Posts by Tag / GAME: Bubsy: Paws on Fire! (10)


Bubsy: Twisted Dreams

Bubsy: Paws on Fire! was my first Bubsy game and I loved it and thought it set a new standard for rhythm platformers. After 100%ing it on Steam, I’m playing it again on Switch and it’s still great. And I guess Bubsy must have gotten into my head, because I decided I wanted MORE BUBSY and went ahead and tried the only other Bubsy game made more recently than the 1990s: Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back. And… it’s decent!

I wasn’t expecting to like it. The game was not well received and got a metascore in the mid-40s on both PS4 and PC. But honestly, I don’t think the game got a fair shot. It was the first Bubsy game in over two decades and even the announcement that the series was getting revived was met with hostility. With expectations like these, the game would have had to be fantastic to overcome reviewers' predispositions to dislike it, and… it isn’t that. The core gameplay is solid and I enjoyed playing through the levels, but the menus and other connective tissue feel a bit unpolished (including bizarre omissions like not being able to see your current high score per level), the boss fights are tedious, and perhaps worst of all - the game is very short. I fully completed it in something like five hours (about one-third of the time it took me to do the same with Paws on Fire!).

To me, these flaws don’t destroy the game’s strengths and I think a fair rating would land in the “mixed” range rather than the “negative” one. But with the baggage carried by the Bubsy IP, this game was never going to get a “mixed” score. Either it would be good enough to smash preconceptions and rate “positive” or it wouldn’t and it’d be dismissed out of hand. A mediocre Bubsy game is not, in most people’s eyes, a sufficient reason to revive the franchise.

Or maybe I’m just biased because of how much I liked Paws on Fire!. Or both. Who knows.

Anyway, the people I feel sorry for are the long-time Bubsy fans who saw their beloved series was returning. They had to watch the internet mock the very idea of a new Bubsy game. Then when the resulting game was middling and quite short but had promise and could easily have had an excellent sequel, the fans had to watch the internet call it pure trash. Then when another Bubsy game followed, it turned out to be by a different developer in a different genre. The result might be a game that I love, but when I imagine one of my favorite dormant franchises getting this kind of treatment - oof.

So, I’m definitely keeping an eye on Bubsy. I’m quite interested to see what happens next here, and I really hope something does. And for the record, I would be excited to see a follow-up to Paws on Fire! but I would also be excited to see a follow-up to The Woolies Strike Back.

In the meantime - folks like me who enjoyed Woolies and aren’t sated after its short runtime are best advised to move on to its developer’s previous work: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. The gameplay is actually quite similar. That might also have been a knock against the reviews for Woolies (some felt it showed the game was a rushed cash-in that reused most of an existing game design) but it’s definitely a bonus if you’re looking for more Woolies-like game to play.


Rhythm and Readability: Why Bubsy: Paws on Fire! is the Best Bit.Trip Runner

Rhythm Games are For Flow

Why do people play rhythm games?

I don’t speak for everyone, but based on the comments I could find online, I think a lot of people share my reason: Rhythm games let us lose ourselves in music, and that feels good.

Musicians will tell you: when things are going well, making music puts you in a euphoric state of complete absorption. You are no longer aware of your own self as a separate entity; you’re one with the music. An anonymous composer put it this way:

“You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And [the music] just flows out of itself.”

This quote was provided by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his TED talk on “flow”. Flow is a popular term in games analysis, but in case you haven’t come across it before, here’s a brief summary: “flow” is a term coined and popularized by Csikszentmihalyi to refer to a particular mental and emotional state of being “in the zone”. It’s a form of focus that allows for continual high-level performance without conscious thought. Researchers studying this state in musicians have described it as “effortless attention.”



Capsule Review: Bubsy: Paws on Fire!

A collaboration between Bubsy franchise publisher Accolade and BIT.TRIP Runner developer Choice Provisions, Bubsy: Paws on Fire! features Runner-like gameplay starring Bubsy and friends. The result is a highly readable rhythm platformer with varied gameplay and a wide competence zone where the player has a good amount of freedom in their approach and a lot of opportunity for flow.



Bubsy: I’M on Fire??

Once I finished Bubsy: Paws on Fire! (review forthcoming) I happened to check out the Steam global leaderboards. There isn’t an overall combined leaderboard, but there is one for each character. I was shocked to see that for Bubsy I was number five, and for Virgil, Woolie, and Arnold I was number three. (My position may have changed since writing this.)

For a moment, I got excited - I’m so used to being completely buried in any leaderboard that it didn’t even occur to me that I might be on the first page, let alone in the top five. This was after a completionist playthrough (every achievement and every collectible with every character) but I hadn’t otherwise been attempting to max out my combo chains and get the best possible scores. If I wanted to, I could probably top all four leaderboards.

But then I realized that of course the reason for this was that there’s only a couple hundred people even on these leaderboards. (At time of writing, 200 for Bubsy, 165 for Virgil, 164 for Woolie, and 130 for Arnold.) And for a game that I like this much - for any game that I like enough to get high scores on, really - I’d much rather it be popular enough for the leaderboards to totally drown me. I don’t want to be high on the leaderboards if it means the game is low in the sales charts.

I’d rather have a sequel than a top score.


#gaming #video games #bubsy: paws on fire! #leaderboards #virgil reality is my spirit animal #i want a virgil reality amiibo

Tags: Thought, GAME: Bubsy: Paws on Fire!


What Makes A Review Useful?

