Bubsy In: Fractured Furry Tales
Published: 1994 by Atari
Developed by Imagitec Design, Inc.
Bubsy In: Fractured Furry Tales is a Jaguar exclusive installment in the Bubsy series, published by Atari under license from Accolade. For the uninitiated, Bubsy is a wisecracking bobcat that runs, glides and bounces his way through hazard laden levels. The game departs from the main Bubsy franchise, which pits Bubsy against yarn obsessed space aliens, and instead places our orange hero in various fairy tale settings like Alice In Wonderland and Jack and the Beanstalk. For his Jaguar outing, Bubsy retains his trademark early 90s attitude from the Genesis and SNES titles. Play mechanics and death animations are also largely unchanged from the first Bubsy game.
Bubsy comes to life in bright, colorful and sharp 2D style on the Jaguar. While it is certainly not a generational leap from its 16-bit predecessors, Fractured Furry Tales looks great. The colors seem somewhat richer and deeper than in the earlier games, likely due to the Jaguar's enhanced color palette. Bubsy himself looks fantastic and the design of the enemy character sprites is fittingly whimsical.
The sound effects and in-game music are good. In-game effects are typical platformer boings and pops. The music is competent and fits the levels. It's not memorable in the way that the very best platform music is but it does the job.
In Fractured Furry Tales, Bubsy runs through each level - called chapters - killing enemies and collecting brightly colored orbs until reaching an exit. To get through each board, Bubsy uses three main moves: jump, glide and look. These are mostly intuitive and largely work as you'd expect. You kill enemies by jumping on them with the B button. Hopping from surface to surface is generally easy. Run, jump and hold A to glide across water and other hazards. Look seems like an odd "move" but trust me, it's needed.
You start the game with nine lives and its not just because you're a bobcat. It's because you will die. A LOT. Bubsy limits you to one hit and it is unforgiving. Enemies can sometimes blend in with the scenery (I'm looking at you rattle snake) and/or are placed in such a way that they're easy to run into. Bubsy also tends to flop around a bit, making it easy to kill one enemy only to haphazardly bounce into another enemy, often just off screen. Because of this, it is necessary to take it slow and look before leaping. If you want to make it past Chapter One, you will find yourself stopping and holding the C button to check your surroundings before moving on. It really is the only way that I found to avoid frustratingly cheap deaths. Patience is rewarded.
The level design in Bubsy is non-linear and the levels are not particularly intuitive. It was not always clear where I needed to go to advance in the game. The levels are also pretty huge! It's easy to get turned around. I guess that I prefer a little more direction in my platform games.
Fractured Furry Tales is a great looking title with a lot of potential. The bright colors, fairy tale theme and whimsical characters work well. Unfortunately, the sprawling levels combine with the unforgiving one-hit death and poor enemy placement to make the game more frustrating than it needs to be. The challenge in Bubsy comes from design flaws, not from a need for precision and timing. Still, this is a game I dust off pretty regularly - at least a few times a year - just to see if I get any better. It's not a great game but, for me, it's oddly compelling. Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment?
Final verdict: If the occasional cheap death is not your thing, pass. However, if you like quirky, colorful platformers and don't mind dying, give Fractured Furry Tales a try.
Thanks for reading and please share your Bubsy opinions in the comments!
The next games is: Iron Soldier II (CD)