Astro Bears Review – Switch

When the Nintendo Switch first released in 2017, new and unheard of indie games flourished on the eShop. In the first year of the Switch’s life, when gamers weren’t playing the blockbuster hits of Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey, the eShop offered many indie games varying from single player offerings like Blaster Master Zero and Kamiko and various party offerings like De Mambo and Astro Bears Party.

In July 2019 Astro Bears party got a big rework that revamped everything in the game including bug fixes, new characters, music and modes. Now simply called “Astro Bears” (newer single player modes allow this game to be played single player so the “Party” at the end wasn’t necessary.) This update and re-branding were offered for free to everyone who owned Astro Bears Party before. Now two years on, can Astro Bears still hold attention as well as it did back at a time with little competition?

Colourful and frantic

Astro Bears is a fun and frantic party game similar to games like Snake or Tron. As you move around a spherical planet you leave behind a trail, if anyone walks into that trail they’re out and the game continues until there’s only one player left and points are awarded for how long you lasted.

This simple core concept utilises the 3D space giving you the ability to jump and float over trails left by other players and there’s also a dash move which gives a short burst of speed allowing you to overtake opponents or to try and manoeuvre them into running into your trail. Also adding to the added depth of this game are the different Bears available and each one has different stats including added movement speed, different float durations and turning radius. Having a choice in character ensures that everyone can have a preferred way to play.

However, the single-player mode of Astro Bears is somewhat lacking. Although fun, the only real gameplay mode available for single-player is reminiscent of games like Snake and Tron where you run around the planet collecting jetpack fish and getting points. Collecting multiple fish quickly gets a score multiplier and as the game goes on it increases in speed and intensity. With Online Leaderboards it invites you to try and improve on your scores and go for a high score, though, the mode serves best as a primer for the multiplayer and ultimately won’t keep you playing for hours.

The real fun to be had with Astro Bears is in the Party Mode, where you can play up to four player versus. Given that the concept is very accessible and easy to explain it’s perfect to just throw on the TV and play. Although, as it’s a bit too simple I found it hard to keep my friends entertained by it for too long.

Astro Bears gets a lot right and not a lot wrong, it has simple and well executed smooth gameplay. Each Bear has its own set of stats with quirky and fun descriptions of the bear’s personalities (I liked Igor’s “Proud husband and father” personally) and the Bear puns are top notch. However, Astro Bears does what it does well and never tries much else outside of that. A lack of game modes, AI opponents and not enough variance between the Bears (unique animations and voice lines would’ve been appreciated.) This is the only issue with Astro Bears and why I can’t wait for the team behind it to have a crack at something with a little bit more scope.

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