, who seriously wanted a new Bubsy game? I’m asking because I really can’t understand why the most notoriously failed gaming mascot would receive a new game in the year 2017. I get that it started as a joke, but the joke has long since gone stale. If Bubsy is supposed to be a comedic act, it’s more “Kramer at the Laugh Factory” than “Chapelle at the Lincoln Theater.”
The Woolies Strike Back is about Bubsy trying to reclaim a ball of golden wool from the titular Woolies, a race of abstract-art inspired aliens. Outside of a couple still images in the intro and ending, there are no cutscenes or narrative-based content. I don’t expect much story from a platformer, but zooming into different parts of images just feels lazy. Be sure to make a mental note of that, as “lazy” is a recurring theme in The Woolies Strike Back.
The Woolies Strike Back plays like shovelware. Bubsy is floaty and he slides for a solid second when you try to stop him. The hitboxes on enemies are broken, as sometimes you’ll just die from jumping too far onto one side on top of an enemy. This makes Bubsy’s new ability, pouncing, a lot harder to use. When you pounce, Bubsy propels himself forward, killing any enemies he hits. If you miss even slightly, you’ll probably die, taking away from your hilariously numbered nine lives. Pouncing could have been an actually fun part of The Woolies Strike Back, but the mediocrity of every other aspect of the game essentially cripples the potential of this feature. Bubsy’s classic gliding ability is intact, but you fall so fast that it serves as little more than a slightly longer jump. Using the camera can often allow you to look through a level, which really cements that “unfinished” feeling.
The level design in The Woolies Strike Back is atrocious, as it tries and fails to make large stages with branching routes like in Sonic CD or Sonic Mania. Bubsy’s levels don’t go anywhere and, despite their size, don’t really allow for any meaningful deviations from the obviously telegraphed main path. While you can explore small areas to collect yarn, it’s entirely pointless as there’s no reason to collect the game’s main currency. Collecting all the yarn in a stage does nothing but tell you that you collected all the yarn, which isn’t particularly rewarding in any way. Bosses are no better than the levels, as they are all generic UFOs with little variation in both their appearances and their movesets. Strangely enough, bosses retain the damage they’ve taken after you lose a life. So if you wanted to repeatedly fight the first phase of a boss (as I did against the first boss), you can just hit it and die to a later phase. If this doesn’t strike you as a red flag in terms of effort, I can’t help you.
For a game whose entire social media campaign was based on self-awareness and poking fun at Mario and Sonic, Bubsy has a shocking lack of actual introspection. Though Bubsy constantly makes jokes (and I use that term lightly) at the expense of actually iconic characters, it comes off as a misplaced act of self-confidence. The Woolies Strike Back isn’t a competent enough game to make these jokes, as they come off as entirely oblivious. Laughing at how bad your past games were while you’re in a bad game doesn’t work. It rarely even works in good games, so why try it in the worst reboot since Bomberman: Act Zero?
The Woolies Strike Back looks like a subpar mobile game. Bubsy’s model is straight out of the Xbox Live Arcade launch era, and the levels are presented in a way that is as interesting as doing your taxes. There are basically very few enemy designs, which are more often than not just reskins of Woolies, and three incredibly similar boss designs. The game is made up of three whole level themes: farmland, Nevada, and space. None of the themes overstay their welcome because not only are they milquetoast, but they’re only around for three or so levels a piece. The Woolies Strike Back is a mercifully short game, clocking in at a whopping hour and a half at the very most. Please remember that this game is being sold for $29.99 in the US and $39.99 in Canada.
The sound in The Woolies Strike Back is straight out of a lazy app from the Google Play Store. Droning and “wacky”, the tunes are some of the least memorable I’ve ever heard. I can’t remember a single one, I only remember how grating they were. Then there’s Bubsy’s voice, good lord who could forget about his voice? Cat puns, general observations, and movie references litter Bubsy’s lexicon in a way that makes poor JRPG fan translations from the 90’s look competent. As hilarious as it is to hear Bubsy say the same lines every five minutes, I recommend going into the options and turning his “verbosity” (read; “humor”) all the way down, and just to be safe, his voice as well. While you’re on the pause menu, you could actually just quit the game if you have any respect for your own free time.
The Final Word
Did you know that Cuphead and Sonic Mania actually cost less than Bubsy and can run on basically any computer? Instead of ironically buying Bubsy, buy an actually enjoyable game, because Bubsy is very much the opposite. Bubsy isn’t fun or funny, he’s actually more obnoxious than ever. Don’t let developers make games because of their “meme status”. Don’t play this game. Don’t buy it ironically. Ignore it and hope that it goes away, because it’s nothing short of a cat-astrophe. There, I made a Bubsy pun. A lazy, obnoxious Bubsy pun. This review is over, and it was probably longer than The Woolies Strike Back.
– MonsterVine Rating: 1 out of 5 – Abys-meow-l