As a father of two sub-seven year olds, I’ve always gotten mixed up between PJ Masks and PAW Patrol. It shouldn’t be that difficult: one has kids and the other has dogs. But there’s something about the theme tunes, the primary colours, the pantomime villains, the two-to-one emphasis on boys over girls, and the duff jokes that makes them interchangeable to me.
Well, thank you PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night for making that issue worse. This is, quite clearly, PAW Patrol: On a Roll, reskinned as a PJ Mask game. It’s made by both the same publisher, Outright Games, and the development house that made the first PAW Patrol game, and it’s plain to see in every aspect. The level select screens are the same. The collectibles are the same, just switched from Paw Prints and Pup Treats to masks and generic ‘gems’.
The 2D platforming levels, too, are the same. We need to play PAW Patrol: On a Roll again to understand exactly HOW close they are, but we recognise the same Z-shaped left-to-right sections that we encountered here. Occasionally you are stopped in the middle of a level to select one of three character abilities and those abilities can even be identical. Gekko can climb a wall, just like Chase’s suction boots.
We’re labouring the point now, but you also take part in vehicle sequences, driving out of the screen, just like PAW Patrol: On a Roll. Swap out Skye’s Helicopter for the Owlglider and you know what you’re getting here.
The reviewer in me wrinkles my nose up. I get all Scrooge and start preparing the terrible score. It’s shameless repackaging, and we shouldn’t encourage this sort of behaviour. Buuuuut, then I put my parental hat on.
Not everyone has played PAW Patrol: On a Roll, and not every PJ Mask fan likes a bit of Marshall. If you are coming to this template for the first time, it’s actually a pretty serviceable one. Outright Games know what a younger player is capable of. The driving sections are impossible to fail as you stumble into barriers that only slow you down. Levels only ask you to go in one direction – forwards – and you don’t need to explore or backtrack. Plus the controls are incredibly simple. You jump and move. Catboy has a double jump, but that really is the height of complexity.
Very few games are made for a younger player, but PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night is one of them. You could sit a PJ Pest in front of the game and it’s doubtful they will need your help. It’s a hell of a babysitter.
And, more so than PAW Patrol: On a Roll, PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night doubles down on the joys of the TV series. The full voice cast have been involved in the making of the game, even Romeo, Lunagirl and Night Ninja, and the missions take advantage of this. On a Roll fumbled its missions by asking the pups to rescue generic animals. In PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night, there is an opening cutscene featuring all of the cast, detailing a reasonably elaborate mission, and there’s a finale cutscene where the baddie gets a comeuppance – following some lightweight quick-time events. It’s not up to the level of the TV shows (the confrontations always end in the same way), but it’s more than we expected. Kids will love it.
There’s a caveat here, in that PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night falls into a familiar trap. The characters constantly talk throughout a level, and boy do they grate. They mean well, reminding you how to double jump and where the collectibles might be, but they repeat ad nauseum, and we wanted to gather them all up, put them in a sack and chuck them into the nearest river.
There’s a sizable number of levels, with twelve on offer, and we counted six different backgrounds, so there’s less environmental repetition than the drossy PAW Patrol The Movie: Adventure City Calls. But, make no mistake, that doesn’t mean that PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night is varied. Oh no, please don’t get that impression. If you ignore the backgrounds, the cutscenes and the vehicle sections (which aren’t altogether different from each other anyway), then each level is identical. You play each character for a third of the level, performing one ability each, and gather 33 gems per character. Owlette will do some flying, Gekko will climb some walls, and Catboy will have to double jump onto some moving platforms. It’s the same thing, twelve times over. Your kids might not notice, but – by golly – you will.
There’s not much in the way of longevity either, outside of the reasonably sizable twelve levels. There are no minigames here, which is perhaps a surprise after all the PAW Patrol comparisons, which have always tossed in a rhythm action game or obstacle course. You get trophies for grabbing mask and gem collectibles, but that’s it. You’ve got to rely on your child’s affinity for playing things over and over again without getting bored.
In our case, PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night lasted a surprisingly long time and got strong reviews from our children. Who knew: repetitious level design and shameless copying of PAW Patrol: On a Roll means very little to younger players. What they want is to feel like a PJ Mask (job definitely done) and to have a fun game that suits their skill levels (again, surprisingly successful).
Know what you’re getting into, and we cautiously recommend PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night. It’s a near-direct copy of PAW Patrol: On a Roll. If you have that game, and you feel like your PJ Pests will notice, then you might want to deploy the Gekko camouflage and give this one a miss.
But if you want a bit of wish fulfillment for your little Catboys and Owlettes, with a 2D platformer that knows the gaming limits of your tykes, then this is a wise parenting choice. PJ Masks all shout hooray, because in the night, this – just about – saves the day.
You can buy PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S