My frustration with Bubsy: Paws on Fire! reviews has me thinking about what makes for a good review in the first place.

The term “review” is a bit overloaded, but let’s leave aside critical analysis and close readings and focus on the traditional consumer-advice-style review. The goal of such a review is to give potential consumers the information they need to make a purchasing decision - on top of information that comes from elsewhere, such as the product’s current price and the consumer’s current life situation. So what is that missing information that the review should provide?

It’s tempting to say that it’s the game’s quality level. The review should convey whether the game is good or bad - often by providing a number indicating where it falls on the spectrum.

The problem is that once you’re above a fairly low baseline, this isn’t universally-applicable. As long as a game basically works, then people will react to the experience it provides in widely different ways. I have played and disliked many popular and acclaimed games - and while I believe Graham Banas is honest when he gives Bubsy: Paws on Fire! a 2/10 on Push Square, using that site’s own scoring policy I’d easily give Paws an 8 or 9. There’s no way to objectively say that one (or both!) of us is wrong in our assessment of the game’s quality, so it doesn’t seem like that could be reasonably considered the core of the review.

I think the actual core - the missing information that a review should provide - is the game’s audience. Most games that basically work and the vast majority of games that get reviewed would be enjoyed by some group of people out there. A useful review is one that makes it clear who is in this group so that readers can determine whether they are a member. A high quality level for a game suggests that the group is large but doesn’t mean any given reader is necessarily a part of it or that they would like the game.

This is easier said than done, of course. It’s simple to say “If you like Bit.Trip Runner’s gameplay and the Bubsy characters, you’ll like Paws on Fire!” but that won’t be much help to someone unfamiliar with those franchises. Finding the right balance of specificity and brevity is tough. But it’s a worthy goal, and it’s what I try to keep in mind when writing my own reviews.


Expawtation Meownagement

I think Bubsy: Paws on Fire! hurt its marketing and review scores by not incorporating Bit.Trip Runner into the name.

The upcoming Cadence of Hyrule is an interesting comparison point. Both games are non-traditional installments in established franchises (Bubsy, The Legend of Zelda) in the style of and by the developers of an unrelated rhythm-hybrid game (rhythm platformer Bit.Trip Runner, rhythm roguelike Crypt of the NecroDancer).

The Zelda/NecroDancer game is called Cadence of Hyrule for short - the full title is Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda. The short title reflects that it’s a crossover - it’s the main character of NecroDancer, Cadence, in the setting of Zelda, Hyrule. The subtitle includes the name of both parent franchises, and makes it clear that this is more of a NecroDancer game than a Zelda game.

This is really solid expectation management, and it’s working. Whenever I see the game mentioned in a news item, it’s described as a Zelda spin-off or crossover. Not many people are likely to mistake it for a mainline Zelda title.

The Bubsy/Runner game is called Bubsy: Paws on Fire! - that’s the full title. There is no mention of Bit.Trip Runner at all. It’s just Bubsy.

The result is that people expect a Bubsy game unless they happen to look deeper and notice the different developer. A lot of people wouldn’t look that closely - even game reviewers and journalists are hit-and-miss with this and I certainly don’t see the game referred to as a spin-off or crossover in news items. And if you go in expecting traditional Bubsy, you may well end up surprised, confused, and disappointed by the actual gameplay - especially if you aren’t familiar with Bit.Trip Runner.

I really like the game and want to see it do well, but the mismatched expectations seem to have hurt the review scores. The most frustrating to me is Push Square’s 2/10 review which describes the game as “an auto-runner style platformer” and makes no reference to Bit.Trip Runner or developer Choice Provisions. There’s a lot I think is unfair or misleading about this review, but in particular I notice that a lot of the most valid complaints also apply to the Runner games but give no idea how the reviewer feels about those games.

Someone who dislikes Runner gameplay won’t like Paws on Fire! any more than someone who dislikes NecroDancer gameplay would like Cadence of Hyrule, but it’s much less clear that’s a consideration here - enough so that the reviewer doesn’t even bring it up and multiple commenters express disappointment that the game is bad since they like the Runner games. They took the reviewer’s word that the game was bad despite the reviewer failing to establish that the review even applied to players with their tastes.

I chimed in suggesting they give the game another look. I want Bubsy: Paws on Fire! to have the best possible chance to reach its audience.


Arnold reminded me why I dislike punishment: I need novelty.

A bit ago I speculated on why different people feel differently about punishment in games, and I have a new theory thanks to Arnold’s levels in Bubsy: Paws on Fire!

The short version is that different people have different thresholds for maintaining interest in repetitive content. The long version follows.



Bubsy: Paws on Fire! has a really interesting level structure and I'm gonna talk about it.

The short version is that it allows for a lot of player freedom in approach and in forming the difficulty curve, and has a lot more content than it might first appear.

The long version follows.



#bubsy: paws on fire! #gaming #video games #game design #difficulty #virgil reality #virgil reality is my spirit animal #i want a virgil reality amiibo

Tags: Thought, GAME: Bubsy: Paws on Fire!


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. :)


Bubsy.Trip Runner?

I’ve been tuning out Bubsy-related news for a while now, because why would you pay any attention to Bubsy, so I completely missed that the new Bubsy game coming out literally today is somehow a Bit.Trip Runner clone made by the actual makers of Bit.Trip Runner. WHAT.

Well, they’ve got my attention. I’ll be checking out the reviews.

I happen to be knee-deep in the Runner games right now for an article I’m working on, so the timing was actually a bit unnerving.