About the game:
- Developer: Choice Provisions
- Publisher: Accolade
- Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Release Date: May 16th (PC & PS4), Summer 2019 (Switch)
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Review Code Provided: Yes
Upon booting up Bubsy: Paws on Fire for the first time I honestly had no idea what to expect. While I’m more than aware of the many poor games that have the titular bobcat attached to them, I hadn’t actually played any of them until Paws On Fire. All I really knew about the series was it consisted of a number of sub par 2D platforms and one infamously awful 3D platformer.
With this in mind, I was quite surprised at the direction Paws on Fire took, both because it’s a drastic departure from the gameplay style of any previous Bubsy game and because it actually succeeds at being a somewhat entertaining video game. Yes, really.
So without any further delay, lets take a look at Bubsy’s latest yarn.As you’d expect, Paws on Fire doesn’t exactly put much focus on the story, it’s more of a means to an end. With that in mind what little story is here is pretty basic stuff.
Bubsy and his friends (yes he has friends, I was surprised as well) receive news that Oinker, the in universe big bad, is currently kidnapping a bunch of animals to put in a zoo. Bubsy and his friends will have to go and stop Oinker and release all the trapped animals.
It’s an incredibly basic story all told though a single, admittedly well animated intro cutscene which as expected is full of smart aleck wisecracks from Bubsy with at least 2 heavy handed swings at the Fourth Wall.
Really there isn’t much else to be said about the story, I mean, it’s a Bubsy game, story was never going to be the main priority here.
With that in mind, it’s time to talk about the meat and potatoes of the game.Gameplay:
The gameplay is where Paws on Fire really starts to get interesting. If you were going into this expecting another 2D platformer in the same style as Bubsy’s other 2D outings then you’ll probably be quite surprised to find that Paws on Fire is actually an auto runner game. Yes, an auto runner. I doubt anybody was expecting the next Bubsy title to be an auto runner but considering the developers of Paws on Fire were also responsible for the Bit Trip series it starts to make a bit more sense.
Levels in Paws on Fire are divided into 3 worlds of 10 levels with a boss fight in each. A lot of you will probably be thinking “well that really isn’t that many levels” to which you’d be right, however, each level gives you a total of 3 different characters to play as (Bubsy, Virgil and Woolie) along with a 4th character (Arnold) having 10 exclusive bonus levels per world.
Each of these characters have their own playstyle as well as their own unique levels designed around them. Bubsy and Virgil’s levels both focus on ground based auto runner platforming albeit with slightly different move sets. Bubsy’s stages make use of the Bobcats ability to glide long distances and his ability to pounce forward in a straight line while Virgil’s stages make use of his ability to Double Jump and Slide. While at their core these characters are relatively similar the stages are each designed around their own unique playstyle quirks.
Woolie is the final character who is playable in main stages and probably the most interesting. When playing as Woolie the game effectively turns into a side scrolling shoot em up as you control Woolie in her UFO avoiding hazards and the like.
While Woolie’s stages offer the biggest overall change to the gameplay, they’re also by far the easiest stage type in the game due to having free movement as well as not exactly having much in the way of things to dodge.The goal of each stage is to make it to the end collecting as many items as possible, specifically the 3 metal pieces found in each level which are then used to create medals which are used to unlock new stages.
Levels themselves are well designed with a good mixture of hazards as well as regular checkpoints to ease potential frustration. Despite this however, I didn’t really find myself dying a lot in Paws on Fire simply because the levels are more on the simplistic and easy side.
If you manage to collect all the medal pieces in each characters version of a stage then you’ll unlock a Bonus Level and this is probably the only major area where I think Paws on Fire drops the ball a bit in terms of control. While Bubsy, Virgil and Woolie all control fine in their respective stages, Arnolds stages are going to feel wrong to just about anyone who has ever played one of those halfpipe special stages in Sonic The Hedgehog 2.
Arnolds stages are basically exactly the same thing as Sonic 2’s special stages. You control a character down a halfpipe while picking up items as you race towards the end. However, where Paws on Fire differs is in how Arnold controls in these stages.
Unlike Sonic 2 where pushing left and right made you well, go left and right, Paws on Fire instead has Arnold move to the position you move the analog stick to on the controller.
It’s kind of hard to explain but basically, if I was to press left on the analog stick then Arnold would move left until he gets around halfway up the halfpipe where he will just stop and hold his position. If I was to then move my stick so I was pointing it straight up, Arnold would follow the direction I was pointing and move to the roof.
Upon playing a bonus stage for the first time this control system really threw me off and I simply could not get used to it no matter how many times I tried. The whole thing just feels rather janky and unnecessary and makes the bonus stages harder than they really should be. I’m unsure why they decided to go with this control scheme as opposed to just lifting the control scheme of Sonic 2’s special stages.Presentation:
In terms of presentation, Paws on Fire does a pretty decent job. Characters are both well modelled and well animated, level and enemy designs are quite colourful and the whole experience runs at a locked 60 fps. This is probably one of the nicest looking Bubsy games out there which is saying a lot.
Sound and Music wise, it’s passable. Music is nothing to write home about, it’s pretty generic cartoony style happy music that you’d expect from these type of games. Sound Effects are also pretty stock standard, perfectly serviceable but nothing special.
In terms of voice acting, honestly I’d call it above average. Sure Bubsy still sounds absolutely insufferable (albeit slightly less than usual) but the actual quality of the performances is pretty well done with mostly natural sounding line delivery. Each stage also has a little unique pop up before it starts with each character dropping a quip which helps add a little personality to the game.Final Thoughts and Verdict:
Bubsy: Paws on Fire is an interesting title. It’s both a huge departure from the typical gameplay of the series but it also manages to be one of the best titles with the Bubsy name attached to it.
However, it does have some problems. The load times are pretty long especially considering how simple of a game this is and while you do have a number of different characters to play with, the game runs out of steam quite quickly. The gameplay experience you have in the first world is overall going to be very similar if not the same to what it will be in the second and third worlds due to Paws on Fire really not wanting to stray much from the new base it has created. As a result, Paws on Fire is really a game better suited for playing in short bursts as opposed to long play sessions because it becomes apparent rather quickly that the game has laid out all its cards relatively early and doesn’t exactly have anything else up its sleeve.
This is also part of the reason why, despite still being what I’d consider an entertaining game, I find it hard to recommend Paws on Fire for its current price. At the time of writing Paws on Fire is selling at $40 New Zealand on PSN with the steam version costing $10 less and considering how shallow Paws on Fire really is in terms of gameplay in the long run it becomes rather hard to recommend at the price they are currently asking.
This is still a game to keep an eye on though if you enjoy these kind of runner games as what is here is actually quite entertaining and is by far the best Bubsy game to date. I just can’t recommend it for its current price.Bubsy : Paws on Fire gets a: Wait for a Sale