The Nintendo Switch library is full of great shoot 'em ups so let's enter the Bio-Interstellar ARK and see how this furry shmup holds up.
B.ARK: Bio-Interstellar ARK has you play as either a puppy named Barker 🐶, cat named Felicity 🐱, bunny named Marv 🐰, or bear named Lucio 🐻. The solar system is conquered by the nefarious Dark Tide forces which are composed of all sorts of sea creatures so after evacuating the Earth, our all-animal cast is tasked with reclaiming the solar system and must work alongside a helpful human. The fact that you fight sea life immediately reminded me of the Darius series although, to be frank, B.ARK certainly isn't anywhere near as fine-tuned or enjoyable. Thankfully, its delightful cast of animal chums are very cute and have fun-to-read dialogue, unique weapons and abilities, and they even have their own unlockable cutscenes that are surprisingly heartfelt which helps add some motivation to the campaign.
The way you play B.ARK is similar to a typical shmup as you dodge projectiles while shooting enemies down. However, a couple of nifty additions make its gameplay stand out. For starters, the dash button allows you to move through most hazards and projectiles unscathed but it can be tricky because you don't want to dash into something that causes you harm. There are also a couple of gauges; the first dictates your general firepower which collecting crystals fills and the second fuels a Super attack that depends on your character.
Speaking of which, each character's weapons are also unique so experimenting is pretty fun at first. That being said, once you discover that Marv has homing shots and a Super that lets him slow time down, you'll likely exclusively play as him. In fact, he's so powerful that he makes even the most difficult moments a breeze. Even though he's one cool bunny, I wish the cast was better balanced. ⚖️
Anyway, I am happy that the core gameplay is as intuitive as it is with only 3 buttons to keep in mind which makes it easy to pick-up-and-play with family and friends. That's right; B.ARK: Bio-Interstellar ARK features 4 player co-op support and that's rather nifty. On top of that, the Saturday morning cartoon graphics are lovely and will surely click with kids. However, the odd graphical stutter as if it's loading will occasionally ruin your flow and potentially cause you to fly into a hazard. Oh, and there's an epic orchestral score, too.
Finally, B.ARK has some major issues that get in the way of it being a must-have shmup. For starters, it only consists of 6 stages and a bonus 7th level that's basically a boss rush mode. After completing the very short campaign, there is barely any replay value aside from snagging the previously-mentioned cutscene collectibles, mastering higher difficulty settings, and getting high scores but without online rankings, achieving better scores feels hollow. Anyway, you'll also encounter the same bosses multiple times which feels like a cop out even if they are more powerful. On top of that, the bosses often perform poorly-telegraphed attacks such as abruptly dashing straight into you with no warning. Therefore, it's the sort of shmup that forces you to memorize things which isn't cool in my book.
B.ARK definitely looks like a promising shmup with its cartoon visuals and variety of animal chums but it falls apart at the seams when you compare it to its genre predecessors. It's still kind of fun at times, though, especially with its 4 player co-op component.
- + Intuitive shoot 'em up action with a collection of 4 distinct characters
- + Great cartoon visuals and orchestral score
- + Up to 4 players can play cooperatively
- - Short with little replay value, repeat bosses, and no online leaderboards
- - Many attacks aren't well-telegraphed
- - Unbalanced characters / visual stutters