Bubsy 3D (also Bubsy Is 3D in Furbitten Planet and Bubsy 3D: Furbitten Planet) is a platform video game developed by Eidetic and published by Accolade for the PlayStation video game console. It is the fourth game in the Bubsy series as well as the first and only Bubsy game in three dimensions. The game was released on November 25, 1996 in North America and in August 1997 in Europe. A Sega Saturn version was planned for release, but was ultimately cancelled. The game's complete name is a play on words in reference to Forbidden Planet, a 1956 sci-fi film. The game, a 3D platformer, follows Bubsy, an orange bobcat and the central character of the Bubsy series, who must stop a race of aliens known as the Woolies from stealing all of the Earth's yarn by traveling across their home planet of Rayon and collecting rocket pieces and atoms in order to build a rocket ship and return safely to Earth.
While 3D video games had existed years before its release, Bubsy 3D was one of the games which contributed to the ascendancy of the 3D platforming genre. Following the disappointing commercial performance of both Bubsy II and Bubsy in Fractured Furry Tales, Accolade turned to series creator Michael Berlyn, who opted to make the game a 3D platformer. Bubsy 3D received mixed reviews upon release, with criticism towards the game's controls, camera, voice acting and personality of the main character. Later reception became far more negative with some sources listing it as one of the worst video games of all time. Following the game's release, the Bubsy series went dormant for the next twenty years, not receiving a follow up until Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back was released in 2017.
The objective is to defeat the Woolies' two queens, Poly and Esther,[note 1] and also escape from the planet by collecting rocket parts. In Bubsy 3D, players control the player-character Bubsy, who has several catch phrases that he says based on players' actions. Bubsy can jump high, glide, swim, and fly a jet in certain levels. He defeats enemies by pouncing on them (either by jump or glide) or shooting atoms at them. He can now take four hits before losing a life. As an added luxury, Bubsy can extend his hit capacity by attacking running clams which give three random prizes. The game consists of 18 levels, with three of them taking place underwater; in these levels, Bubsy has an oxygen meter that depletes over time and his gliding action is replaced by a jetting dive which makes him swim faster and attack enemies, but depletes oxygen quicker. In levels, players can collect items called atoms. To complete a level (except a boss level), Bubsy has to touch the goal which is a large spinning red exclamation point with green rings around it. If Bubsy collects 150 atoms, he will go to a bonus round with atoms and extra lives to collect.
In the two-player mode, Bubsy competes against an opponent in a race to collect all atoms in a single level.
Bubsy 3D takes place on Rayon, the home planet of the Woolies, a recurring race of aliens from previous installments in the series, and follows the title character, a bobcat named Bubsy, whose objective is to travel the planet in order to collect atoms and rocket pieces and build a rocket ship. Led by their two queens, Poly and Esther, the Woolies invade Earth and kidnap Bubsy, who has previously foiled their plans for domination, with the intention of stealing all of the planet's wool. However, Bubsy escapes from the Woolies' siege due to a chemical malfunction with the ship he is being carried in, and breaks loose onto Rayon, resulting in widespread panic across the planet. The Woolies decipher that Bubsy is attempting to gather atoms and rocket parts (both of which the Woolies consider worthless) in order to build a rocket ship. None of the scientists on Rayon understand exactly why Bubsy is doing this, but they believe him to be dangerous nonetheless, prompting them to call for a military campaign to locate and destroy the bobcat.
The game's ending is dictated by the player's in-game performance, specifically pertaining to the number of collectibles which they obtain in each level; if they do not collect all 32 of the rocket parts required to build a space ship, Bubsy, after being captured by the Woolies, uses his acquired rocket pieces, as well as the atom discharge withheld in his own fur, to build a rocket and attempt to escape back to Earth, only for the rocket to become stranded in outer space without the necessary components, thus allowing the Woolies to invade Earth without him interfering. If the player does succeed in collecting all of the rocket pieces, then the rocket is unable to handle the density of the number of atoms he has collected, and Bubsy, despite escaping the planet with a complete ship, becomes stranded in a completely different time period due to a rip in the space time continuum, allowing the Woolies to go through with their plans regardless.
