“Wait. Accolade is still around?” That’s the first thing that popped into my head as I fired up Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back on my PS4. About ten minutes in, the second thing I thought was that Accolade was not only alive and well, they’d somehow created some sort of time vortex where mid-level mascot character Bubsy came back to the gaming scene with newly polished visuals but the same old gameplay that’s guaranteed to frustrate some players while entertaining a handful of others.
In other words, veteran speedrunners or kids who like a challenge will very likely love this latest “2.5D” entry in the series. However, those who expect something along the lines of the superbly sublime retro-ness of Sonic Mania or Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap may find this a tough ball of yarn to swallow. While it’s got its share of issues, it’s not a terrible game by any means. just one that needs some fixing up. Yep. it’s another one of those gems where patience is key, practice helps out a great deal, and it’s probably another case where a post-release patch or two will help things out greatly.
The plot, in a knot – let’s see now: Bubsy’s yarn-stealing alien foes, the Woolies are back in action and this time, they’ve swiped Bubsy’s precious Golden Fleece along with something like a million balls of yarn. Yes indeed, our bobcat wants his stuff back and yesterday! Yeah, no writing awards are zinging this game’s way, but you’re only here to scoot and scoop up yarn, avoid or bop baddies and try not to die hard during a few cheap boss fights. There’s a certain retro flair here in the gameplay and sprawling levels that takes a bit of getting used to if you’re expecting to simply run from left to right with the occasional jump here and there.
The main problem stems from a cross between Bubsy’s slightly touchy controls and the need to do pinpoint jumps, wall climbs and other fast moves that require perfectly hitting certain spots or enemies in the packed to the gills with visual distractions levels. With a constantly ticking clock reminding you you’re old and slow (well, in my case that’s the truth), you’re going to be rushing through much of the game so quickly and occasionally hitting areas that are tough to beat that replaying levels can be a bit annoying. Granted, platformers are all about repeating levels until you nail them. But this series has been notorious in past installments for being a hairballs hard and that trend continues some 20 years later.
Like those older games and some classic platformers, the game isn’t all that long and frankly, shouldn’t be. Back in the day, finishing a Sonic or other Mascot game was usually a weekend rental thing at best, so it’s nice to see developer Billion Soft not go overboard with the overkill. Well, save for packing the levels so full of distractions that it’s hard to focus on one particular goal. Even on the easiest mode, this is one busy game to complete. I guess 20 years away has made Accolade eager to please anyone and everyone who wants to snap this up.
That said, while I do identify with the Bubster on some primal levels (For example, I tend to walk around indoors wearing only a T-shirt whenever possible and I often quip not so amusing jokes to an invisible audience), this game needs a bit more polish. There are control response issues where it seems Bubsy won’t respond to that jump button press or he may jump a hair too late. You’ll be too busy trying not to die a terrible death to clue into some of this, but it does become an issue when you lose a life. Still, all those power-ups and bonuses that kitty litter levels keep the playing field somewhat unbalanced in some spots, so there’s that karmic balance working for you.
So, should you pounce on this one? I guess that’s all up to you at the end of the day. Expect it to be neither as easy as you think nor as long as you might think. And hey, stop thinking so much and just play more games, okay? The replay value is high if you can get used to the quirks, so there’s that to also take into consideration. You super-competitive types get your leaderboards and no sleep because you’ll see your previously solid times get crushed by some very dedicated players. All I know is I needed a long catnap after getting through this one and I already sleep too much as it is.
Score: C- (70%)
Review code provided by the publisher