If you’re the type of gamer that likes to play at your own pace, you might not like the latest Bubsy game.
The game’s premise is simple: Oinker P. Hamm is on the loose again, and he’s determined to capture every animal in the universe. So Bubsy, with the help of some friends, is determined to take him down. Of course, that means traipsing though levels, collecting, er, collectables, and vanquishing bosses. On the face of it, Bubsy: Paws on Fire! is a Bubsy game through and through. But as soon as you actually start playing, it doesn’t feel much like a Bubsy game at all.
Developed by Choice Provisions, which you might know of from its work on the BIT.TRIP series, Bubsy: Paws on Fire! propels you ever forward, testing your reflexes and timing at the expense of allowing you to explore. And while it might be what you expect from a Bubsy game, it’s pretty entertaining.
When you start the first tutorial level and Bubsy begins walking forward of his own free will, it’ll probably throw you. It’s a bit strange being relegated to simply telling him to jump or pounce. And then you’ll have to complete the same level with another two characters that are available to you: Virgil the Vole, and Woolie the Alien.
It’s not exactly as it sound, though, as each level is actually different depending on which character you play as. When playing as Bubsy, the levels are arranged to make use of your ability to glide and pounce. Virgil, on the other hand, is able to slide and double jump, so his levels are geared more towards those actions. And Woolie? Well, she gets to zip around in her flying saucer, so her levels play out more like a scrolling shooter.
To progress through each of the game’s three worlds, you’re going to need to complete most levels with multiple characters – beating them all with just one won’t give you enough medals to proceed. Collecting three pieces of a coin in each level with all three characters also unlocks a bonus stage in which you get to control Arnold the Armadillo. His levels play out very differently than the rest, as you basically roll down a long tunnel. Remember the Special Stages in Sonic 2? Yeah, they’re a bit like those. In any case, completing them grants you yet more medals.
Collect all the medals available in the earlier stages of the game and you can feasibly skip some levels if you wish. It’s handy if you come up against one that you just can’t beat for some reason. With ample checkpoints, however, it’s not something that’s likely to happen. Bubsy: Paws on Fire!‘s difficulty does ramp up a little as you play, but all it takes to succeed is a little persistence. Jumped too late to negotiate an obstacle? You’ll know to jump a little earlier next time. Got caught out by a sequence of hazards? Eventually you’ll remember exactly what buttons you need to press and when to overcome them.
Bubsy: Paws on Fire! actually feels like a laid-back affair on the whole. You feel lazy not controlling your character’s movement. As a result, it’s not the most exciting of games. I struggle to believe that anyone is going to spend hours on end playing it and come away full of joy, but it’s fun to dip in and out of. Like a mobile game, it’s best played little but often. And with its cutesy visuals, it’s suitable for gamers of all ages. Many will groan at the game’s sense of humour though. It’s very hit and miss.
So, Bubsy fans have a new game to play that’s not at all bad, but just a little different to what they’d expect. Bubsy: Paws on Fire! isn’t going to set your world alight, but it will provide some light entertainment when you’ve got half an hour or so to spare. It’s charmingly inoffensive, reasonably varied and surprisingly polished. Which is enough to make it worth a look.
Bubsy: Paws on Fire! is available now on PS4 and PC. It’s landing on Switch this summer.