Development and release
Bubsy 3D was developed by Eidetic and published by Accolade. The game was designed by Bubsy creator Eli Adams, and veteran games developer Marc Blank was also a key member of the development team. Following the release of Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind, Berlyn left the project and other designers were brought on to develop the series' next two installments of the series, Bubsy 2 and Bubsy: Fractured Furry Tales, both of which Berlyn expressed great disdain in as games. According to Berlyn, after the second and third installments of Bubsy experienced mediocre commercial performance, Accolade asked him to head production of the next game in the series in hopes that he could revive the franchise. He agreed under the condition that the game would not be a rehash of the original game. It was also agreed the game would be a 3D platformer- a genre which hadn't been vastly explored yet at the time. Development of the game started in April 1995. Berlyn cited the development as a challenge, due to having no prior experience with controls or tools for drawing environments in 3D. Unlike most console games of the time, flat shaded polygons were used instead of textured polygons. However, the characters are Gouraud shaded and texture mapped. Berlyn states stated that he chose this unusual combination because it made the characters stand out, ensuring the player's attention would be on Bubsy and the gameplay rather than on the environments. At the time, Bubsy 3D was one of the few PlayStation games that ran in high resolution. The cutscenes between stages were animated by hand in 2D, and the 3D polygonal models were then made to mimic this animation. The voice of Bubsy was done by actress Lani Minella.
A release for the Sega Saturn in Spring of 1997 was planned but was ultimately cancelled. It was announced that it would be compatible with the Saturn analog controller to enable more sophisticated movement than the PlayStation version. Berlyn attended the January 1996 Consumer Electronics Show to help demonstrate the Bubsy 3D beta personally. While wandering the floor he saw the demonstration for Super Mario 64, another 3D platform jumping game, but one built with Nintendo's best resources in order to serve as the flagship title for a new gaming console. Berlyn realized that Bubsy 3D looked greatly inferior to Super Mario 64, but as Accolade was already committed to releasing the game, it was too late to do anything except make Bubsy 3D as good as possible within the remaining time.
In Europe, distribution was handled by British publisher Telstar Electronic Studios under their budget label "Telstar Fun & Games".
Bubsy 3D received a wide range of reviews upon release. The game holds an aggregate score of 51% at GameRankings based on five reviews. Subjects of praise included the vast size of the levels and the unique two-player mode, which some critics said is the highlight of the game. However, most reviews criticized the disorienting camera, Bubsy's annoying voice, and most especially the tank-like controls, a control style they said worked well in other genres, but is crippling in a platform game where precision and split-second response time is needed. Mike Salmon wrote in Ultra Game Players, "In order to create a 3D platform game, you absolutely must have complete control over the character, something Bubsy 3D just doesn't do." Mark Skorupa of Gamezilla said the game had potential but fails to effectively stand up to recent platformers, chiefly because of its controls: "Platform games require precise actions and split second decisions. Bubsy 3D's controls are very prohibitive to this type of gameplay.", though he still gave an overall score of 81.
A few critics also said the environments are barren and bland, though Crispin Boyer clarified in Electronic Gaming Monthly, "I could easily forgive the lackluster visuals if the game played well. But it doesn't. Not even close." GameSpot found the game mediocre and unenjoyable in almost every respect, and emphasized the voice clips: "Thank god the programmers included an option to turn off the sound bites Bubsy spews during the game; after having to endure that lispy, grating voice two or three times, the player may be tempted to kill his or her television." N. Somniac of GamePro said that apart from the camera often hindering the gameplay, he had no problem with the controls. However, he found the single-player mode repetitive, slow, and predictable, and concluded, "Bubsy fans should rent this game to see him in 3D, but action fans may find Crash [Bandicoot] more their speed." Outright positive reviews for the game also appeared: PSExtreme gave the game a 93%, along with their "Gold X Award", and the reviewer favorably compared it to a WB cartoon (a comparison also used by Accolade in press releases for the game). Three reviewers in GameFan gave ratings of 80, 79, and 80 with E. Storm commenting "Bubsy 3D weighs in as a slightly peculiar, vastly unique, and very addicting 3D adventure that I found not only highly addicting but quite refreshing." NowGamer credited Bubsy 3D with being the first genuinely 3D PlayStation game, and said that "younger players will be enthralled by its bright colours and simple gameplay, even if adults reach straight for the sick bucket." Martin of Absolute PlayStation stated that Bubsy's voice (which he compared to that of Bugs Bunny) may not appeal to older gamers but younger ones should think otherwise, and described the game as slightly difficult but should still attract players looking for a challenge.
