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Somehow, Bubsy: Paws on Fire! is Amazing

I did not see this coming, but it turns out that Bubsy and Bit.Trip Runner were each exactly what the other needed?

I haven’t played any other Bubsy game, so I can’t compare this to earlier ones, but reviews suggest it’s the best one yet, which I find completely believable. But I have played all the Bit.Trip Runner games (though not all of Runner3) and oddly enough, it might also be the best one of those yet.

Gone are the readability-destroying visual excesses of Runner3 - the unpredictably-moving platforms and the camera angle changes. We’re back to a Runner/Runner2-style fixed side-view camera, sufficiently zoomed out that you can see what’s coming, and obstacles behave consistently.

Gone are the misguided attempts at variety and replayability - Runner3’s bizarre vehicle sections and the confusing and repetition-requiring multiple paths and oddly-placed bonus levels of both Runner2 and Runner3. Bubsy instead provides four playable characters with their own abilities and play style, so you get frequent changes of pace but under your own control and while you do technically repeat levels multiple times, they feel totally different with each character. (One of the four actually has their own set of levels as well instead of reusing the shared levels of the other three.)

Gone are the ambiguous cues of Runner2 and Runner3 - with 150 collectibles in each level, it’s always clear where you’re supposed to go and you don’t need to rely on the obstacles to signpost the path. Instead, you’re just figuring out how to use or avoid them to follow that path.

Gone is the failure cannon from Runner2 and Runner3. It isn’t replaced with anything; it’s just gone. As it should be.

And while I’m personally requiring myself to get every collectible in each level before moving forward, that’s because I have the experience from the Runner series. The competence zone here is actually nice and big - it’s pretty easy to clear levels if you aren’t going for collectibles, so there’s a lot of room for various skill levels and improvement through practice.

It’s so good. I’ve played for about three hours today and am about a third of the way through the game. I only have two complaints:

  1. It’d be nice if the game had Runner3’s self-bonk or a return-to-last-checkpoint option in the pause menu. The only moments of sheer frustration I experience in this game are when I miss a collectible right before a checkpoint or level ending and there’s no obstacle to bonk against, so I have to restart the entire level.
  2. The characters each have a unique line of dialog for each level that they say when you start it, which is cool. Unfortunately, they also say it when you restart the level. That gets a bit old. They should probably skip that on level restarts.

Well, I guess a third complaint if you count the fact that the Switch version was delayed so I’m having to play on Steam instead. :)