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CONSOLE: Nintendo Switch DEVELOPER: Torus Games PUBLISHER: Outright Games
RELEASE DATE (NA): October 23, 2018 GENRE: Platformer
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

A bit 'ruff around the edges...

My knowledge of Paw Patrol extends about as far as stocking and merchandising Paw Patrol products and catching the occasional toy advert on TV. I know that the show is a hugely successful cash-dog for Nickelodeon and Viacom, making them huge bank. The popularity of Paw Patrol cannot be understated: like The Beatles, it could be said that the Paw Patrol are bigger than Jesus. And when something or someone is popular, eventually video games start to be made, and that's exactly what Torus Games and Outright Games have done. The same Outright Games who brought us Crayola Scoot, so we know we're in for a good time! Oh, that's right, it's hard to sense sarcasm on the internet.

Paw Patrol: On A Roll is a side scrolling 2.5D platformer with quite frankly gorgeous visuals. This ISN'T sarcasm. If I were to praise any one aspect of this game for an extended period of time, I would be sure to make you aware just how nice and rounded the character models for each of the pups are and how vibrant the stages are. From what I know about Paw Patrol, these 3D models are pretty much spot-on representations of each of the show's characters. When it comes to visuals, no stone has been left unturned in the quest for superbly accurate presentation of the show's characters, world and vehicles.

Everywhere else, however, is where this fails.

My feelings regarding On A Roll's controls and gameplay are almost identical to my feelings regarding Garfield's Nightmare, which I recently reviewed. This is a rigid and well-constructed platformer that plays comfortably and any mistakes are on you. The game is so solidly built it was impossible for me to clip out of bounds despite desperately trying to. Snow and ice levels feature no slipping or sliding around, every button press gives you a predictable result and that's really refreshing in a world of slippy games that push for "realism".

Plain and decent inoffensive controls are married with dull, repetitive level design. In all honesty, a well-constructed platformer with poor level design is a worse off product than a game with loads of glitches but packed with a ton of fun and interesting levels. I wish I could say that each level is interesting and doesn't recycle environment archetypes, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

Every stage is a series of basic platforming challenges with 200 puppy treats and 5 golden paw prints to collect. The whole game can be beaten 100% in well under six hours and the level of challenge is practically zero. This barely even registers as a video game, considering there isn't even a "lose" condition. A mentally-deficient monkey could eventually beat this game easily if left to its own devices, because after all, I managed to.

Barking up the wrong tree...

From what I've been told, neither the music nor voice cast from the show are present in this game. There is one voice actor playing the main character "Ryder", who incessantly speaks to you. "You collected a puppy treat!", "Great, you're almost there!", etc. etc. It's borderline torture to hear him talking all the time. You can reduce the dialogue volume to zero, but he will still appear on screen, flapping his gums and gesticulating using his three repeated animations. You open at least one gate or obstruction on every level by grabbing and pulling a rope, and every time Ryder insists upon telling you how to do it.

Some of the dogs only get featured on a handful of missions, whereas others appear repeatedly. I hope you're a fan of Chase, otherwise you're going to get tired of playing as him. None of the dogs bark, or growl, or act anything like dogs. On several occasions, birds or sheep need to be scared off a path. You're a dog and surely you could just growl, but instead Chase needs to roll by in his police car and scare them off with the siren. You are a DOG, you could just bark!

Most obstacles could realistically be jumped over or walked around, reminding me of Resident Evil 4 or Gears of War, where a small locked gate you could easily hop over obstructs your way. The levels are very flat and feature very basic platforming. There is absolutely nothing interesting to say about On A Roll.

There's this feeling I get that games for children aren't designed in an interesting way due to a lack of effort or desire to make them. In the past, Torus Games titles such as Monster High: New Ghoul In School and Barbie and her Sisters: Puppy Rescue have been crafted in a way that shows genuine effort has been made to keep them fresh and interesting, featuring nuanced design. This Paw Patrol game is a night and day difference, feeling like a meal ticket.

Licensed kids games can be produced with little effort, and maybe that's why kids are drawn to games like Call of Duty or Fortnite because at least they're interesting! Or because they have guns, I guess. Paw Patrol: On A Roll is unlikely to appeal to anyone over six years of age.

About the only folks who'll get a kick out of this are shovelware connoisseurs. This game is alright for a few bucks if it ever goes on sale, but there's no reason why you'd prioritize this over Kirby: Star Allies or Super Mario Odyssey if you wanted to keep your child occupied and not insult their intelligence at the same time.

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