A good game leaves you wanting more. By that measurement, Thunder Paw is not a good game. I was glad it was over when I defeated the underwhelming final boss, put down my Switch, and went to bed. On its surface, Thunder Paw looks like a standard 2D platformer featuring a dog with a gun – and that’s exactly what it is. Does it control well? Sure. Is the gun weighty and satisfying to fire? To an extent. Is the game fun? Well, not especially.
As far as positives go, the movement and jumping controls were spot-on. They felt responsive, and I don’t think I could attribute a single death to poor controls. I also like the concept of enemies dropping experience shards that steadily upgrade the gun you’re using. That was an interesting idea, one I’ve not seen in many games besides Cave Story.
Sadly, that’s about where it ends. The pixel art and soundtrack were inoffensive, I suppose, if bland in parts. However, there are many elements that contributed to this underwhelming and downright annoying experience.
I started Thunder Paw on its hardest difficulty setting. Generally speaking, I play on normal, but I figured I could always dial it down if I started struggling. Turns out, all hard mode does is remove the checkpoints sprinkled throughout each level. I found this out about seven levels in, when I got tired of dying to stupid enemy placement and insta-death pits and bumped it down to normal.
The menu does warn you that you can’t change difficulty mid-playthrough, but as it turns out, this isn’t true in the slightest. I was able to select “continue” after rebooting, regardless of what difficulty I set it to. Weird how that works, but I’ll accept it since it prevented me from replaying nearly half the game.
So I continued on normal and beat the whole game after near-constant increases in frustrating insta-death scenarios. The difficulty scale in Thunder Paw kind of goes like this. Bottomless pits. Bottomless pits with small platforms. Bottomless pits with moving small platforms. Bottomless pits with moving small platforms and enemies on the far side. Now, also add an intermittent wind mechanic that affects your jumping. Also, the rats have rapid-fire rifles with unpredictable firing patterns.
Needless to say, it was very, very annoying. It’s not fun or challenging; just infuriating and cheap. What’s more, all the gun upgrades you’ve acquired disappear upon death, including in boss fights, where you then can’t regain those precious upgrades. There’s also little reason to use more than one gun once you’ve fully upgraded your favourite.
The most memorable part of Thunder Paw for me was when I spammed the A button out of frustration after dying to one of its RNG-heavy bosses. Somehow, that skipped me to the next level. I wanted to try recreating this odd occurrence, but I’d have to replay the whole prior level, and there’s no way I’m doing that.
I should probably mention that the game has a hidden box on every level that does literally nothing. These were only included as part of earning trophy points on other platforms; apparently, completing Thunder Paw earns a PlayStation platinum in an hour.
So, I beat Thunder Paw in full. It was fine at best, infuriating at worst. There’s little reason to check this one out unless you’ve bled the world dry of games featuring dogs – then it’s a maybe.
Thunder Paw £4.99
Thunder Paw is an underwhelming and often frustrating platformer. Riddled with bottomless pits, unfairly placed enemies, and secret boxes that do literally nothing, this title squanders an interesting upgrade mechanic with a lacklustre overall package.