Battle Bears -1 is a prequel set two games before the events of the first Battle Bears. This time, Oliver, the star of the first game, plays Ripley to the adorable pink Huggables’ Aliens aboard a cavernous spaceship.
Like in the first Battle Bears, -1’s story is told through delightful animated cutscenes, which this time reference classic movies such as Star Wars, Aliens, Indiana Jones, and even Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail. They’re brief but memorable, and we wish there were more of them to break up the constant action.
Might want to put a tourniquet on that.
New to Battle Bears -1 is the 3D movement. While before Oliver was stuck behind sandbags and could only move his aim, now evading the Huggables is a major part of the gameplay. You’ll have to sprint around the room, circle-strafing the slower-moving bears and moving in close to detonate toxic green Huggables.
The new control scheme works pretty well once you spend some time with it, but to look left or right without shooting, you have to activate a “safety” button on the bottom of the screen. This is not a good option when you’re frantically running while trying to conserve your special ammo like rockets or spread guns. A mechanic where you could drag anywhere on the screen to look around, like in the shooters NOVA and Brothers in Arms 2, would have made more sense to us.
Speaking of weapons, we were disappointed that they’re so bland in this prequel. The first Battle Bears featured a strikingly unique arsenal, which included a unicorn horn crossbow and Huggable-powered flamethrower. Here, you’ll find some new powerups that match the action, like a portable shield, orbiting drone, and screen-clearing nuke, but there’s nothing that defines Battle Bears like the first game did.
Boss’s face obscured to protect its identity.
Also, Oliver’s entire mission is composed of one series of rooms, which all look nearly identical. You can choose your path, a nice touch reminiscent of the arcade classic Smash TV (Survival mode even jokingly references that game’s goofy prizes, like a jet ski). But after one big boss battle and a final cinematic, the game is over.
You can pay an additional $.99 for another mission of equal length starring Oliver’s buffed-out buddy Riggs, and it might be worth the dollar just for the boss battle against a giant, squid-like mutant. But Riggs has his own issues– he’s too tall to aim at squat, nearby Huggables, and unlocking his mission offers no new powerups or enemies except the boss.
Battle Bears -1 is an interesting direction for the series to take. We are happy with the fast-paced action, and the game is technically impressive, sporting dozens of enemies onscreen without a hitch. But it seems to have lost some of the creativity of the first game, coasting on classic videogame and movie tropes instead of defining its own. Chronologically, it’s two steps backwards, but it’s also one small step backwards in terms of creativity.