Retrospective reception of Bubsy 3D has been more vehemently negative. Victor Lucas of The Electric Playground found the untextured, largely homogeneous visuals both aesthetically displeasing and very confusing. He added, "As disappointing as the visuals of Bubsy 3D are, it is the game's lack of speed and sloppy control that really make it a pain to play. ... even rotating around to see what is behind you is like trying to Scuba dive in Jell-o". Some sources even cited the game as one of the all-time worst. Seanbaby ranked it 17th in his 20 worst games of all time, criticizing its controls, the character's personality, and the graphics, which he calls "ass". IGN's Levi Buchanan used it as a prominent example of an unsuccessful attempt at the transition from 2D to 3D, criticizing its controls as well as the character design, which he felt was ruined from the previous games in both appearance and personality. GameTrailers named it the eighth worst video game ever made. In addition to citing the annoying voice clips, they argued that the tank-style controls are jarringly inappropriate for a conceptually agile character like Bubsy, and called the game a rip-off of Super Mario 64, despite the two games having been in development at roughly the same time. Guardian included it on their list of the 50 worst video games of all time. Josh Wirtanen at Retrovolve blamed Bubsy 3D's modern negative reception on such comparisons to Super Mario 64, which he pointed out is technologically unrepresentative of games of the time.
In a 2015 interview, Berlyn called Bubsy 3D "[his] biggest failure", but also said he thought it was pretty good in light of the fact that when his team started work on it, there were no other 3D platformers for them to look to as a precedent. Following the game's release, Berlyn opted to take a couple of years off from designing video games to "rethink things". In an interview, Minella cited her voice work on the game one of her least favorites, listing it among other video games in which she had to do "a totally irritating voice that everyone should hate."
Legacy and impact
As an early 3D platform game, Bubsy 3D was one of three games released in 1996 that Josh Wirtanen of Retrovolve said established the template for the genre, along with Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot.
Although Bubsy 3D was a critical failure, its development led to the creation of the action espionage game, Syphon Filter, which would go on to become a successful game franchise. Bubsy's development gained Eidetic further experience with the hardware of the PlayStation and better knowledge of the limitations of developing a 3D video game, prompting them to approach Sony with a prototype of Bubsy 4 (which was simply a "calling card" to show off the technical skills of Eidetic) in terms of developing a new game for them. Sony accepted the pitch, but requested that the team develop a game that wasn't an animal mascot platformer, as they were already heavily marketing Crash Bandicoot at the time, leading to the development of Syphon Filter.
In 2013, indie developer Arcane Kids released a sarcastic tribute to the game titled Bubsy 3D: Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective. In the game, the player guides an effigy of Bubsy through a nightmarish simulation of the James Turrell exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A remaster of the game was released by Arcane Kids in 2017, featuring an additional epilogue to the story in which Bubsy reflects on the events of his experience.
Following Bubsy 3D, the Bubsy series went dormant, not having any games released for 21 years; however, in June of 2017, a new game in the series titled Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back was announced, later released later that year in September for the Playstation 4 and PC.
- Poly and Esther debut in Bubsy in Claw Encounters of the Furred Kind as an orange two-headed Woolie. Here, they are purple and have their own bodies.
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...establishing a new standard in the platform genre
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BUBSY 3D looks to set the new standard in action platform gaming
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