Bears in space suits, jetpacks, and Magical Beary Ribbons are the three party items required to get the festivities started in Astro Bears Party.
This competitive party game for Nintendo Switch has seen QubicGames and developer Sonka Team send four bears into the stratosphere to madly dash around spherical planets until their intergalactic fun leaves them dizzy and crosseyed.
Easy to learn but tricky to master, the challenge in Astro Bears Party comes from the Magical Beary Ribbon that trail behind them. The longer a player lasts the longer the ribbon becomes, and with up to four players the resulting chaos as you narrowly swerve, jump, and hover the four coloured ribbons that cross your path soon descends into maddening hilarity. Not least for the fact that each player’s screen space becomes increasingly smaller as more bears suit up to play.
That core design is an absolute blast, simple controls seeing players using the Left Stick to steer their chosen bear – whether that be Neil who likes to eat while swimming, proud husband and father Igor, the impulsive Xiaoli, or the demented Bishnu – and then pressing the A (or Right) Button to jump or holding it to hover with their jetpack. That isn’t to say that you can hover indefinitely, with a fuel indicator depleting to a spluttering point as you soar through the air that can only regenerate as you run along the ground.
If the pace isn’t quick enough for you, players can also dash. These dashes are more strategic than anything, making your movement more erratic and unpredictable to your opponent while it can be used to quickly leap across their path to see them run straight into your ribbon. But, be warned, as dashing when mid-air or too quickly after a previous dash will see your bear become dizzy, which you can shake them out of by jumping.
Astro Bears Party is fun, then. But the problem that it is unable to overcome is in content, of which there simply isn’t enough. Party mode will let up to four players run around spherical planets in competing to be the last bear standing, and then the Single Player mode challenges you to collect Jetfish – gathering them in quick succession building a combo multiplier, with Gold Jetfish awarding double points.
As your score increases so does your ribbon, with the player having to dodge it with increasing frequency as time ticks by. Players work through increasingly trickier stages and, whenever they are met with an inevitable Game Over, their score is placed on the leaderboard. The problem here is that there is no name entry, meaning that the score is associated with the character rather than the player – risking your bragging rights.
And, that’s it. It is a shame to see Astro Bears Party score success with its manic gameplay, huggable characters, and minimalistic art direction, only to leave players without enough of a reason to return to orbit their nearest planetoid. It suits Nintendo Switch with its local multiplayer, but a lack of variety makes it hard to recommend – especially with the Nintendo eShop becoming an ever-increasingly competitive place to be.