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 and Telstar for the PlayStation video game console. Designed by Michael Berlyn, the game was released on November 25, 1996 in North America and in August 1997 in Europe. It is the fourth game in the Bubsy series. And as the game's title indicates, it is also the first and only Bubsy game in 3D. The game's complete name is a play on words in reference to Forbidden Planet, a 1956 sci-fi film. Lani Minella voices all characters in the game as well as Bubsy.
While 3D video games have existed years before its release, Bubsy 3D was one of the games that contributed to the ascendancy of the genre. Bubsy 3D initially received generally positive reviews at the time of its release, but has been met with much more negativity in retrospect with heavy criticism going towards the game's graphics, controls, and the title character's personality. A Sega Saturn version was planned for release, but was ultimately cancelled. The game was the final new Bubsy game for 20 years until Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back was announced on June 8th, 2017.
Bubsy 3D takes place on the home planet of the Woolies, a species of aliens from the series, called Rayon. The Woolies have invaded Earth and kidnapped Bubsy. Their rocket had a problem and Bubsy escaped onto Rayon. The Woolies learn that Bubsy is gathering atoms and rocket parts to build a rocket ship (both of which the Woolies consider worthless). None of the scientists know why Bubsy is doing this, but they believe him to be dangerous.
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 in certain levels. He defeats enemies by jumping on them or shooting atoms at them. He has a health system consisting of three health points called "Paw Points" which can be extended. 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 which 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.
Development and release
Development started in April 1995. Bubsy 3D was developed by Eidetic and published by Accolade in North America and Telstar in Europe. The game was designed by Michael Berlyn, and veteran games developer Marc Blank was also a key member of the development team. After the release of Bubsy 2, which Berlyn described as having almost killed the franchise, he and his team began work on Bubsy 3D. He cited the development as a challenge, due to having no experience with controls or tools for drawing environments in 3D. It was released in North America on October 31, 1996 and in Europe in August 1997. Due to the console's limitations at the time, flat shaded polygons were used instead of textured polygons. Bubsy 3D, however, is one of the few PlayStation games that run in high resolution. While the game's environment is flat-shaded, the characters are Gouraud shaded and texture mapped which makes them more visible. A release for the Sega Saturn in Spring of 1997 was planned but was ultimately cancelled. Due to its release coinciding with Super Mario 64, Berlyn was worried; he felt that Bubsy 3D could have had a chance with early 3D adopters, but that it was outshone by Mario. He attributed the game's failures to the coinciding releases, and the fact that he and his team were independent developers with limited resources while the creators of Super Mario 64 had total backing from Nintendo.
Bubsy 3D got a generally positive response during its first few years. Absolute PlayStation gave it a score of a 67%. PSExtreme gave the game a 93%, along with their "Gold X Award", which is noticeable on the cover artwork, and the reviewer who goes the by the name of "Dave" favorably compares it to a WB cartoon. Mark Skorupa of Gamezilla gave a rating of 81, and said the game reminded him of Jumping Flash!. Three reviewers in GameFan gave ratings of 80, 79, and 80 with one of them later 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 also reviewed the game positively, stating that, for a PlayStation game, "Bubsy 3D nips in and steals the 3D crown."
But retrospective reviews turned far negative. The game holds an aggregate score of 51% at GameRankings based on five reviews. It was given a 4 out of 10 from The Electric Playground, while Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it a 3.25 out of 10. 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.
When asked if Bubsy 3D's negative reception had any impact, Berlyn stated that he thought about leaving the game business for good not because of the reviews but because, to him, the game performed well. While admitting it wasn't at the league of Super Mario 64, he said that he was rather proud that the game had some good concepts, and that his team created a 3D game which not many developers made before.
Legacy and impact
Indie developers Arcane Kids created a parody to the game in 2013. In Bubsy 3D: Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective, the player guides an effigy of Bubsy through a nightmarish simulation of the James Turrell exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
- 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.
- Josh Wirtanen (July 2, 2017). "The 3D Platformer: How 1996 Witnessed the Birth of a Genre". Retrovolve. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
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- "An interview with: Eidetic on Bubsy Is 3D in "Furbitten Planet"". Gamefan. September 1996. p. 62 and 63.
- "Bubsy 3D". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (83): 49. June 1996.
- "News - Playing Catch-Up: Bubsy's Michael Berlyn". Gamasutra. 2005-10-03. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
- "Bubsy 3D". Next Generation. No. 19. Imagine Media. July 1996. p. 60.
- Josh Wirtanen (November 13, 2016). "Bubsy 3D for PlayStation Was Reviewed by Ultra Game Players Magazine in 1996". Retrovolve. Retrieved 2017-06-16.
- "Welcome To Bubsy 3D". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 1997-02-21. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
- Josh Wirtanen (December 1, 2015). "A Chat with Bubsy's Michael Berlyn Part 1: The Rise and Fall of Bubsy". Retrovolve. Retrieved 2017-05-26.
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- "Bubsy 3D". Gamezilla. Archived from the original on January 17, 1997. Retrieved 2016-03-20.
- Dave. Bubsy 3D. PSExtreme. p. 87.
- "Bubsy 3D". NowGamer. August 1, 1997. Retrieved 2017-04-16.
- "EGM's Crapstravaganza: The 20 Worst Games of All Time". Seanbaby.com. Archived from the original on 2010-10-08. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
- Buchanan, Levi (2008-11-07). "What Hath Sonic Wrought?, Vol. 1 - Retro Feature at IGN". Retro.ign.com. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
- Moriarty, Colin (September 8, 2011). "From Syphon Filter to Uncharted Sony Bend's Story". IGN. Ziff Davis. Retrieved March 1, 2016.