Diehard GameFAN Hall of Shame: Bubsy 3D

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Bubsy 3D
Developer: Eidetic
Publisher: Accolade
Release Date: 10/31/1996
System Released On: Sony PlayStation
Genre: 3D Platformer

Who Nominated The Game: I did.

Why Was It Nominated: Bubsy was never much of a franchise. The creator himself, Michael Berlyn, claimed that Bubsy was inspired by marathon gaming sessions of Sonic the Hedgehog. This combined with other games “inspired” by Sonic in what I like to call the Great Mascot Rush of the Mid 90s. Everyone felt they had to make a mascot game. Most of them sucked. The first Bubsy was notable in just how mediocre it was; it got decent reviews, but standards were pretty low in those days, as people were mostly impressed that games had voices in those days, let alone irreverant one-liners. Then Bubsy II came out. More mascot! More one-liners! More mediocrity! All in all, Bubsy was looking at fading into history as just another nondescript mascot of its era, in the same vein as Rocky Rodent, Bug and Gex. Fucking Gex.

After Bubsy II – a game which Berlyn said “almost killed the franchise” – development started on a 3D form of Bubsy for the PlayStation. Right off the bad, the game had two strikes against it, as no one on the team had any experience working with 3D technology, nor did anyone – anywhere – have experience doing a 3D platformer. This combination, to most neutral observers, would automatically mean that the game won’t be good. However, it didn’t stop a similar game from Nintendo from being good: Super Mario 64, which just happened to have been developed at the same time. As Mr. Berlyn himself stated:

I took one look at Mario and said, ‘Oh, crap.’

Therefore, calling the game a “Mario clone” as people have been wont to do for years is not accurate. However, calling it a terrible game is. The controls were atrocious – you couldn’t control Bubsy as much as hope to steer him – and the graphics – if you could call them that – looked like something out of a surrealist painting. This was in addition to the constant, neverending one-liners which made Gex seem reserved. It was like having Dane Cook in your living room, only he was specifically trying to annoy you instead of just doing it by being him. It was every negative aspect of mid-90s game design, stuffed onto one disc.

After Bubsy 3D, Michael Berlyn was able to take the things he learned on that game and apply them to a game that was actually decent: Syphon Filter. However, by this time, the former author had become jaded by the entire games business and left it before Syphon Filter was completed. He ended up starting up a dot.com that went down when that bubble burst, and went back to making indie games, which he enjoyed much more than big-budget titles. The last thing Mr. Berlyn’s been known to do was with a jazz band he’d started called Hot Mustard.

All in Favour:

Christopher Bowen: There is some consideration that has to be taken for Bubsy 3D being one of the first 3D platformers. However, there is no excuse for the level of incompetence this game showed. Everything about the game was either uninspired or completely broken. The graphics looked like a bad tech demo, and while I can understand the era and lack of technological advancements playing into things, the game’s look actively hurt the game and made it harder to play. Also, as I stated above, I had it up to my wit’s end with mascot titles and their marketing department driven ‘tude when I was a teenager, and age has not dispelled my hatred of them.

Once you add in the historic hatred of the title, the death of the Bubsy franchise as a result, and the fact that Accolade was absorbed into Infogrames a few years later, it’s hard to see Bubsy 3D as anything but a historic failure on every level possible.

All Opposed:

Mark B.: Now, it’s common knowledge that the Bubsy series is one of the worst ever, full of games that were AT BEST mediocre. The 2D platformers were often generally boring and poorly designed, and the character himself is a cat in a t-shirt, which ranks fairly high on the “least inspired main characters of all time” list. But is Bubsy 3D so terrible a game that it deserves to be immortalized as one of the worst games of all time? The platformers certainly aren’t as bad as all that now, after all, so is the 3D game really all that bad?

Well, to me personally, the answer is “no”, but that’s really only by the slimmest of margins.

The 3D visuals are spotty at best; the backgrounds look like they belong in one of the many terrible Jaguar games on the market, the characters look adequate at the best of times, and compared to two games that came out for the Playstation at the same time, Resident Evil and Tomb Raider, it’s a wonder this game was released in this sort of visual condition. The game isn’t especially fun to play, and while there’s some fun to be had if you’re a platformer fan, the physics of the game are off a bit, so you’ll have a bit of a learning curve in store if you want to play the game. The music is adequate, Bubsy himself is kind of a prat, and the game has not even held up remotely well by today’s standards.

That said, I’m willing to give it a pass for one reason, and one reason only: at the point in time when the game was released, 3D platformers were still something of a novelty, and as such, the two most obvious games that this can be compared to, Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario 64, both came out THAT SAME YEAR. I mean, I’m not saying Bubsy 3D would somehow seem to be a good game had those games not come out, nor am I saying that more time in development would have made it good. However, I AM saying that, when looked at as an experimental first effort released by a company with no experience in making such games around the time that similar games were first coming out, the game simply isn’t bad enough for me to overlook that. It’s boring, unpleasant looking and flawed, but it’s not broken to a point of being unplayable by a mildly determined player, and can basically be considered a failed experiment as much as anything else, so, eh, nah.

Result: 1 In Favour, 1 Opposed, 50% Approval = SPARED DUE TO LACK OF VOTES

Conclusion: When we were collecting votes for this game, what was notable to me was the lack of votes; I don’t think we’ve had a game receive so few votes. However, the explanation of most of the no votes had a recurring theme: I didn’t play the game because I hated the first two. Indeed, this might be the first game ever spared because its predecessors were so reviled.

Next Week: We take a look at one of our 32 Worst Horror Games, as well as something that destroyed the legacy of a popular horror movie franchise.



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3 responses to “Diehard GameFAN Hall of Shame: Bubsy 3D”

  1. Samuraiter Avatar

    (Oh, good, I spelled ‘Samuraiter’ correctly this time.) I would also give this game a pass, but for a different reason: The creator has acknowledged, as you have noted, that the game IS crap! That gives it at least one redeeming quality, IMO. The games that ought to be worrisome are the ones the creators treat as solid gold, but are still crap. (Looking at you, FFXIII, except that even Square Enix will say that it “missed opportunities” there.)

  2. Justin Holmes Avatar
    Justin Holmes

    I do wonder if most people who slag the first Bubsy have played it for any real length of time, if at all. I’d say it’s an ambitious but very average platformer that gains points on presentation. I might even go so far as to call it an unpolished gem among a vast sea of middling 16-bit platformers.

    Now the sequels? They deserve the venom. Bubsy II particularly.

  3. Phil Avatar

    Bubsy 3D was not worthwhile in any way, shape, or form. However it did not cause the death knell of the franchise, since it was already dead and gone in the first place. Even a playable but unspectacular Bubsy (The ceiling more or less) probably would not have generated any future installments of such an unremarkable mascot.

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