The brown bear’s bite is powerful enough to crush a bowling ball. That’s pretty crazy, isn’t it? I sometimes struggle to bite through an apple if it comes out of the fridge. Bears also have an amazing sense of smell, the best of all mammals, and can see in full colour unlike dogs. They’re brilliant animals and I could talk about them all day.
Which is fortunate, as I will very quickly run out of things to say about Astro Bears Party on Nintendo Switch. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun little game. It has a nice little score attack mode for singleplayer arcade action, ideal for the bus or the train, and a cool multiplayer component that makes for raucous fun.
Speaking of cool, did you know the Arctic is named after the polar bears? Antarctic literally means the land without bears. If you’re ever wondering whether it’s the North or South pole which has bears, that should make things a little simpler for you.
Sorry, where was I? Oh, this is basically Tron’s lightcycle battles but played on a sphere. Up to fourplayers run around a small planetoid trying to avoid one another’s trails of light, using a short boost or a jetpack to duck, jump and weave in an attempt to survive the longest. There are three different sizes of planet which can make gameplay even more chaotic.
Chaos was long associated with bears in European history. The original Medieval word for bear has actually been lost to history, so afraid were people to say it and so summon a bear to their village. The modern word is derived from the euphemistic “brown one”. For the most part, bears are solitary creatures and omnivorous scavengers, so they would rarely choose to encroach on human territory looking for a fight.
This does mean bears probably wouldn’t get much out of Astro Bears Party. The solo mode takes the spherical worlds, the controls and the light trail from the party mode and puts into, essentially, Snake. Rather than tense, funny clashes with other players, the game is a score attack mode about collecting salmon.
While other humans are essential for the enjoyment of this game, we as a species have been pretty harmful to the world’s bear population. Deforestation and the melting of ice caps is destroying their habitats, but even worse are the idiot humans who think shooting bears dead is a fun sport. Those kinds of scum would no doubt also be the type to complain about the occasional frame-rate stutters and samey visuals found in this game.
They’d also probably have no problem with the fact the game only has one female character, the nimble panda, and that it points this out by describing her as the “only female on the mission and the level-headed one”. How Smurfette can you get? It wouldn’t have been difficult to give these bears gender-neutral names and leave it to players’ imaginations.
This game will provide a fun session with friends of an evening. If you’re looking for something silly, easy to pick up and reasonably cheap to get four mates around a TV with some beers, this might be worth the price. If not, you could always consider donating the equivalent price to the bear trust?
Astro Bears Party is available for the Nintendo Switch eShop for £4.49
Bear Trust International work for education, conservation and protection of bears worldwide.
By Luke Summerhayes