So, Bubsy isn’t one of those video game heroes that’s really prolific for having particularly good games, is he? In fact, Bubsy 3D still lingers in the memory today as one of the worst games that I’ve ever played, so I’m pretty sure most gamers will associate more bad experiences with the bobcat than good ones.
With his latest release Bubsy: Paws on Fire though, he’s managed to hit a happy place that should give some gamers a pleasant surprise. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a particularly great game by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one that I did have a fair bit of fun playing.
Bubsy: Paws on Fire falls into the runner-category of games, meaning Bubsy will run automatically but the player has to perform his actions for them. This might mean jumping, gliding, pouncing, ground-pounding – you know, the sort of stuff you’d expect from a 2D platformer. Whilst there’re hazards to avoid and enemies to take out, there’ll always be collectibles to find too with some only reached if players string together the right manoeuvres through each section of a level at the right time. The best way to describe it would be as a blend of a platformer and a rhythm game (it might sound silly but it’s true) and in many ways it can make for a fun experience.
What makes Bubsy: Paws on Fire particularly interesting is the additional playable characters, with three extras to use alongside Bubsy. Let’s get the worst one out of the way first: Virgil. He plays just like Bubsy, except rather than gliding and pouncing he can double jump and duck under obstacles. Not only doesn’t he add anything particularly interesting to the experience, but using him also controlled awkwardly too with there seemingly being a bit of lag in place between his actions and my input. Maybe it was just me, who knows, but it certainly made grabbing collectibles and avoiding hazards all the more annoying.
Woolie and Arnold on the other hand are a bit more interesting to use and add a welcome twist to the runner-formula. Woolie uses a UFO which can be used to shoot in a side-scrolling shooter style, whilst Arnold plays from a perspective that’s similar to the Sonic 2 mini-game with him running across a 3D-style pipe. Don’t get me wrong, neither of these characters make the game feel exceptional, but they were still fun to play as and added a little extra variety to the experience.
Whoever you’re playing, the level design is generally pretty decent in the game and the formulaic approach to gameplay makes them feel pretty addictive to run through – reacting to each hazard in your path starts to feel like second nature, with your timing being close to perfect after an hour or so with the game. However, this could also make the whole thing feel a little repetitive at times, whilst the fact that each level looked fairly generic and bland in design didn’t help either.
Despite this, there was something about Bubsy: Paws on Fire that kept me playing. The cheesy humour had me smiling throughout, the unlockable costumes and collectibles kept me challenged, whilst the fact I’m a fan of the runner-genre anyway pushed me on that little bit more. It did JUST enough to keep me invested in the game, so it certainly deserves some praise despite some of its shortcomings.
Bubsy: Paws on Fire is a neat take on the runner-genre thanks to the variety offered by its selection of characters, but it never does anything exceptional. In fact, with its bland level design and often sketchy controls, it often felt like it gets more wrong than it does right.
Still, I couldn’t help but to find myself enjoying the game thanks to its addictive gameplay cycle. It’s far, far, FAR from perfect, but there’s something about Bubsy: Paws on Fire that should keep fans of the genre entertained – fans of Bubsy (they do exist, right?) on the other hand will probably just be glad to see their favourite bobcat does have a game that isn’t inherently awful.
Developer: Choice Provisions
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC