The Saturday Morning Cartoon lineup: one of the big kickoffs of the weekend when you were a kid – quite possibly, the biggest. For many of us, before our childhood love of the Saturday lineup was most likely surpassed by our teenage love of sleep, there were few highs that would compare to the general routine; wake up early, grab a bowl of your favorite freakishly-unhealthy cereal (and maybe a Pop-Tart or two), then kick back for hours of raw entertainment (and probably a whole lot of subliminal advertising).
If you were lucky enough to have a subscription to TV Guide back in the pre-internet days, you could be somewhat prepared for unexpected change-ups as fickle producers could cancel a series at almost any time. I can count on one hand the number of times that I saw a cartoon series get the chance to actually wrap up everything in a series finale. Whether it was simply poor ratings, a bad time slot, or just a lack of marketability, a good number of cartoons never got their swan song, much less a second season. Now celebrities have often been involved in creating children’s programming and to varying degrees of success, but in striving for better quality content, this trend had an influx around the late 80’s and early 90’s. Animation studios turned to established comedians to help develop new shows and several big names were given their own half-hour slots including Rick Moranis, John Candy, Roseanne Barr, Louie Anderson, and Howie Mandel.
Canadian comedian and actor Howie Mandel you may know from his more recent gigs in Deal or No Deal and America’s Got Talent, but turn the clock back a few decades and endless other parts and projects, and he’s best known by Gen-X’ers & Xennials as Dr.Wayne Fiscus on St.Elsewhere, Maurice from Little Monsters, the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins as well as several of the Muppets in Muppet Babies (before Dave Coulier took over his roles), various stand-up presentations – and, of course, Bobby Generic of Bobby’s World, who’s voice is either cute or grating, depending on your level of adoration for the show.
One of the longer-running animated Saturday morning cartoons, Bobby’s World ran from 1990-1998 and was the brainchild of Mandel. It introduced the world to Bobby, a little boy and the youngest member (until season 3) of the Generic Family. He’s also the O.G. of large-football-headed animated 90’s kids, long before either Arnold Shortman or Stewie Griffin came on the scene. The show was pretty formulaic; after Mandel’s live-action introductions, each episode would follow a day in the life of Bobby, who had a stuffed toy spider named Webbly, a monotone best friend Jackie, and a fairly eccentric family. Giving the show its touch of fantasy was Bobby’s take on the world around him as he was often misinterpreting figures of speech. His imagination would play out the literal interpretations of these colloquialisms in his mind for a creative and comedic outcome. Since the show was a hit it was only natural, as with anything successful in the 90’s, that making a video game was pretty much mandatory. Enter Bobby’s World for the SNES!
Most game developers strain to create a coherent and feasible plot when it comes to a brand. Game versions of Wayne’s World, Home Improvement, or basically anything LJN touches, all come to mind. But the use of Bobby’s imaginative outlook is clever and works exceedingly well as a game. In regard to the story, Bobby’s is ordered to clean his room, then gets distracted by various things and begins to daydream. These various themed-daydreams serve as the levels of the game, such as outer space, a world under his Bobby’s bed, his aquarium, the Old West, and the final level consisting of a haunted closet. It must take Bobby a week to clean his room as he seems to have the attention span of a squirrel and the slightest thing cranks his imagination into overdrive.
Stages are basic side-scrollers that consist of several sections and have Bobby throwing level-themed projectiles at baddie sprites, all the while collecting lollipops. The last section of the levels often involve some type of vehicle or animal to ride and all odd-numbered levels contain boss battles. Bobby’s trusty Webbly can also be used as a shield, lasso, boomerang, etc. As I stated, it’s a good concept for a game, mixing a bit of a Calvin and Hobbes feel with some Little Nemo: Dream Master. The feel of the show is captured pretty well down to the theme song, a kitschy password system involving photos on the family’s fridge, and even a sound byte of Bobby triumphantly exclaiming “Yes!” when finishing a level.
So, would I call it a good game? Well, not necessarily – although the music is fun and the graphics are good, it feels rushed and underdeveloped. It can be beaten in less than a half hour as there are only the 5 mentioned levels. The game-play also gets pretty repetitive, making it a bit too predictable, as well as too short and too easy. The SNES’s library was being saturated with similar games in the mid-90’s that were all cashing in on various licensed pop-culture properties, so I guess you could say that if this were the ol Blockbuster Video era, Bobby’s World would fall under the “rent, don’t buy” category.
Sadly, it really was missed the opportunity to be something far better as a decent foundation was set. If you’ve seen the show, you know Bobby’s surrounded by a large eclectic cast of main and background characters and with his imagination, anything goes! In the game, aside from clips between levels where Bobby’s immediate family nags him to stop daydreaming and keep cleaning, no additional characters are present. Aside from adding more levels, it would have been great to see more familiar characters added to them – maybe in a similar vein to the way that Bart Vs. The Space Mutants used the Simpson family and various other canon characters and elements from that universe, for example.
Originally, I never questioned the authenticity of my cart as it came sans box and manual, but there’s still some confusion as to whether or not this game was officially released or canceled. The PlayStation port slated for a 1995 release certainly got the ax, but there have been rumors that the SNES carts are either as rare as hens’ teeth or just an urban legend.
So, Bobby’s World the cartoon starring Bobby Generic – always a fun bit of nostalgia. Bobby’s World the game…. well, just pretty generic.
Michael A. Jones firstname.lastname@example.org www.nerdsintheburbs.com
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