The developers of the fantastic BIT TRIP series took a shot at making Bubsy loveable so let's see if it worked out.
Developed by successful indie studio Choice Provisions, Bubsy: Paws on Fire is an endless runner that will be familiar to those who played BIT.TRIP Runner2 or Runner3. If you're not familiar with the genre, Bubsy or one of his pals will constantly move forward as the screen scrolls and it's your job to avoid hazards and obstacles. There isn't much story with only 2 cutscenes making up the entirety of the plot but there are plenty of groan-inducing comments from Bubsy and company so I recommend ignoring them as best you can. The music is much more tolerable and the 3 game worlds are nice and colorful although a bit bereft of interesting detail.
Bubsy: Paws on Fire features 3 playable characters for the core game: Bubsy, Virgil, and Woolie. Each character has different abilities that will affect how a level is played: Bubsy can jump, pounce enemies, and float in the air, Virgil can double-jump and duck but can't hurt enemies, and Woolie pilots her spaceship that can move up and down freely and fire lasers. Each of the campaign's 30 or so levels can be played using each character and the layouts are significantly adjusted based on which character you choose, making it feel fresh.
Having characters with different abilities is a cool concept but it doesn't work that well in practice. Considering you have to beat a level with 2 or 3 of the characters before you can unlock the next one, you'll regularly swap between characters which kind of undermines the purpose of a runner game. Ideally, you'll gradually perfect the abilities as the levels get tougher and tougher. Instead, I found myself confusing abilities by regularly trying to float with Virgil and double-jump and duck with Bubsy thus dying as a result. I was able to smooth out this issue somewhat by playing as many levels as possible in a row as 1 character, going back and doing them all as another character, then rotating back to the first level as the third character. This was fairly annoying because Woolie's flying levels aren't very challenging or fun and felt like a waste of time that I had to endure just to continue unlocking levels.
There's also a fourth character, Arnold, who is unlocked after collecting 3 pieces of a coin by using each character in a level. The Arnold levels are different from anything else in the main game as they play like the bonus levels in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. You'll speed down a corridor with gems to collect along the walls and ceiling. Unfortunately, these Arnold levels are ultimately easy and pointless.
Virgil and Bubsy play and control much better and make up the bulk of Paws on Fire's fun factor. It never reaches the level of difficulty that the BIT.TRIP games are known for but it still features plenty of well-crafted levels that will test your twitchy platforming prowess. Each level has 150 collectible yarn balls to grab and their locations will also help guide you to know when to hover, double-jump, duck, etc. However, I was disappointed to find out that these collectibles end up being fairly meaningless as you can purchase a few character outfits with them but they don't unlock any additional content such as levels and they aren't needed to progress in the campaign. I ended up starting to ignore the hard-to-reach ones because they simply aren't worth the effort. Unless it's your destiny to end up at the top of the Bubsy: Paws on Fire leaderboards, there's no real reason to go out of your way to collect them.
Bubsy: Paws on Fire is a passable runner that will keep fans of the genre busy for a few hours yet it fails to live up to the far better runners that Choice Provisions have crafted in the past.
- + Each level has multiple layouts based on the currently selected character
- + Characters have unique abilities to master
- + Nice music and colourful graphics
- - Being forced to swap between characters results in confusing gameplay
- - Woolie and Arnold levels aren't fun
- - Little incentive to grab collectibles