B.ARK: Review (Nintendo Switch)

There’s the Dark Tide, and the B.ARK side…


Bio-Interstellar Ark, or simply called B.ARK, features a colourful cast as they embark on an interplanetary adventure to reclaim the galaxy. The opening shows the scientist Milla fleeing Earth in a spaceship before a gigantic robotised sea creature traps them in its metallic claws. In an attempt to save some of her companions, Milla releases the escape pod and four survivors launch into space.


After a year in hypersleep, the crew awaken to discover that the fish Chog has taken over the galaxy with his ‘cybernetic army’ of sea minions, infamously known as Dark Tide. It’s up to them to liberate the solar system.

Debriefs before a mission… including information on the Dark Tide's leader

Meet Team B.ARK.

Barker – Milla’s beloved dog who’s just as devoted to her; Lucio – a friendly bear despite his large size; Felicity – a cool cat that means business; and Marv – a rabbit that uses his small size to his advantage. Although their speech isn’t voice-acted, their sighs, growls, and other non-linguistic sounds are reflective of their animalistic nature. Their moods are emphasised by their animation art, which changes depending on their reactions.


Take off to save the galaxy!


Starting from Neptune, the team zip from planet to planet before they can reach and free their home planet. After a successful mission, a ‘hidden memory’ is obtained, which reveals the characters’ backstories before Dark Tide’s invasion on Earth. Although these flashbacks are only several minutes long, the segments are filled with stunning visuals and fitting soundtracks to accompany the mood such as nostalgia, shock, or despair. These scenes are where B.ARK gives heart to the game; we gain insight into the cast’s former lives and despite what they’ve lost and their current bleak circumstances, they continue to fight for a better future.

A flashback of a more peaceful life

Pilot solo or with a crew


To fly into space, you need a spacecraft. Players choose one of the four loveable members as their pilot before ascending into space in a mech – the fond term for Milla’s brilliantly designed spacecrafts in B.ARK.


Despite their different exterior designs, every mech has equivalent health bars, can fire lasers, and use the same manoeuvre mechanisms. However, each character has a special perk in their own spaceship and a unique super ability, which aren’t clearly explained. Nonetheless, trialling the mechs help distinguish what marks each one different.


Barker has extra recruits for added attacks which is amplified during his super attack; Felicity’s attacks have a wider range and her super power extends this reach with rapid fire; Lucio can form an invincible shield and with his super, this also protects nearby teammates; and Marv’s honing ability means he’ll never miss, with slowing time as his super ability.

At least you get a warning before facing an evolved sea creature!

Although there are times you float up or sink down, the game is essentially a side-scroll shooter. This is no easy task though. Whether it be surviving the planet’s environment from lightning strikes to fallen boulders, you also have to evade enemy attacks. Some are mechanised, some are fishy, and others are a combination of both! At the end of each planet level, you encounter a formidable foe that requires all your cosmonautic skills to outwit.


B.ARK can be played as a single player but also supports 4-player co-op. Simply having an extra player is advantageous to thwarting the menacing creatures. I played on ‘normal’, but there are also ‘hard’ and ‘insane’ modes for a greater challenge. After completing the storyline, there’s a final planet which is essentially a boss rush. If there’s ever a time to work together as a team, this is it! After all, combining all four pilots’ unique abilities can be a devastating combo to the fish armada Dark Tide.

Double the damage, but sharing the power ups when playing in co-op

Your superpower is charged after defeating enemies, and these fallen foes leave behind blue icons known as plutonium. Collecting these enhance the weapons hence increase the attack damage. However, there are times when blasting floating debris reveal power ups that upgrade your weapon, fill up your ‘super’ bar, or even replenish your health.


Plutonium is totalled at the end of each level to calculate the high score as well as comparing points between co-op players. You also get bonus plutonium for rescuing fallen teammates and being the one who defeated the most enemies!


Reading between enemy lines


From admiring the beautifully drawn backgrounds of a planet to deftly avoiding a mishap, I was hooked on B.ARK. I had a couple of ‘game overs’, and although there were times I almost gave up from frustration, I persevered as I was deeply satisfied whenever a big sea boss was the one who combusted and not me!

Dodge, shoot… and read?

As my main focus was on evading and shooting, I couldn’t focus on the banter between characters. Others may not have any issues with reading and actioning, but I wished I could do the same as a lot of these remarks are very clever!


Is this an expedition to embark on?


B.ARK doesn’t have many levels. If you recall the number of planets (that we know of!) in our solar system, that indicates how many stages.

Intricately drawn planets

However, that doesn’t detract from its appeal. There are many reasons to play and replay B.ARK: mastering all difficulty levels, besting your own high scores or the combined scores with your co-op team, or simply just to immerse in the galactic atmosphere. B.ARK is a game that is fast-paced action from the start and maintains this tempo while your soar through the galaxy independently, or perhaps with a crew of your own.


So, why should you play it?

  • You’re a space fanatic who’d love a galactic adventure

  • You enjoy testing out your skills in a side-scroll shooter

  • A fun co-op experience that doesn’t necessarily have to be competitive

  • Witty cybernetic foes at the end of each planet

  • You appreciate bright, vivid visuals that help paint the scene

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Can be challenging to advance in single player

  • You’re not fond of frequent fishy or aquatic references

  • You dislike gaming under pressure that requires fast reaction times

A review code was provided for the purpose of this review.

 

Written by

Tiffany Leong

Tiffany is an aspiring writer with particular interest in dystopias and angsty romances. She often finds herself immersed in games that are brought to life by their rich narratives and lavish landscapes. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys long walks in the wilderness and relaxes with a book under the glow of a scented candle.