Bugs Bunny, perhaps one of the most iconic cartoon characters, has just celebrated his 80th birthday. While there hasn't been much going on with Bugs lately, throughout the 8-bit period, he's had his fair run at video games. One of the more notable titles is Bugs Bunny's Birthday Blowout, which celebrated his then 50th birthday. Jeez, Bugs was 50 thirty years ago? I'm old...
It'll be pretty tough to try and not repeat what has been heard in the Angry Video Game Nerd's review of this game, but it isn't impossible. The NES is full of decent platform games, and Birthday Blowout is...honestly just kind of another one. That's both a compliment and a dig, I suppose, as there's little about it that truly stands out.
Developed by Kemco and released in September 1990, this game had to contend with Super Mario Bros, Castlevania, and Ninja Gaiden. It somehow feels older than those games. The Bugs sprite has a strange heavy outline that makes him stand out compared to the rest of the layout, which seems oddly drab in comparison. And then it starts moving. It's got this odd strobe thing going, and it's really easy to notice. Almost feel like the game is going to crash at any given moment. Graphically, it's not BAD, just...plain and uninteresting, especially for a game featuring Merrie Melodies personalities.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward. Guide Bugs through the stages and avoid hazards and enemies, most of which consist of these walking alarm clock/bombs that respawn almost immediately. There's about six total stages with four "rounds" in between that makes up the worlds. Bugs is armed with a giant mallet that has an awkward hit box. Sometimes it feels like an enemy will hit you before you hit them. The hurtbox on Bugs is fairly generous, though there are moments where it feels like there's no pattern to hazards you try to avoid. Despite this, I find the game pretty lax and stress relieving, almost to the point of being a little too easy, very similar to Felix the Cat on NES. That's okay with me, if I were to be frank. I've beaten it in one sitting while barely even trying, but with the modern day conversation being about whether or not video games need to be super difficult, sometimes you want something like this to calm the psyche. That's right, slap an EASY MODE on Dark Souls, I wanna watch the world burn.
The gameplay has often been compared to Super Mario 2, and it's pretty easy to make that, as some stages look completely lifted from it. I'm surprised the worlds aren't themed around some of the characters you battle. Sure, running into Elmer Fudd in the forest makes a lot of sense for Bugs, but the final level takes place in what looks like Dracula's castle, but you battle...Taz? Who throws footballs..? Why not Witch Hazel?
All in all, Birthday Blowout is a game that won't disappoint, but it won't really impress either. I reviewed Tiny Toon Adventures Buster's Hidden Treasure recently, and while it may not be fair to compare a 16-bit game to an 8-bit one, there's more effort in terms of making the medium feel more full of life. It's a platform game that pretty much goes through all the motions you'd expect from a game around this era. Bugs Bunny's Crazy Castle might a little more entertaining, because it's more centric around puzzles than linear stage progression. The very definition of mediocre.