Dead Gaming Mascots: Cool Cats
In the explosion of video game mascots, companies were looking for cool animals and designs that exuded a rebellious but relatable attitude. Among the most popular animal choices were CATS! All manner of felines graced the screens, stuffed full of personality and charm. Some of them go down in history as some of the greatest iconic characters of all time, while others….. were not so impressive.
Blinx - Microsoft Xbox
Cause of Death: Lost in Japan
Created by Microsoft Game Studios in 2002, Blinx: The Time Sweeper features an elaborate setup in which players assume the role of Blinx, an anthropomorphic cat who works as a Time Sweeper at the Time Factory. Predating titles such as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the title was certainly innovative and was well-regarded during its E3 reveal for its originality. Blinx could use time manipulation abilities after collecting time crystals in order to hunt down time monsters and wipe them from existence. However, the game was built backwards, with the mechanics and time controlling concepts coming first, having the intention of making the lead character into a mascot for the system for the customers only in Japan. Initially positioned as Microsoft's rival to Mario and Crash Bandicoot, creator Naoto Oshima’s inspiration for Blinx eventually came from a mixture of Puss in Boots, Felix the Cat, and Mickey Mouse; believing his cartoonish design could resonate with a wider audience than the gun wielding and expressionless Master Chief. Oshima is also the man credited with coming up with the character design for Sonic the Hedgehog.
The game received mixed reviews upon release, and although the graphics were generally praised, the game was too difficult and inaccessible due to terrible control mechanics. Blinx runs at a solid 15 to 20 frames-per-second which makes the experience feel as if you are using your slow-motion powers at all times. Because of this, Blinx feels really sluggish. The game was so bad, Blinx barely even appeared in his own sequel! Despite its support from Microsoft Game Studios, poor sales and the lack of Xbox popularity in Japan were what most likely killed off whatever potential this furry little mascot had, with Halo/Master Chief ultimately dominating the stand-out face for Xbox. As the years went by, eventually news came out at the end of 2014 that the Blinx trademark had been dropped.
Bubsy - Accolade
Cause of Death: Gross Mismanagement
The first Bubsy game was released in May 1993 by Accolade for the SNES, and later for the Genesis. Created by game designer Michael Berlyn, the character Bubsy came from Berlyn’s ambition to get into the 2D side-scrolling market. Bubsy's gender and species was not originally concrete in early artwork, eventually being depicted as a male bobcat. The character’s design went through a number of changes, originally wearing green tennis shoes and at one point was carrying a hoverboard. Upon the games release, Bubsy was generally well-received by reviewers, with magazine outlets such as Nintendo Power giving the title an 8 out of 10 rating. As far as financial success, the game did considerably well. That same year, Bubsy was awarded "Most Hype for a Character" by Electronic Gaming Monthly and GameFan's "Best New Character". Berlyn then left Accolade to pursue his own development business, and when Bubsy 2 was released in 1994, it was met with a lot of negative opinions due to uninspired designs and recycled assets.
Berlyn was quoted as saying that Bubsy failed because, “It was done by people who, no matter how talented and interested they may have been, had not understood the original vision” and that Bubsy 2 had “killed the franchise.” Sequels continued to be made, with Bubsy in Fracture Furry Tails releasing to criticisms for awkward controls and a harsh difficulty. It was also released on the Atari Jaguar, which as a console had notoriously poor sales. Berlyn tried to save Bubsy by returning to work on Bubsy 3D, but the team had difficulties transitioning the franchise to 3D, and the resulting game had ugly level designs, clunky controls, and did not live up to the hype of other similar platformers that were on the market at the time.
Bubsy had 6 games released in the series with a compilation of the first two games released for Microsoft Windows in 2015. There was even a television pilot created for a Bubsy cartoon show based on the video game series, produced by Calico Creations and sponsored by Taco Bell. It featured new additions to the "Bubsy Universe" not made by Berlyn and it featured a talented cast of voice actors, but the show was not picked up for a full series.
