Platformers are something I relate to since my childhood. My first game was Mario and second was Contra, both of which had something in similar. Yes, they are both platformers! I have a special place for them in my heart, though sadly I didn’t really play any platformer for a long time. (If I properly remember, the last one I properly finished was Trine 2). More recently, Megaman 11 and now Bubsy: Paws on Fire brought that nostalgia back in me – except that I no longer need pillows to sit on the chair, and the visual fidelity has improved a lot. However, Bubsy: Paws on Fire became a little different from what I expected it to be. How good or bad is it? (Hint: Read on to find out more).
BUBSY : PAWS ON FIRE
[toggles behavior=”accordion”] [toggle title=”Minimum Specifications”]CPU : Intel i5 GPU : NVIDIA GT740 RAM : 4 GB DDR4[/toggle] [toggle title=”Recommended Specifications”]CPU : Intel i7 GPU : NVIDIA GTX 1060 RAM : 8 GB DDR4[/toggle] [toggle title=”Review Specifications”]CPU : AMD Ryzen 5 2600 GPU : GTX 1080 RAM : 16 GB DDR4[/toggle] [/toggles]
The game is playable only in singleplayer. There is absolutely no reason to believe the game has any playability in multiplayer. Some games are just made to be played together, while others are made to be played solo; the latter accurately describes Bubsy: Paws on Fire. The old school multiplayer model where one dude plays the game while the other watches, and then tally their scores at the end to find out who won just doesn’t work anymore. This can be added as a feature later, but I doubt it’s going to make much of an impact.
The game may have the makings of a platformer (and may even be marketed like one), but be warned – it isn’t. It is just a continuous runner game designed like a platformer, and made to look like one. The only difference from a continuous runner is that there actually is a start and end for a level. The game plays much more like Bit Trip Runner than like Bubsy. Since Bit Trip Runner comes from the same developer, that looks explainable. The playstyle may instantly put off some people who wanted a platformer like Bubsy Two-Fur. I decided to play Bubsy Two-Fur a bit just for fun (and for seeing what Bubsy is all about), and it quickly became a game which was instantly more likable than Bubsy: Paws on Fire – a major reason for it being that Bubsy Two-Fur was a proper platformer.
The game’s got a story, with Oinker trying to capture every animal on the planet for a zoo called the Amazootorium, and Bubsy out to stop him. Imagine Holmes and Moriarty – albeit in a furry, more comical setting. The tone for the story is as witty and comical as the lines used by Bubsy, Virgil and Woolie. This is a good thing because the comic relief does try to hide the monotony of the level design – though it does not do a very good job at it.
The game features multiple playable characters instead of just one. Players get to play as Bubsy, everyone’s favorite cat, Virgil, the mole scientist, and Woolie, the alien. Every character has a different way of handling levels, and the level design changes based on the character taken. Also, each character has unique abilities and ‘moves’ that help them get through levels. Bubsy, for instance, can glide through thin air, while Virgil can slide under stuff. Woolie has the freedom of roaming in the entire area thanks to her spacecraft, and she can also shoot lasers to take down enemies. Bubsy and Virgil can only take down enemies by jumping on them. No character can destroy traps, and these are stuff that the player must avoid. The game also features another secret character – an armadillo called Arnold. Arnold has a rather peculiar style of rolling movement, which is different from the others. Arnold only appears in bonus levels, and need to be unlocked before the players can have fun with him.
In order to unlock Arnold, players do need to work on their reflexes and ensure they beat every level to the fullest. Each character has a collectible unique to them which they must collect throughout the level. Bubsy collects woolen balls, Woolie collects golden balls (or maybe they are suns? Woolie does reference “renewable energy” a lot) while Virgil collects planets. Unlocking Arnold requires players to collect every collectible with every character, as well as collect special “Arnold coins”. Every level has three pieces, and when all three are collected the Arnold coin is completed. Collecting all Arnold coin pieces using all characters on all levels, besides collecting all collectibles is a feat in itself, and is definitely going to keep the player busy for a while.
Every character has a way of playing the level of their own. Bubsy tends to use his light body to glide and dash through thin air. Virgil can double jump and can slide through the ground. Woolie’s levels allow the player the most freedom of all, as the player can move to any section in the level while destroying enemies with her lasers. I played the game using a keyboard (yeah, go ahead and flame me!), though it is better to stick with a controller, especially if you want to complete the game to its fullest. The game plays differently on a controller and on a keyboard. On keyboard, I found Virgil’s levels especially difficult, while Woolie’s levels might feel more awkward while using a controller. On Virgil’s levels, players are often forced to use jump pads, which they need to dive into from the air to use. (In other words, a combination of a jump and a slide, one after another maintaining the order. Timing the combo properly is a bit tough). Woolie’s levels also feature powerups, which add extra firepower to Woolie’s lasers, making her even cooler as a character.
Every level on being completed by a character, rewards a medal for the character with which the level was completed. Progressing to further levels require a particular number of medals, and this can only be done by completing levels. It is not necessary to collect all collectibles to complete a level, though one might feel the need to (as already mentioned above). The game’s level design sadly seems highly deficient and repetitive, and could definitely have been better. It felt monotonous running as Bubsy or Virgil. Woolie’s levels and the boss stages offered some respite, though not nearly enough to outlive the monotony of the regular levels.
The game features a pretty handy tutorial, though it doesn’t appear explicitly as an option on the menu. The first level of the game actually teaches the basics of the game and how each character handles.
The game also has a “Shop”, which allows players to purchase cosmetic dresses for Bubsy, Virgil, Woolie and Arnold and dress them up. This has no real effect on gameplay, except maybe it changes the character’s voice lines a bit.
The game features boss stages after a number of stages (or at the end of every world). The boss stages are one of the more interesting sections of the game as it allows the player to freely play as they like. The boss stages provide a break from the otherwise monotonous levels that all seem pretty much the same.
I’d never had thought I would talk about achievements, but this game deserves it. It rewards you achievements for completing otherwise irrelevant actions. Who’d imagine a game would reward you for dying a lot? Well yes, there’s an achievement for that (for reference, it’s called “Famous Last Words”) – which gets done when Bubsy utters all of his in-game dialogues which get triggered when he runs into something.
Sounds and Music
The game’s sounds are definitely some of the areas where some work has been done. The game’s menu soundtrack is pretty cool (one of the tracks that I can play on loop for ten hours or so). The in-game music is pretty cool too. Despite Virgil being the most annoying character (at least for me), I liked his track the best.
The game employs interesting dialogues at the start of a level as well as when you die. Starting from easter eggs of other games to contemporary references, the game’s dialogue is one thing that works on point. Vigil saying “VR might catch up in the future” at the start of a level, or Bubsy commenting “Goodbye, cruel world!” when he hits an obstacle (referring to a cheat in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas which made the phrase popular) – players can never run out of dialogues and references.
Video and Performance
The game performs decently in the graphics department too. Bubsy: Paws on Fire has some gorgeous visuals for a runner (nope, not gonna say platformer). The game’s special lighting effects are particularly glamorous, which kicks in when a player is on a streak of actions (running, jumping, killing enemies gives you bonus points – who knew, right?). It is particularly interesting to see Bubsy on ‘fire’ when he’s on a good run, which actually does some justification for the name.
While playing the game, I did not face any performance issues or noticeable bugs. The game’s optimized pretty well and does not have any noticeable bugs that I can recall.