Atari Jaguar

from AEO Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 1

 |||   Bubsy in Fractured Furry Tales
 |||   By: Dimitri Mark LaBarge
/ | \  GEnie: AEO.6   CIS: 71501,3353   AOL: dimitril

You know, it's funny - a year ago, I wouldn't have wanted to get near
a cat. They just seemed to be totally alien to my personality. Then I
moved to Nashville with a house full of cats, and suddenly I found
myself kin with the little beasts. Maybe that explains why I've found
this new version of Bubsy to be such a blast. Or maybe it's just a
whole-heartedly fun game with that most rare of qualities in an age of
"Pick-and-Flick" adventures - undeniable charm.

//// Starters

The game opens with a standard title screen and a perky title song;
from there you can access the Options screen, which lets you pick the
number of players (a nice option is allowing you to select 2 players
with either 1 or 2 joypads), enter passcodes, set your controls and so
forth. From there, you can enter the game at any time.

The game itself consists of fifteen very long levels, broken up into
five motifs of three chapters each. Each motif features a takeoff on a
different fairy tale - the game designers have chosen to lovingly warp
Alice in Wonderland, Jack and the Beanstalk, Arabian Nights, 20,000
Leagues Under the Sea and Hansel & Gretel (with such pun-laden titles
as Alice Doesn't Live Around Here Anymore). Unlike other platformers,
where your actions are almost always the same, the motifs do tend to
affect gameplay. For instance, navigating the cup stairways and
mushrooms in the Alice in Wonderland scenario tends to be a much
different challenge than climbing the ascending beanstalk in the Jack
and the Beanstalk levels, or wobbling around in a bubble in the 20,000
Leagues Under the Sea sequence.

//// Control Yourself

Bubsy has three basic controls, which prove quite effective: Look,
High Jump and Jump/Glide. Using the Look command lets you take a brief
glance in any direction, which can be helpful in spotting a lingering
enemy (very necessary for getting the drop on Tweedle Dum and Tweedle
Dummer, a bigger Menace-2-Society than you might expect). High Jump
give you a nice, long jump, whereas Jump/Glide gives you a brief popup
in the air.

Using the controls in concert propels you a long way towards
completing the game - running and jumping only will cause a very
premature death... remember, you're a cat, not an Italian plumber. For
instance, jumping on your enemies to bop them out of existence is a
bit of a trick proposition - but using your high jump, and then
activating the jump/glide button will give you a short, easily
controlled flight to your adversary's doom. This is even more
effective when combined with a run - simply a matter of holding down
the directional pad either left or right. Using this, you can achieve
glides of fairly startling distances. I find the control very well
designed, and the joypad is greatly suited to this sort of game.

//// Bag o'Goodies

Bubsy has a few tools to help him on his journey - a T-shirt to add an
extra Bubsy to your count. You start out with a generous ten Bubsys,
but in fine cat tradtion, you get that many lives because you NEED
them. Level markers are placed at strategic locations, letting you
start from that position should you die prematurely. Another T-shirt
will give you invincibility for a short time, and you can open crates
with random contents (my favorite is one that explodes with bananas,
making the surface you're on very slippery if you start to run). A
password is provided upon the completion of each individual level,
which is a godsend. Last but not least is a transporter device, which
can take you through a shortcut within levels. You'll have to look
carefully to find the needed switches to open up important areas in
the game.

//// The Blue (Green, and Red) Meanies

The enemies are a varied lot, and while there are certain generic
enemies that seem to show up with unwelcome frequency between the
motifs (there are psychotic wasps that are a bit too difficult and
random to handle - you have to jump and glide into them - they're even
worse when they start flying in packs on later levels), on the whole,
the enemies are well chosen and sweetly animated for each level.

Playing cards, Cheshire Cats and White Rabbits can be found in the
first three levels, whereas thugs such as harem guards and stabbing
sharks patrol later levels (and don't even ask me about the hamster in
the submarine). Bosses such as the Mad Hatter also show up for an
added challenge at the end of each motif. A lot of thought was put
into bringing these characters to life - for instance, the Ali
Baba-style harem guard lunges at you almost immediately to split you
in half, but if you jump and glide down upon him, he's too dumb to
look up. In the best Chuck Jones style, he starts looking left, right,
and at his feet until doom descends upon him.

Bubsy is as well-animated as the rest, especially when he gets tired
of waiting for you to move and knocks on the television screen for
your attention... The only complaint I have in this area is that
there's not enough variety between levels. While the first level in
each motif is filled with these imaginative enemies and character
designs, they generally don't change after the first level featuring
them, leading to an unfortunate monotony.

