Bears In Space Preview: A Run And Gun Shooter From Ipswich

Bears In Space Preview: A Run And Gun Shooter From Ipswich

Bears in Space is a first-person shooter by Brisbane-based Broadside Games. It is a strange, smooth, extremely fast-paced experience that is – and as a former Brisbane boy, I say with all the love in my heart – exactly the kind of game you’d expect from a team based in Ipswich. If you’ve ever visited the slightly dented crown jewel of Brisbane’s west, none of what I’m about to describe will come as a surprise.

The first thing I thought when I loaded into the preview build of Bears in Space was, “Holy shit, this is so fast.” I thought for a moment that there was a problem with the game, that its settings had freaked out and the sensitivity had been dialled way up. No. No, it was supposed to be like that. And there’s a reason. This is a game about feeling like you’re on some kind of high, illicit or otherwise. It’s a game in which you play not one but two characters — a spacer with a gun and a wisecracking smart bear who moves at lightning pace. The bear and the spacer are now one and the same. Glommed together in a genetic botch job, the two set off on an adventure of mass robot destruction.

In terms of its inspirations, there are a lot of dots I can connect here. There’s some of the wry, “fuck you, we do what we want” character of Conker’s Bad Fur Day. There’s a lot of Earthworm Jim-esque absurdism — even the game’s pistol resembles Jim’s big red gun to some degree. The frenetic pace recalls games like Serious Sam and Painkiller. The boss fight I played reminded me of Metroid Prime if someone had hit the fast-forward button. Some might be tempted to compare it to High on Life, but Bears in Space feels like it has more on its mind than that. Where High on Life leaned on more rote, Borderlands-style, back-and-forth questing, Bears desires only violence. I approve.

The preview build obviously didn’t entirely reflect the game players will enjoy closer to launch. The developers kindly laid out a bit of a sample platter — a variety of guns provided much earlier than they would have been through the course of normal play. This basically allowed me to get a feel for many of the different kinds of play the team at Broadside intends to implement. It’s very much in the vein of a classic ’90s run-and-gun shooter but with some bullet-hell-style, positional play to keep things spicy. The demo’s sole boss fight had me hitting a rotating mechanical eye with everything I had while dodging laser beams, walls of incoming fire, and giant hammers on stalks.

Its sense of humour certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste. It tickled me, though I am originally from Up That Way, so perhaps this humour is ingrained. Its commitment to hurling a thousand stupid jokes at the player is absolute, and it may make it the kind of game some people can only play in short spurts. That’s fine. The intensity of Bears in Space is such that if you were to blow through the whole game in a single sitting, I’d think you were fairly mad.

My demo was only short and sweet — 30 minutes at most — but it’s enough to tell me that Broadside is onto something here. The product of a three-person team over seven years, the injection of the Epic Megagrant in 2021 must have been a godsend. It shows in the vertical slice presented in the demo. If you’d like to give it a go for yourself, good news: the same demo is coming to Steam Next Fest. You can find that on the Steam store page here.

More games from Ipswich, please.

Image: Broadside Games

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