Much like Keith Richards, the Bubsy franchise refutes the rules of longevity. The Rolling Stones’ guitarist persists despite a lifetime of bacchanalian revelry. Similarly, Accolade’s bobcat enigmatically endures, even after a succession of slipshod sequels. Seemingly, the principals of endurance might not apply to certain musicians and mascots.
With the release of Bubsy: Paws on Fire! for PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC, the oft-scorned protagonist coasts through another yarn-gathering adventure. In execution, the effort feels like a Stones album that’s motivated by contractual obligation rather than any kind of artistic expression. This time out, Choice Provisions handled development duties, drawing on their experience with Runner3 and the BIT.TRIP series. Despite the shift from basic platformer to endless runner, Paws on Fire! is remarkably tepid, feeling like a port of a mobile game.
Tackling the first of the game’s thirty stages offers a three-part tutorial. First, you’ll seize control of the game’s eponymous lead, who can jump and with a button hold, performs a long glide. Virgil’s navigational style is built around the double-jump as well as the ability to slide under obstacles. A such his maneuvering hews closest to endless runner formula. Finally, there’s Woolie, who is able to freely fly a spaceship across the stages as she collects floating yarn balls and blasts the occasional baddie.
You’ll challenge most of the game’s levels with these three characters. Although each character has districts routes with yarn strategically placed to both lead (and occasionally tempt) players, level backdrops and obstacles are frequently quite similar. Strategically places to test your skills are three pieces of an Arnold Coin. Gathering these opens up three-dimensional levels for the armadillo, where you slide downhill while collecting gems and fruit. Woefully, Arnold’s levels exhibit marginally unresponsive controls, turning a reward into vexing routine.
That’s not to say that Bubsy and Wollie’s jumping feels spot-on. When jumping on enemies, TNT crates or across gaps, your timing must be pretty impeccable. Hit the button just a fraction of a second too early, and you’ll miss the mark and die, sending you back to the last checkpoint. Occasionally, there’s visual discrepancy; while it looked like Virgil cleared a gap, the game sometimes counted these as a flub.
At least with Choice Provisions’ BIT.TRIP Runner, you had a rhythm to assist with nailing the timing of a leap. Here, Stemage’s soundtrack is enjoyable buoyant, but Paws on Fire! doesn’t unite the timing of jumps with musical cadence. Another issue stems from the game’s lack of visual signposting. Habitually, when a double jump is required, there’s no environmental indication. Sure, you’ll eventually discern to recognize the heights need for jumps, but here the developers could have made the learning process easier.
Perhaps is scrolling was fluid in Paws on Fire!, some of the issues would be lessened. But when it came to performance, Bubsy was lacking. Even on an i7-baed rig with an RTX 2080, the landscape moved with a bit of jerkiness. Give how modest the game mechanics are, play should have been much smoother. The punishment for dying is supposed to be offset by hearing your character speaking a catch phrase. But they’re repeated with cringe-inducing regularity, that it often feels like an additional reprimand.
While the fifteen-hour trek through Bubsy: Paws on Fire! wasn’t completely dominated by frustration, it often felt unnecessarily bland. Woefully, this title doesn’t modernize the endless runner formula, making for an experience that will grow tedious long before you’ve gathered the last yarn ball.
Bubsy: Paws on Fire! was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.