‘B.ARK’ Indie Game Shoot ‘Em Up Has All Paws on Deck

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I’ve always been drawn to the absolute madness of shoot ’em ups where the screen is littered with projectiles you have to try and dodge while unleashing your own wave of attacks. That being said, I’ve never really been good at them, after all, they’re lovingly called bullet hell for a reason. B.ARK, created by indie developer Tic Toc Games, may be the first time I’ve felt semi-descent at one of these.

The best part? It looks like something straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon that takes place after these messages (we’ll be right back).

I got the chance to chat with the developers of the game during E3 and watch a demonstration. The demo is available now on Steam if you want to try it for yourself. 10/10 would recommend going to space with a crew of fluffy companions who have discovered the truth about space fish: they’re evil as (censored glug glug noises).

Our story begins with a crew in the middle of escaping an assault from the cybernetic fish armada, Dark Tide. Milla, who the developers told me is the robotics engineer of the crew, does her due diligence to make sure that the animals are safely on the ship. This includes local good boy, Barker. Before everyone can escape, their ship is ensnared by a robotic tentacle, leading Milla to make the quick decision to release the pod the animals are in, leaving the human crew behind.

I wasn’t expecting this game to tug at my heartstrings, but watching Barker whimper over Milla being captured, and Milla telling him to “be a good boy” was a clear attack on my feelings.

This sets the stage for our game as the animal crew comes together to save Milla, the rest of the human crew, and the entire galaxy by putting those fish back in their tank.

The B.ARK crew

B.ARK has the option of single-player or up to 4 player co-op. Characters include Barker the Dog, Felicity the Cat, Lucio the Bear, and Marv the Rabbit. Each animal not only has their own personality that gets fleshed out as you play (think of the banter between Team Star Fox here), but each one has their own special skill in combat.

Oh. And a ship that fits purrfectly with who they are. Seriously, now is your chance to pilot a bunny-eared mech with your furry besties … assuming Lucio has enough space in his pod. It’s hard out there for a bear.

Character select screen

What’s really cool is that when you’re playing co-op, you can combine special skills with your other teammates, unleashing devastating attacks as a unit. There’s some strategy involved here since you can wait to use those superpowered moves, aka, do you use them when you’re surrounded by waves of enemies or wait until you get to the boss?

I said earlier that this was one of the few times I felt like I did a pretty good job in a bullet hell game. That’s because you can select your difficulty and you have a pretty good-sized health meter (depending on the difficulty level, of course). There are also checkpoints after a level’s sub-boss, so you don’t get sent all the way back to the beginning if (or in my case when) you die. The game’s difficulty adjusts to the number of people playing, so there will be a lot more fish to fry when you’re playing as a group. That might sound like a daunting task, but one of the major perks of playing with others is that your teammates can rescue you when you run out of health instead of you sitting the rest of the stage out. When a teammate picks up your downed ship, you’re able to fire at enemies until your ship regenerates and you enter back into the fray.

B.ARK gameplay

While the name of the game is teamwork, there’s some competitiveness at hand since the end of each stage tells you who got the most points.  On top of racking up points while you play, you’ll unlock memories that uncover more of the backstory. We already know that there’s a history between Barker and his human, Milla, but who was the man in her locket? Furthermore, what’s the story with our other crewmates? As you play, there are collectibles to find, and those collectibles will uncover the story of B.ARK.

While there’s no release date for B.ARK yet, the game will be available on Steam and on Nintendo Switch. You can also stay up-to-date via the B.ARK website.

End of level screen B.ARK

That cat looks so smug about winning, very in-character for a cat.

(image: Tic Toc Games)

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