Wednesday, February 12, 2014

VGR Bugs Bunny & Taz: Time Busters

Bugs Bunny goes back in time... and this time he's not alone for the ride!

VGR: Bugs Bunny & Taz: Time Busters
From Artificial Mind and Movement/Infogrames
Played on PC
Also available on Playstation

Type 3D platformer
Year 2000

The end of the 1990s saw a decline in mascot-sporting videogames. While Sonic & Crash Bandicoot lived through to see a relatively fine on-going success in gaming, all the other Bubsies, Mr. Nutzes and other cartoon animals quickly disappeared, nowhere to be seen.

But what about the original toons, the Looney Tunes?

A few videogames releases continued to see the day, albeit less frequently but they were able to continue nonetheless, gathering a general decent amount of successes.

They had a few nice truly inspired original games and some... less stellar results.

Produced by French developer Artificial Mind and Movement for Infogrames, Bugs Bunny & Taz: Time Busters is a 3D platformer featuring the Looney Tunes All-Star, Bugs Bunny himself teamed up with Taz, the Tazmanian Devil!

Despite some clear difference from the 2 years older title Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time, it can be considered its spiritual sequel in both themes and gameplay mechanics.

The story opens with Daffy Duck! (why don't they ever give him self-titled games anymore?!)

Daffy was called by Granny who appears to be some kinda weird witch/mad scientist in this game. Daffy works for the "Jet Age Pest Control" and is here to help the old lady get rid of a pest situation. Long story short, Daffy breaks the "Time Regulator" in her lab and disappears along the Time Gem into space and time.

Bugs Bunny who was apparently in the nearby field ends up having to help Granny fix time back up again. She partners up Bugs with Taz, who seems to be here her sidekick/pet/apprentice.

And Bugs goes back - Lost in Time.. again!

Off we go with the plot~

As you can see, the story is even more ridiculous than last time. Can they at least try a little? I know it's just "cartoons", but Looney Tunes animated shorts have always been a bit more consistent and in "depth" than these games! Oh, well..

Time is wrecked havoc as Daffy goes from one point in time to another, trying to steal riches and running away with the Time Gem every time Bugs and Taz catch up to the duck...

The main central "present" access point is called Granwich, from which you will encounter portals and go exploring the Aztec era, the Viking era, the Arabian Nights era and just Transylvania. Yeah, they didn't even try coming up with original time travel ideas and just threw random ideas around.

The game consists of these 4 eras, each containing 1 main level, 1 chase level, 1 puzzle/boss level and a few mini-games.

The goal is to collect all these hundreds of Time Gears across all the eras. Yes, it's another one of these collect-a-thon 3D platformers. You can also save several time displaced-characters, which gives you even more gears. And finally there's some dynamite creates to find in levels, carried over from its predecessor although it seems to make even less sense in the context of this episode.

The mini-games serve to both collect more additional gears and lives/continues. And while the mini-games are fun at first and seem quite varied, you will quickly see the same ones repeated over and over again. A shame, since there's a lot of puzzle rooms in the beginning but only the silly sports and Simon says will be encountered through the rest of the game. They range from a pseudo-football game, pseudo-basket, pseudo-soccer (don't expect actual full games, more like simplified arcade takes using this game's controls) and the memory games cover exotic dancing, figure skating, belly dancing and more!

The actual levels aren't simple straightforward linear stages but huge open world areas to explore and complete.

Apparently the Viking era is an excuse to slightly simply remake the Pirate era from the previous game, and Transylvania could just as well been featured in a non-time travel Looney Tunes games to be honest. In fact the Transylvania 

Your heroes will obtain more "powers" or special abilities whenever you encounter Tweety & Granny, meaning you will have to go back to obtain all the gears.

There's one main antagonist per era, all classic familiar faces such as Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, and the less famous Babba Chop and Count Bloodcount. Only a couple eras also feature sub-bosses in the main open stage as well.

The game plays very much like its predecessor.

Like in Lost in Time, Bugs Bunny can attack with a kick, moves pretty fast, can jump underground from rabbit holes, etc. Later on he will obtain back his rolling attack, as a charge attack instead (not as good as in the past game in my eyes). The stealth is still here but doesn't really seem to be any useful this time.

Whenever you want, you can switch to Taz. Or a second player can control the Tazmanian Devil. Strangely, Taz basically plays like he used to in Taz-mania on the Megadrive/Genesis. Taz can spin a few seconds (later on he will obtain a charge variation of the spin move that lasts longer), he can grab stuff to move them around like crates, he will eat smaller objects on sight though, he can also scare enemies with his face and finally he can create holes for Bugs in some areas.

This episode introduces a dual control (think Resident Evil 0). While 2 players can play on this rather strange camera allowing for team-up actions from time to time, Time Busters is still perfectly playable by yourself alone.

Solving some puzzles specially in the boss stages will require some thinking and a great use of both characters. Only Bugs can do some actions and only Taz can do others. (and in the first boss stage you won't be able to call up your partner, so keep them close!)

The game is a pretty simple but fun platformer. It plays mostly exactly like its predecessor.

The stealth abilities and specially the whole time travel-thing don't seem much used this time. The different eras in time don't get much explored past a couple places.

The dual character-gimmick is a nice change of pace and will have you think a bit more outside-the-box to reach some places. Our unlikely pair of heroes do make a great team.

Finally the visuals are probably the weakest aspect of this game. Time Busters is far from looking like the best cartoony game, as far Looney Tunes game usually go. Specially for 2000, this isn't the sharped looking game I've ever played. 

It should be said, but compared to its contemporary Sheep, Dog 'n' Wolf or Space Race, those look far better in comparison. Why didn't they simply carry over Bugs Bunny and Daffy's models from Lost in Time, I have no idea... Let's just say, character don't look that great nor are that well animated.

Great voice acting though. Billy West and the rest of the cast are back in more or less the same roles. Joe Alaskey does most of the voices while Jim Cummings plays Taz. Maurice LaMarche takes over Yosemite Sam this time around.

The game has this "very random feel" overall.

Overall, it's a very short and easy game.

Time Busters barely uses and almost ditches the whole time travel gimmick. It's barely used in the game besides presenting the player the usual trope of platformer levels. Outside the HUB, the "Transylvania era" is even actually spent in a Zoo level!

Despite more challenges around, the game seems to seriously lack some originality and an actual identity.

The character models look worse than in the previous game, specially the animation in the cutscenes.

While I personally preferred the previous Bugs Bunny game, I have to recognize the overall quality of this "sequel" stands pretty good by itself. But it's far from being the best Looney Tunes games out there.
I give it:
2 / 3 Bruces!

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