//// Levelling With You

The game levels... well, they are long. Long. Oh boy, looooooong.
While they're well-thought out, and definitely keep the game a
challenge for longer than you'd expect, after you've died a bunch of
times you start to wonder if you've hit upon way too much of a good
thing. This may be a by-product of the same affliction as the enemies
- wonderful artifacts of invention are extremely pleasing in the first
level of the motif, but when they don't really change or add anything
new in the second or third rounds of that fantasy scenario, then some
of the fun tends to drain out. Perhaps this game was designed too
well, because the good stuff is so well designed that it's a letdown
when you don't get more of it.

However, the challenges that are there are nicely developed. My
favorite have been the mushroom patches, some of which just seem to
go up forever. The game takes into account the curved surfaces of
the mushrooms, and gives you a struggle to balance yourself to the
top of the 'shroom (and smaller ones are harder still!). Slippery
rocks work the same way, and it's a good (if maddening) touch.

You'll need your jumping and gliding skills to get across some of the
wide, wide lakes - remember, cats HATE water! - as well as avoiding
fatal falls down hollow wells.

//// A Graphic Analysis

The graphics and animation, as mentioned before, are by far the best
aspect of the game. Lovely parallax scrolling enhances the gorgeous,
stylized fantasy backdrops while your enemies pass by in fluidly
animated style. There's a fine spirit of Warner Bros. working here,
and is what lends the game its charm. If Bubsy slams into a wall, not
only does he conk out with birds floating above him, but he starts
swiping at the birds; grumpy-looking cactii look at you suspiciously
then charge you. The color selections are well chosen, and the
graphics are by far the crispest of any of the Bubsy versions.

//// Sounding Off

The only truly weak spot in the game is its sound and music. It's
not that they're if low quality - they're not. In fact, they
definitely impress on first listen - each level opens with a nice
sample of Bubsy saying some smartalec remark. It's the listens after
that when they start to grate. Now, the bips and bops of Bubsy
collecting point coins and leaping on enemies are inoffensive and
nothing special, but nothing distracting either. Unfortunately,
that's the best that can be said.

Again, we wind up with the problem of repetition dimishing the game a
bit. While I like the speech sample that opens the level, it doesn't
vary except between motifs. The same is true of the music. While these
two items are of good quality, it makes the whole game suffer when you
have to go through them again everytime you die. This is the one area
of the game that needed a great more improvement. This wouldn't have
been such a big drag if you could just turn it off - and with the
music, you can. But you still have to listen to that sample every time
you start over, and you do tend to start thinking of more pleasant
things to do than going through that again - like shoving bamboo
shoots underneath Bubsy's nails.

In the end, don't make any more of it than it actually is. Bubsy is an
all-around fun game, with some absolutely wonderful elements compromised
slightly by repetition; but in this reviewer's opinion, the platformer
of choice for the Jag, and a perfectly priced Darn Good Time (TM).

//// Final Ratings

      Title: Bubsy in Fractured      Price: $49.95(US)
                Fairy Tales         JagNet: No
 Programmed: Imagitic Design       Players: 1-2
  Publisher: Atari              Age Rating: K-A (Kids to Adult 6+)

  Le Summary du ratings:
          "*" is a whole
          "+" is a half
        5 stars maximum

  Control: ***   Easy to play, but jumping and gliding takes some
 Gameplay: ***   Addicting and fun, but too much of the same thing
                 dulls excitement.
 Graphics: ***+  Terrific and imaginative. Half a point off for
                 repetition, though.
    Sound: *+    I don't think so. Headphones with Peter Gabriel or
                 Zamfir required.
  Overall: ***   Not a must buy, but a clever, funny platformer.

Pts Stars  AEO Ratings
""" """""  """""""""""
 10 *****  GAMING NIRVANA!!! - You have left reality behind... for good.
  9 ****+  Unbelieveable GAME!! - Your family notices you're often absent.
  8 ****   Fantastic Game!! - You can't get enough playtime in on this.
  7 ***+   Great Game! - Something to show off to friends or 3DOers.
  6 ***    Good game - You find yourself playing this from time to time.
  5 **+    Ho-hum - If there's nothing else to do, you play this.
  4 **     Waste of time - Better to play this than play in traffic.
  3 *+     Sucks - Playing in traffic sounds like more fun.
  2 *      Sucks Badly - You'd rather face an IRS audit than play this.
  1 +      Forget it - ... but you can't; it's so badly done, it haunts you.
  0 -      Burn it - Disallow programmer from ever writing games again.

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