Developer: SkyVu Pictures, Inc.

Price: $.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

I loved Battle Bears: Zombies! Regardless of the fact that its (surreal, bizarre, yet lovable and oddly accommodating) game play was limited, due to the main character’s (Oliver) stationary position/inability to move, taking out onslaughts of bright, colorful, lovable bears with a unique, equally colorful arsenal of upgradeable weaponry provided me with countless hours of psychedelic bliss.

Sadly though, what Battle Bears: Zombies! possessed in originality, it lacked in length and my campaign to spread as much rainbow-colored head stuffing across the playing field died prematurely. That said, I was delighted when I learned of Battle Bears – 1. Would SkyVu improve upon its original formula or abandon it for a gaming experience that’s better, stronger, faster (and more colorful)? They certainly have the technology.

Battle Bears -1 is a prequel to Battle Bears: Zombies! which provides players with insight into how Oliver came to be stranded in enemy territory, forced to take out wave-after-wave of colorful, touch-feely bears, called Huggables.

The game’s hilarious intro (which, along with the rest of its animated cut scenes, pay homage to classic cult movie favorites, such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones) reveals the Battle Bears, in an effort to pay off their ship, have accepted a mission to a mysterious planet to recover mystical creatures for a client. During the mission, their ship is invaded by Huggables and the carnage game begins.

If nothing else, the developers at SkyVu are humorous and clever: The opening scene in the game mimics the original. However, once you move out from within the safety of your sandbags, everything changes; for the better.

Battle Bears – 1 takes place on the Battle Bear’s spaceship (the Ursa Major) and you play as Oliver, navigating throughout the ship eradicating it from waves of colorful Huggables and boss characters. In addition to retaining its colorful and vibrant game play, it now features an FPS perspective, with two control schemes, three modes of play: Campaign, Survival and Boss Trials and three difficulty levels: Warm Panda’s Milk (easy), Claws For Alarm (medium) and Barbearic (hard).

The default scheme displays two virtual analog sticks: the left (green), used for movement and the right (red) pulling double-duty for movement (navigating through areas with no enemies) and firing (navigating through areas with enemies).

In between the two sticks is a rectangular-shaped safety button, which, when active, allows players to move using both sticks without firing a weapon. While this could be somewhat irritating to some, I found it effective and enjoyable and had no problems adapting to it. If your safety is on and you enter a new room, it automatically disengages. Once a room is cleared, it will re-engage.

The second mode contains only the left, green analog stick. Instead of using a second analog stick on the right, players use their thumb to move and fire by touching the screen. The safety mechanism works the same for both modes. I really like this virtual control scheme; I played the game using both modes and found each effective, easy and fun to use.

The game’s display screen also features an in-game map, which will drop down as you clear a room, for help navigating throughout the ship.

The beginning of the game cleverly incorporates tutorial information into the game play. Once you learn the basics, which takes all of about 5 seconds, you’ll be blowing away furry foes en masse, ad nauseam.

The only faults I could find with this game is the redundant scenery of the Ursa Major’s bowels and the limited/lack of weaponry Oliver has access to, especially when compared with Battle Bears: Zombies!. Oliver’s new weapons are still fun to use, however, and the intense game play (you’ll be swarmed by different colors/types of Huggables) more than makes up for the above.

Speaking of Huggables, they’re still very colorful and come in different sizes and attack types. While playing this game, you’ll come to realize that their attack strategy/motto is “There’s Safety in Numbers,” as they will SWARM all over you if you fail to mow them down with extreme prejudice, so don’t be conservative with your weaponry/power ups; apply liberally as needed.

Despite its flaws, Battle Bears – 1 is a successful, improved prequel to the original. Its game play, saturated with intense action, colorful graphics and humor, is fun and satisfying. Regardless of whether or not you played the first version, you’ll no doubt enjoy this game, which is a virtual pot of gold at the end of SkyVu’s rainbow

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