After nearly 20 years on the sidelines an old mascot returns. What could possibly go wrong?
Bubsy, a series of platformer games from the early ’90s based on its bobcat mascot, is on the comeback trail for a potential release on Steam.
The 16-bit, 2D platformers Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind (1993) and Bubsy II (1994), are both now up for voting on Steam Greenlight.
The two games are being revived by a company called Retroism in a single release named Bubsy Two-Fur. If the campaign gets enough votes from the community, Bubsy Two-Fur will see a commercial release.
It’s not clear how much these games are being updated for a modern Steam release in Bubsy Two-Fur. The Steam Greenlight trailer makes this new release appear to only be a relatively straight port of the original two games, which both came out on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. There was a Windows 95 PC port of the first game called Super Bubsy in 1995 but it wasn’t revealed what version each game will be based on.
The company is aiming to release Bubsy Two-Fur by the end of the year. The game will cost $4.99.
The Greenlight page has a humorous way of describing these old games and Bubsy’s reputation. “Accolade’s most notorious character had not been seen since an ill-fated venture into 3D. Out of the blue, he showed up at Retroism’s doorstep, bedraggled and mumbling about being doomed to a legacy of shame and obscurity.”
Bubsy was designed and created by Michael Berlyn, a longtime developer of text adventure games for personal computers throughout the 1980s like Suspended: A Cryogenic Nightmare (1983) while at Infocom, a studio well-known for that genre. The Bubsy series was developed at and published by Accolade, a now defunct video game developer and publishing company started in 1984 by former Activision founders and original Atari developers. Accolade was also known for the Test Drive franchise.
The Bubsy character design was a bobcat wearing a white shirt bearing a red exclamation mark, with no pants on. The gameplay in Bubsy was similar to Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog on the Genesis, which Berlyn was inspired by after focusing his career on adventure games, with his last title before Bubsy being Altered Destiny (1990).
The Bubsy games were filled with puns, sarcastic one-liners and catchphrases done with real voice acting. Some of the gameplay elements include fast character movement like in the Sonic series, gliding around the stages and deaths by environmental damage from high falls or crashes. In the original Bubsy the story was about the bobcat taking back the world’s yarn supply from aliens called the Woolies.
Berlyn had no involvement with the sequel, which was developed by a separate internal team at Accolade. The game added new elements like the ability to select stages, a three-hit health system, a two-player mode, new enemies and different weapons for Bubsy. In Bubsy II he can shoot his version of a Nerf gun at enemies.
The Bubsy games released for various systems like the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Atari Jaguar and the original PlayStation. A third game, Bubsy in Fractured Furry Tales, released exclusively for the Atari Jaguar in December 1994 just two months after Bubsy II. Accolade licensed the game out to Atari for its publishing and development to Imagitec Design, a former UK-based studio.
Retroism is a publisher of retro games. It has the rights to release the Bubsy games after the company acquired Bubsy and Accolade’s other properties in 2013, according to a press release. The company has also republished titles from Infogrames’ catalog, a French company who bought Accolade in 1999. Infogrames later became Atari, SA after a series of mergers with Atari.
The company is also promoting Bubsy’s return with a hashtag campaign called “#SaveBubsy.”
Although unlikely, there could be even more all-new Bubsy games in the future. The Greenlight page states, “With your support, Bubsy may finally be able to look himself in the mirror and smile, carry himself with dignity, and perhaps find the strength within to go on new adventures again…”
The bobcat was last seen in Bubsy 3D: Furbitten Planet, a PlayStation-exclusive game released in October 1996 that horribly failed to transition the franchise from its 2D roots to the next 32-bit generation’s 3D design. Berlyn returned to the Bubsy franchise but wasn’t able to replicate the success of his first release. The game received terrible review scores and responses from players, with some calling it one of the worst games ever made because of its ugly graphics, poor level design, bad camera and simplistic gameplay. Bubsy 3D was primitive compared to games like Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot, which both released only a few months before Furbitten Planet.
Eidetic was the game’s developer, a company based in Oregon that Berlyn co-founded. The team was acquired by Sony in 2000, becoming Sony Computer Entertainment Bend Studio. After Bubsy 3D the studio went on to create the Syphon Filter franchise and more recently, Resistance: Retribution (2009) for the PlayStation Portable and Uncharted: Golden Abyss (2011) for the PlayStation Vita.
During the height of Bubsy’s notoriety and popularity, there was even a cartoon created in 1993 with a pilot episode that never got picked up for a full season.
Berlyn, 66, recently revealed he underwent successful treatment for cancer this year. It’s not known if he has any involvement with Bubsy’s current revival on Steam.
Watch the Steam Greenlight trailer for Bubsy Two-Fur: