"Bubsy's back!" While that phrase might strike fear into your very soul, there must be a fair amount of readers with at least a residue of affection for the orange bobcat. Bubsy the Bobcat hails from the age of mascot platformers that has come back into vogue with the current wave of '90s nostalgia, and he somehow remains in the collective consciousness when arguably more deserving characters like Glover and Sparkster have fallen by the wayside. Despite appearing in games that should have ended his career, Bubsy's apparently using every one of his nine lives to claw his way back into the limelight.
His latest outing isn't a 3D platformer, though. Bubsy: Paws On Fire! is an auto-runner, a platforming variant that feels like the best possible venue for Bubsy in 2019. We won't beat about the bush – it isn’t brilliant by any means – but given the pedigree of the developer and the low expectations set by the main character, it’s not bad either, and comfortably ranks in the upper echelons of the bobcat’s back catalogue.
Faint praise aside, a crash to the Switch’s main menu after watching the opening movie wasn’t the best of omens, but we didn't encounter any crashes after that. Story-wise, Bubsy’s nemesis Oinker is kidnapping animals for a grand zoo of some sort, so it’s up to Bubsy to run through levels collecting yarn balls to fight the fiend and save the day. Joining him is Virgil Reality, a vole with a high-tech helmet and the Woolies, traditionally the series’ alien enemies but here united with Bubsy against the big bad.
The story is restricted to opening and ending movies with one-liners introducing each level and dialogue kept to snarky quips when you die. For our money, Bubsy: Paws On Fire offers just about the right amount of Bubsy without becoming irritating. Of course, the more times you die the more times you'll hear his bon mots, so there's some incentive to 'git gud'.
After selecting one of three initial characters, you’ll immediately get some strong Runner3 vibes from your first run, with good reason: Bubsy: Paws On Fire! comes from Choice Provisions, the same studio responsible for the BIT.TRIP series. Consequently, there’s a solid foundation and gameplay 'flow' here which you’ll recognise if you’ve ever played a game in that series.
Each character has unique controls and characteristics. Bubsy glides when you hold down the jump button, has an air dash on ‘Y’ and ground pounds if you hold down on the left stick or D-buttons. Virgil shares the ground pound ability which he uses to launch off special bounce pads and also has a double jump and slides when you hold down, not unlike Commander Video from the Runner games. The Woolies pilot a UFO which essentially turns the auto-runner into a side-scrolling shmup.
Each character runs the same levels, although they have marginally different paths to collect their 150 bespoke collectables in each run. Each character earns medals used to unlock the next level and you'll have to revisit stages with at least two characters to progress. Bubsy and Virgil's move sets feel broadly similar and involve timing jumps between balloons, bouncing on enemies and TNT crates and nabbing yarn balls in time (more or less) to the beat. The Woolies’ stage switches things up, although it wasn’t long before we started avoiding those shmup levels altogether.
The ship feels jittery to control and the screen scrolls too fast to make it a satisfying shooter. Firing slows the speed of your ship making it very difficult to clear a path and move backwards at the same time – too often we just missed a yarn ball and frustratingly couldn’t navigate back in time to snatch it. It was unengaging and repetitive enough to make us simply skip those levels whenever we could.
A fourth character, Arnold, is unlocked by collecting three parts of a coin in each course (with each character). Arnold’s bonus stages are unique and see him rolling down a tube, not entirely unlike the Special Stages in Sonic 2, collecting crystals and avoiding glue and farts (as you do). A control quirk means that pressing in one direction will run you up the wall but to progress onto the ‘ceiling’ you’ll have to press the opposite direction. It quickly becomes infuriating, and it wasn't long before we started avoiding the bonus stages, too.
Bubsy: Paws On Fire’s most significant issue, though, is load times. Loading screens precede almost every transition, whether entering a level or returning to the menu. Exact durations vary – some were a breezy 10 seconds or less, others were 30 seconds or more. Mercifully, mid-game checkpoint loads after colliding with an enemy or an obstacle are very quick, but be prepared to get intimately acquainted with the cycling colours and bobcat silhouette of the loading screen.
We started playing in handheld mode and straightaway noticed frame rate dips. The stages are hardly complex but the game struggles to run smoothly – oddly, though, this wasn’t too much of an impediment to success. Unfortunately, switching to the TV made things less attractive, with noticeable jaggies hurting the already bare visuals. Each of the stages in the game's three worlds are made up of the same repetitive background and furniture. An incredibly beautiful backdrop would be an unwelcome distraction, but the visuals are still underwhelming for a game that takes place entirely on a 2D plane, regardless of what's going on under the hood.
Costumes and cosmetics (that have no effect on your in-game abilities) are purchased from The Shoppery and require payment in the form of the collective yarn balls and crystals you’ve gathered with each character meaning if we wanted some new threads, we had to visit the stages we’d been avoiding. After putting Bubsy in a tuxedo, there was little incentive to return.
On the plus side, the music is pleasant enough. You certainly won’t be hunting down the soundtrack online, but it’s not grating, which is a feat considering how much you'll hear the same tracks. The writing is predictably pun-filled, but the fact that it takes a backseat in this game means it doesn’t have enough space to become obnoxious. We even grinned once or twice. The three bosses are hardly breathtaking, but they do break up the monotony, and online leaderboards for each character offer a reason – however slight – to revisit levels. Be sure to deactivate Wi-Fi if you leave the house, though, or the game will pause after each run to search for a connection.
Despite all the disappointments we've mentioned, it's not a terrible game – we just expected much more from the makers of the Runner series. As for Bubsy, this is arguably a giant leap in the right direction.
It’d be easy to look at the bobcat’s resumé, look at this and dismiss it out of hand. Unfortunately, although Bubsy: Paws On Fire has the foundation of a decent runner and developer Choice Provisions knows what it’s doing in terms of creating levels with an engaging flow, less than stellar performance, bland and repetitive stages, superfluous gameplay additions and long loads combine to drag the experience down. It’s not awful, it’s just nowhere near as good as the Runner series and ultimately we’d recommend ditching the bobcat and spending time in the company of Commander Video instead.
I always thought if you were going to remake a game, make a bad one better. Between this and Shaq Fu though, it’s like it’s all a big joke for the developers instead of a legitimate passion.
You know your Game is walking on thin ice if "Music isn't unlistenable" is listed as a positive.
So they manged to make him more forgettable than before. That's pretty impressive.
Rocket Knight is an IP I'd love to see end up in the right hands. There's a ton of potential with combining that character with platforming that just has never been reached. And Glover has a lot of potential too.
Oh, what Bubsy? I uh... I guess this looks fine. I probably won't get it though, I still haven't even finished Runner3.
Alright, show of hands of who is not surprised? 🖐
When "music isn't unlistenable" is one of your positive points... Man, that's scratching the bottom of the barrel. XD
I think I'll stick with Astral Chain for anything cat-related for a little while, thanks.
People need to stop buying these games. The franchise is kept alive on memes alone and people who buy it for the sake of seeing just how bad it is.
It’s ok. I know the next great Bubsy game is coming. It may be 30 years later, I may be dead, the world may be nuked beyond recognition- but it will happen.
Que the Sean Bean Goldeneye quote, "why won't you die?"
Because this series refuses to do so.
There's a reason the original team didn't go past that horrid PSOne title; Bubsy is as dead a mascot as Gex or Tak or even Croc...
Sounds like the standard Bubsy experience to me.
@TheLightSpirit Yeah, I think developers are just capitalizing on franchises like this due to memes. The only time I’ve ever seen a game that could at all be considered bad made good was A Boy and his Blob.
I picked this up and it is a very forgetable game. Everything about this game is average at best.
I didn’t realise Accolade were still around as a games publisher
"Music isn't unlistenable"
That couldn't have been easy, so good job staying paws-itive on the review! I'm sure you made the meow-st of it! /Jontron
Taking a series known for its suckage and reviving it: “what could possibly go wrong?
@MagnaRoader How dare you insult those franchises like that. At least if those were remade I’d be more optimistic.
So it's not any good? Well then, it sounds like a Bubsy game.
Clash At Demonhead
The Adventures of Willy Beamish
But yeah, let’s bring BUBSY back, time and time again! Who cares about any of the above games, which happen to be great!
There are so many good games that are crying out for a remake or sequel and we get this 😂
Can’t believe Accolade are still around proper blast from the past
Oh look, the haters are at it again.
This was developed by the same developer as runner 3. Runner 3 did not review that bad and from my understanding this is just a reskinning. How does this do worse ?
This review gives me great paws to buy the game. :3
Utter disgrace this scored the same as Grandia 1 & 2 !!
What could PAWSibly go wrong???
Gex was never as bad as Bubsy.
At least the first game on 3DO.
"Music isn't unlistenable" Geez lol
@B-Locks - Atmosphere, characters, environment, dialog, music, expected genre to the franchise... The list goes on as to what can happen and affect a recreation of a game in different t skins.
I like how this game pulls in characters from Bubsy 2 and all, but I am not sold on this gameplay. I'll give it a shot once it gets a discount.
why who asked for this
I give the creators behind Bubsy credits that they at least keep trying. And who knows, maybe someday we will have a good Bubsy game.
At this point I wonder if their goal is for another company to pay them off for the rights to the Bubsy IP....so they can kill him in another game for good.
@RareFan yeah why not...
So many bad batman games before arkham asylum...
It's a shame but with so many games releasing currently it certainly makes my decision easier when deciding which games to pick up...... This looked hopeful before the review...
The Hole.ios man from Rick and Morty broke into my house and hit my diabetic cat when I brought this game home.
Although I appreciate as many reviews as we can get, I feel as though this is one that could have been left on the cutting room floor in lieu of something more promising, unique or interesting. The name "Bubsy" doesn't mean much in gaming circles, and the fact that this received review time and 500 or so words over something/anything else is underwhelming and disappointing to me as a reader.
Oh Bubsy, just can’t get rid of this dude.
@BanjoPickles I just want to say that you're pretty amazing for even contemplating, let alone bringing up Willy Beamish among broadly-recognized classic games.
For instance, maybe some words on how Risk of Rain 2 runs on the Switch? How was the port of Hotline Miami? — it certainly got enough press on release day with nary a word after. Torchlight 2 came out yesterday, how does that run? Invisigun is a game that has high marks on Steam and isn't available on other consoles, but what's it like on the Switch? It seems both familiar and unique. All this to say that an autorunner banking on the Bubsy name sounds like a 5 straight out the gate at best.
Torchlight 2 review is incoming
Poor Bubsy. He can't get a break for a good game sadly.
@dartmonkey cheers cheers.
Id rather a HD remake of the original or something. I wasnt keen on the ‘runner’ concept from the moment i heard about it. A rebalance of the first game n interesting project. Super Bubsy for the Pc already had decent visuals. But the game is quite unfair with its one hit deaths and instant drowning. Still have fond childhood memories of that one.
@brandonbwii did you play the Switch release of Shaq-Fu? I quite enjoyed it.
Haha! One of my all time favorite point and clicks, my friend!
@Dysnomia Yes, the controls were far too stiff for my liking and the humor got old fast.
@BanjoPickles People actually liked Willy Beamish?
Add Ristar to the list of 90's platforming heroes who I'd rather see get a second chance over a flop like this.
I loved it! Haha!
huge earnest Bubsy fan here - this game is overpriced, I'll admit, but it's definitely fun. Woolies Strike Back had a lot of sales so expect this game to go on sale eventually.
I like how the "Joys" are all just "passable", and not noteworthy in-and-of themselves. Also, "Best we've seen of Bubsy in some time" isn't sayimg much.
Still the best Bubsy game ever made.
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