Title: Thunder Paw
Developer: Sergio Poverony
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Genre: Action, Platformer, Adventure
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 18/03/2020
Price: £4.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
At first glance, Thunder Paw seems like a decent enough little game. £4.99 for a platformer where you play as a dog with some neat pixel art graphics? Why not? Beginning with a cutscene revealing that Thunder the dog’s parents have been kidnapped after an explosion at their house, it’s up to you to rescue them. However, that’s about as deep as the story goes, and the ‘why not?’ attitude swiftly turns into ‘oh, that’s why not…’
At face value, this has all the makings of a classic platformer. I was immediately reminded of Lion King and Aladdin for the SEGA Megadrive, the levels requiring you to go through natural biomes with falling stalactites and endless dark pits. The pixel art is nicely done, with satisfying shadows and lighting, and some cool looking enemies. And of course, a cute pixel dog as the protagonist is bound to draw you in.
But sadly, there is just no life or colour to the game. Quite literally. Though there are five different biomes, including a snowy one and a cave-like one, they all look so dark and bland. The greys, browns and dark purples just don’t pop. Some games rely on a dark colour palette stylistically, for example horror games to match the atmosphere. But here, it just didn’t work. I’d feel more adventure and determination if I was pushing my way through lush green forests or mountains with an icy blue sky.
The levels themselves weren’t awful, with your fair amount of danger and different pathways, but they were so damn repetitive. Seeing the same room copy and pasted numerous times throughout the level was not engaging, and even across the biomes, though there would be different aspects such as computer rooms or falling snow, it all felt exactly the same. And the same could be said for the bosses and enemies too.
Watching the same old enemies running forwards and back, or standing in one position as they fired bullets in predictable patterns, sucked the enjoyment out of the game extremely quickly. Granted, I was on easy mode, yet I feel upping the difficulty would only stretch out the process and make it even more repetitive if the enemies had more health.
This didn’t improve with the boss levels either. Just like the enemies, you first appreciate the anthropomorphic themed design. Like any classic platformer, the boss can seem hard at first but once you have its pattern memorised and have a feel of the stage, it’s actually fairly easy. But with its huge health bar and your gun doing minimal damage, defeating the bosses is agonisingly painful. You have four hearts, and even if you’ve got the pattern down to a tee, you end up slacking out of pure boredom after ten minutes of jumping and shooting, dying and having to redo the entire process.
To make matters worse, if you wanted to go off the game during a boss to take a breather or come back later, you would have to redo the level before it too. Cue controller being thrown.
You wouldn’t think it could get any more frustrating, but the knockback or recoil feature of your gun adds an unnecessary annoyance to the game. The controls are easy enough, running, jumping and shooting your way through enemies, while also being able to change your bullet type. But having to attack enemies while also having to remember not to recoil off a tiny platform or into a danger wasn’t a nice challenge to the game…it was just irritating.
Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Though the game description says about the blue gems that enemies drop being used to power up your gun, this isn’t really explained in game. I didn’t notice a difference honestly, and spent most of the game with no idea why I was picking these up or what the power bar under my hearts was contributing to.
To join the repetitive levels was the repetitive 8-bit soundtrack. Sure, it was different in each biome, but playing it across five levels of that biome was more than enough. I am usually in a party with my friends too, so I like to turn game volume down so I can hear them. This isn’t an option. The closest thing is having to go back to the game menu to be able to turn off the music, so that’s what I did.
With not even the smallest crumb of narrative to keep you invested (all I wanted was maybe a small cutscene at the boss levels so I had a hint of exactly who had kidnapped Thunder’s parents/where I was going) the only incentive to keep playing, besides having to write this review, was the achievements. Find the hidden box in each level, and defeat the first couple of bosses. Easy.
However, despite the boxes and bosses continuing, the achievements didn’t. They stopped just over halfway through, so thus did my remaining slither of motivation, powering on through to write this.
Thunder Paw is something you’d pick up on the Xbox store for a £1 to raise your gamerscore by 1000. £4.99 is far too generous unfortunately. It’s fun at first with the retro platformer vibes and the cool characters, but this dissolves with the repetition and frustrating mechanics. The look was there, but the substance was not.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Thunder Paw for Xbox at the following link: Microsoft Store