Ty the Tasmanian Tiger - EA Games/Krome
Cause of Death: Another Failed Clone
The Ty the Tasmanian Tiger series was made by Krome Studios, an Australian developer infamously known for making some of the more recent Spyro games. The first game in the series was released in 2002; a 3D platformer available for Playstation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube. The game follows the titular character Ty as he searches for "Thunder Eggs" to power a machine to locate five scattered talismans and free his family, who are trapped in an alternate realm known as "the Dreaming" by the series antagonist, Boss Cass. The gameplay was enhanced as Ty advanced throughout the stages, getting new power-ups to his boomerangs which could be used to defeat enemies easier or to retrieve other items more efficiently.
The production team wanted to tap into the many cultural offering of Australia while designing the game, including a diverse environment and indigenous animals. Ty is designed after a thylacine, or a Tasmanian tiger, which was a wolf-like marsupial that became extinct in the early 20th century due to human causes. Ty follows some of the trademark charactersistcs of his species with sandy yellowish-brown fur, stripes along his back, and a very powerful bite.
Fans often claim it was the gameplay mechanics with boomerangs that added to the fun, as they were a somewhat-uncommon weapon type which offered interesting gameplay mechanics. When Ty the Tasmanian Tiger was revealed in 2002 at E3, it received mixed reviews from critics. One GameSpot critic concluded that the game is great for younger players and can be satisfying for teens and adults if they do not mind collection-based games. Multiple sources cite the game as uninspired and clearly a clone of either Super Mario or Crash Bandicoot. The game was beleaguered cumbersome jumping mechanics and problematic camera issues.
Ty the Tasmanian Tiger was followed up by 3 more games that ranged intermittently from the GameCube to the Playstation 2 and the Xbox. The fourth and final game was released in 2013. Overall, the franchise had seen decent sales numbers and some of the games were reported as having clever puzzles and good variety, but the character never caught on with audiences.
Ardy Lightfoot - ACSII/Titus France
Cause of Death: Choked to Death on Flaws and Inconsistencies.
Ardy Lightfoot was an anthropomorphic creature that resembled a cat, though it's unclear what animal he is exactly, wearing suspenders and donning a feathered hat like The Flash. His self-titled game debuted in Japan in 1993 and came out worldwide in 1994. In his game, Ardy was accompanied by his best friend, a blue creature named Pec, who can be used as a weapon or can take the role of various other helpful devices like a hot air balloon or rock wall destroyer. If Ardy is hit by an enemy, Pec will disappear, and can only be retrieved by finding a chest. If Ardy is without his best friend, he can still attack by bouncing on his tail. The duo must recover the 7 Rainbow Shards before the evil Visconti so that he is not able to activate their power to grant any wish he desires.
The game begins just like a movie, showing credits of the cast of characters that appear in the story. It even refers to itself as such, brandishing text that states the game is "An Ardy Team Film." Strangely, Ardy Lightfoot was altered for its release in North America and Europe, having several arbitrary changes and unnecessary censorships. Simple things were changed such as Ardy’s “waiting” animation was dropped, as well as a cartoonish death scene for one of the level bosses, which makes more sense but was still needless. Furthering the movie theme, stages are broken up into multiple segments that the game refers to as “scenes”.
Electronic Gaming Monthy praised the game for its huge levels, numerous character abilities, and impressive bosses, but warned buyers that it had an incredibly high difficulty. GamePro reviewed it positively with compliments to the variety of gameplay and the colorful graphics. The game overall lacked consistency, as if the developer could not carry the premise for the duration of one full game. It bounces between extremes from too hard to too easy, too simple to too complicated. While it had a few strong themes running throughout, the levels were amateurishly designed and the gameplay was not as solid as Ardy Lightfoot’s contemporaries. It was a middling platformer at best with controls that were generally decent but showcased the game’s weaknesses in subsequent levels.