Bubsy, a mascot character many people like to forget about that has existed since the 1990’s era of Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and Sony PlayStation. Created by Michael Berlyn so many years ago, he was designed to co-exist alongside the likes of Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, but his games never caught on quick like his two inspirations did. Where Mario and Sonic oftentimes shined, Bubsy failed over and over again.
Title: Bubsy: Paws on Fire
Developer: Choice Provisions
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: May 16, 2019
Game Provided By Accolade for the Purpose of This Review
Sure, there were one or two solid releases spread across the five games that released before Paws on Fire, but nothing that ever lit up the sales charts and made Bubsy become a household name. For more proof of this, just look to the popular 90’s cartoons based off of video game IP’s. Mario and Sonic had several. Did you know there was a pilot for a Bubsy animated TV series back in 1993? I’ll bet you didn’t. It was never picked up for an actual show, and thus the rollercoaster-like ride of Bubsy games began, and never truly stopped.
Bubsy: Paws on Fire is a running-platform game at its core. Playing very much like a mobile game (think Super Mario Run), the characters on screen move on their own and never stop moving forward. Your controls with each character vary depending on who you’re playing as, but for the most part, you’ll be guiding one of four characters from the start of a level to the very end with little in the way of a challenge.
The first character most people will probably pick, Bubsy is your standard fare we’ve come to expect from the bobcat and his previous releases. Bubsy is very beginner friendly meaning you can glide after doing a double jump, stomp on enemies, and kill them by dashing through them.
The second of four characters, Virgil is by far the hardest to master, but might be my favorite of those playable. He cannot kill enemies, and thus must rely on his jumping, bouncing off of his inventions, and sliding under obstacles to get through levels. His stages each truly feel like a puzzle that must be completed, and while I struggled the most with him, it’s for that reason I found the most enjoyment when getting to play as his character. As mentioned, Bubsy: Paws on Fire is a relatively easy game, so anything adding an extra layer of difficulty on top gets a pass in my book.
Woolie, the resident alien, gets to fly through each level in her flying saucer. Extremely fun to play as, you’ll be shooting at enemies, collecting balls of yarn (just like you do with every character save for the bonus one), and dodging obstacles that are thrown at you, which is easier said than done since the UFO is a bit bigger than you realize at first. But, her levels are also the easiest, because you can technically find a path and park the character there, and fly from the start to the finish with little-to-no effort involved at all.
The fourth character, Arnold, must be unlocked in each level. To do so, players will be collecting 3 puzzle pieces with each of the previous characters, Bubsy, Virgil, and Woolie. If you collect all 3 pieces with all 3 characters, Arnold unlocks as a bonus stage for each level, and it feels almost identical to the bonus stages from Sonic 2. Which honestly isn’t a bad thing, but they’re over way to quickly.
Spread out across three different worlds, each area contains a set of levels that must be completed before moving on to the next world. But there’s a catch. Much like the running design was borrowed from mobile releases, so to was the progression system. After completing the level with a character, you’ll earn a medal. To unlock future levels, a certain number of medals will be needed. To see the end encounter at the finish of World 3, expect to need 75 medals, which requires playing through all of World 1 and World 2 with the 3 different characters, and a good chunk of World 3. Unless you unlock all of the Arnold levels. Then it will be significantly less.
The developers stretched out the game by making us play through each level multiple times with different characters. Luckily, each character has a different style of level so it doesn’t feel so monotonous all the time, but would it really have hurt to add an extra couple worlds so we weren’t seeing the same backdrop over and over again. Plus, the music gets very repetitive, as there isn’t a huge variety in terms of track compositions for the different characters.
Bubsy: Paws on Fire feels lazy as the level designs get boring just as the music does, but here’s the crazy part. I found myself going back to it over and over again, especially after getting stuck or when I was getting close to one of the three boss encounters in the game. After so many crappy Bubsy games over the years, I was surprised to find one that I actually was somewhat able to enjoy and finish all the way to completion, a feat I hadn’t done since Bubsy 2.
Don’t expect to come in to this and see an epic mascot-style story or any type of replayability. The story is about as lame as you’d expect, and only exists at the beginning of the experience and then again at the end with very short cutscenes. This is a one-and-done type of game, but during the 8 to 10 hours it’ll take to complete the journey, especially if you stick it out and go for all of the Arnold levels, you’ll easily find some levels of enjoyment out of Accolade’s latest bobcat adventure. Bubsy: Paws on Fire is definitely the best Bubsy experience released in quite some time, and while this isn’t saying a lot, it definitely doesn’t deserve to be completely skipped over.