This review is dedicated to my dear college friend, Austin. He knows why. ;-)
Buck Bumble is a game that is near and dear to my heart for reasons that are 90% nostalgia. The Nintendo 64 was the big system of my childhood, and growing up, I had a real fascination with this game. I'm not sure if it was the third person shooter gameplay - a genre for which I still have a great fondness - or the KILLER 1990s British garage rock soundtrack, but for whatever reason, this game was my shit as a 9 year old. Is the game really a fantastic gem of Nintendo's 64-bit powerhouse, or are my fond memories just my view through nearly 20 years of nostalgia glasses?
So let's start with the premise. The game takes place in 2010 in England where a chemical spill has turned all of the bugs (except the heroic Buck Bumble) into crazy evil bugs that are part of the dastardly Herd (why they didn't call it the Swarm, I don't know, but whatever). You play through 19 levels, and while the game is a third person shooter and very much has the feel of one, since you're a flying bumblebee, it's really not much of a stretch to think of it as a flight combat game albeit a rather clunky one. You have you move and fight in all three dimensions, you some of the same aerial maneuvers that you'd expect to see in a flight sim, and fighting some of the enemy wasps can feel like a fighter jet dogfight. It's certainly not got the speed or intensity of, say, Crimson Skies, but it's worth noting.
Releasing in 1998, Buck Bumble came out right in the middle of the Nintendo 64's lifespan, and the developer - Argonaut Games - was no stranger to working with Nintendo as any SNES fans will know. With those two things in mind, then, Buck Bumble's visuals and performance can feel pretty disappointing. The graphics certainly aren't bad for the time, but the fairly low resolution textures and EXTREMELY limited draw distance (even for England, this fog is ridiculous) do take their toll on the game's visuals. Also leaving some to be desired is the game's performance; the frame rate sits around 15 fps for the majority of the game. Sometimes it goes up towards 30, sometimes it goes down towards 10, but in general, it stays around 15 relatively consistently. The bright side - if there is a bright side - is that the dips and spikes are infrequent enough that it's fairly easy to get adjusted to the low frame rate.
The last of my complaints with the game are the controls. They're fairly simple to get the hang of; A accelerates you, B slows you, Z fires your weapon, R does a sort of circular back flip thing, the D pad cycles through your weapons, and the control stick moves your character. The part of the controls that I didn't much care for was the sensitivity. The control stick can be very sensitive, and it's difficult to hover in place for long, making aiming extremely difficult, especially when you're being attacked. This can lead to a lot of wasted ammo as you fly around trying to the hang of the aiming. Eventually, you will get a feel for it, but it will take a fair bit of time and practice. What DOESN'T suck, however, is the game's music. That opening theme is legit the hottest track of 1998. The whole soundtrack is superb, and while NOTHING could be as awesome as that main theme, the background music for the game is fantastic and keeps the energy up throughout the game. Honestly, the game's worth putting in your N64 and just leaving on the title screen for mood setting. Throw a killer rave or get drunk and have a shitty dance party. This game's soundtrack is perfect.
Having revisited 9-year-old Mr. Deck's favorite Nintendo 64 game as a 25-year-old, it's clear that a lot of my fondness for it is, indeed, nostalgia, but not all of it is. The music is actually BETTER than I remembered, and while the game doesn't look nearly as impressive as I remembered, the gameplay holds up fairly well. Yeah, it's not the best performing game on the system in terms of framerate, and the aiming and control definitely takes a bit of practice, but once you do get a feel for those flaws and learn to compensate for them, it's still a really fun game. As of this posting, it goes for about $10 or $12 online, and I'd definitely say it's worth that much. Screw Bubsy; let's get an HD reboot of Buck Bumble.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.