Summer Game Bang Preview: B.ARK

Where have all the arcade shooters gone? That was the question Tic Toc Games found themselves asking when considering the state of modern video games. Were the arcade classics of their youth, games like Gradius and R-Type, too difficult for modern audiences? Perhaps the genre was simply unappealing? Whatever the reason was that drove the arcade shooter out of the limelight, Tic Toc Games set out to prove that the genre still has a place in the modern gaming landscape. With the goal of making a game that is as visually appealing as it is accessible to gamers of all skill levels, while maintaining high quality standards, B.ARK was born. I had the pleasure of sitting down with several members of the team behind B.ARK for a preview during E3’s Media Week.

B.ARK is about a team of four animals, Barker the dog, Felicity, the cat, Lucio the bear, and Marv the rabbit. The four furry friends, referred to as Team B.ARK, are the last remnants of a failed mission to escape an Earth under siege by the sinister Dark Tide. The Dark Tide, composed of robots themed around various forms of marine life, have become an existential threat to the entire solar system. Armed with a fleet of spacecraft sporting unique strengths and abilities, Team B.ARK sets out to beat back the Dark Tide and reclaim their home!

If you’re familiar with arcade classics like Gradius, you’ll feel right at home with B.ARK. The levels scroll horizontally, enemies fly around the screen in formation as they fire at you, and you can enhance your ship’s unique abilities over time (more streams of bullets, larger explosions, etc.). All the characters are equipped with a dodge and a super move, both of which feel great to use. Some pretty standard stuff, but Tic Toc Games have included some pretty cool features to help make B.ARK more accessible.

B.ARK has an emphasis on co-op play, and playing with your friends or family is where B.ARK really starts to shine. If one of you loses all of your hit points, perhaps a younger child or a parent that definitely had something in their eye, you won’t be eliminated from the game immediately. Another player can physically move over to you, pick you up, and begin what Tic Toc Games refers to as “sidecar mode”. The rescued player will orbit the player that picked them up, and is able to keep contributing by firing at enemies. After a period of time, the rescued player’s ship regenerates, and they resume play as normal. Multiplayer also allows for players to combine their super attacks into something even more powerful. The form of the combined super depends on which of the four characters activates their super first, and which characters supplement with their own super.

As cool as co-op can be, there is some consolation for solo players. When playing alone, special power-ups can appear that bear the appearance of one of the characters you didn’t select for yourself. When you fire off your super attack, the power-up will do the same, and you’ll get the same combination and effect as though you were playing with someone else.

B.ARK is going to feature a variety of stages set in various locations in the solar system. There is a PC demo available right now that features the Neptune stage, which features icy comets and falling ice chunks. Tic Toc Games was generous enough to show me the Saturn stage as well, which features significantly tighter corridors and door switches. Each level is going to have a unique and beautiful aesthetic, and I can’t wait to see the rest of them.

Speaking of beautiful level aesthetics, every aspect of B.ARK is visually delightful. The general look draws some inspiration from old Saturday morning cartoons, the colors are bright, and the characters are adorable (the phrase “cute ‘em up” was even used during my preview). Character and enemy animations are buttery smooth, and it’s easy to keep track of where your ship is in relation to enemies, obstacles, and projectiles. Supers are visually impressive, and feel appropriately powerful. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m head over heels for how B.ARK looks in motion (it sounds pretty darn good, too).

B.ARK is coming to PC and Nintendo Switch on July 29, 2021.

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