Take on the Dark Tide in B.ARK
One of the games shown at E3 that I’ve been waiting a while to try is B.ARK. It’s developed by Tic Toc Games, who I know from backing Adventures of Pip. And though the two games couldn’t be more different, I’ve been excited about B.ARK for one simple reason – it’s a SHMUP title with adorable animal pilots. Sure, that’s a bit surface level, but bear with me. Sometimes an initial vibe from a game can flavor the final experience. And after playing the demo on Steam, I am happy to confirm the game is living up to my considerable hype.
B.ARK starts with a really charming and sad animated sequence. A group of astronauts are getting ready to leave the Earth, which is under attack by the Dark Tide. The humans are frantically doing their final checks, but can’t forget their animal buddies. There’s 4 of them – a cat, dog, bunny and bear. Their ship goes into orbit, and all looks well. Until a mechanical squid wraps its grubby tentacles around them. Everything is in danger of destruction, but one pilot makes the hard choice. She disengages the pod with the animals from the larger craft, saving them. Sadly, the humans left behind are seemingly destroyed by the malevolent cephalopod.
The animals go into hypersleep, and awake in a strange new world. Luckily they have some allies who outfit them in next gen spaceships! And apparently the animals can talk now? Either way, I’m fine with it. Though there’s only one playable level in the demo, there’s a handy tutorial too. It taught me the basics of the combat, such as ceasing fire to charge powerful shots; dodging bullets and lasers; powering up by picking up debris left by downed foes; and unleashing a powerful special attack when the meter is full. And besides all that, you can also pick up handy pods with health packs and items to speed up your upgrades.
Speaking of the animals, they each play differently. Though I didn’t spend time with Lucio the bear or Barker the dog, I did try out Marv the Bunny and Felicity the Cat. Each critter has a specialty. Marv fires homing shots, while Felicity has spread shots. They also have different special attacks. Marv slows down foes momentarily while Felicity gets gigantic bullets for a limited time. It’s a lot of fun to experience, and I’m sure it’s even more so in multiplayer. You can play with up to 3 friends, though I was only able to try the demo single player.
Though I only experienced one level, it was a ton of fun. It had a couple tough mini bosses and a boss fight against a Narwhal in a spaceship. It’s bonkers, but in the very best way. I tried on both Normal and then again on Hard, and found the difficulty well balanced either way. When combined with frenetic gameplay, colorful art and energetic music, and you have a great SHMUP. I cannot wait to try the final build of the game, hopefully on my favorite handheld console. And if you’re not already following the latest from Tic Toc Games, I’d advise you do so.