Every now and then there are things that are the same, yet different. One such example are running and rhythm games. When push comes to shove, the core concept is the exact same. Push specific inputs are predetermined times, with the accuracy of said inputs determining your overall performance. This is something I found myself thinking while playing Bubsy: Paws on Fire! Given the series history, it makes sense that they’d try to simplify it, yet does this simplification miss the point or is Bubsy the type of experience that can only be better by being something else?
There really isn’t much to Bubsy: Paws on Fire! The game starts with no real explanation of the world, these characters or what is going on, because it’s Bubsy and these characters need no introduction, leading to you exploring worlds for the seeming heck of it. A lot of the core concepts make sense, assuming you have that context or care enough to know who Arnold is or what a Woolie is, but it’s far more likely the average player experience is limited to knowing Bubsy was a thing and was not well regarded. Regardless of where you stand, this is less Bubsy and more Bit.Trip with a different skin.
Each of the characters offer a different take on the concept, so Bubsy can glide, Virgil double jumps, Woolie flies and Arnold plays like the mini-games required to collect chaos emeralds in Sonic 2. If there is a downside to this, it just isn’t that deep or particularly interesting.
When push comes to shove, the key is to know when to do what, assuming you want to maximize score or obtain collectibles, though even then your options are limited. Like, Bubsy can jump, glide and punch, meaning one of those three skills is needed and unless you’re caught off guard, it’s pretty easy to gauge which one you need. The same is true for the other characters, though everything becomes a lot easier if you just want to beat the game.
Outside of obsessing about scores or obtaining costumes, they don’t particularly matter and give players something to work towards, assuming they actually care. For most, the experience really comes down to making a couple errors here and there, largely due to miscalculations or errors obtaining collectibles and things of the like. The only real exception is Arnold. To go around in a complete circle you need to switch from a side to something like up and that kills the momentum and just makes it frustrating, especially when you could achieve the same by just allowing him to go all the way around with either left or right inputs.
The long and short of Bubsy: Paws on Fire! Is that it’s a running game that isn’t particularly difficult, doesn’t really stress scores and feels rather hollow. Sure, it’s fun and if you like repetitive tasks that reward you for slight improvements, it will certainly shine, otherwise it’s just a bland game that is as forgettable as any of the other sequels. Add in a lack of online play or even interesting costumes and it’s ultimately a game that coasts on whatever fame Bubsy has and is only really redeemed by having a platinum/variety of achievements that are not particularly hard or engaging to obtain.
[Editor’s Note: Bubsy: Paws on Fire! was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]