Totally PAWesome? – Barbearian Review

Oct 19, 2018
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Is Barbearian the BEAREST of them all? Will these puns get worse?! Click for these answers and more!

To call Barbearian strange is an understatement of the highest order. It’s like a digital batch of LSD infused with touches of classic folklore and high concept speculative fiction. Also, a condescending duck in a sweater. And a twin-stick brawler/shooter hybrid. Never a dull day at this job, let me tell you.

Barbearian is a cruel mistress, which is a shame given how much it does right

Barbearian is the story of a warrior in a bear suit transported to a strange realm of absurd creatures putting him through various tests; think Portal crossed with The Prisoner.  Along the way, he has to save fellow humans who can be equipped as either sword wielding soldiers or bow-toting archers. Between this, you play a somewhat competent action game.

It’s not that Barbearian is bad, so much as it feels about five degrees off of ‘just right’. Ranged attacks tend to send you hurtling backwards, making them far less useful than ideal. Your swings are meaty, with an impact that can send enemies flying. Except, you also take a punishing amount of damage, and frequently the game’s masochistic difficulty will press you to make liberal use of any abilities offered to you; of which, there are several, including a minigun and a dash move.

It's like a digital batch of LSD infused with touches of classic folklore and high concept speculative fiction

The trick here, is that Barbearian expects you to have to replay levels more than once to save all the trapped humans and grind for more currency (see: fruit). There’s multiple hand-crafted levels presented from an isometric perspective that can sometimes deceptively hide useful assets behind other objects, like healing wells and the aforementioned human test subjects.

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Respawns only cost a percentage of your currency, but there are times when it feels like death could come a bit slower. You’ve got mortar turrets, minion spawners, heavy captains, and more – with the added knife twist that as soon as you eliminate these priority targets, the game forces you along regardless of if you grabbed everything not nailed down.

Despite initially feeling like a casual brawl, Barbearian demands a fair bit of you. This isn’t a bad thing, but the delicate balance it relies upon can turn frustrating in your hands. Certain victory can be lost due to little more than dumb luck or bad timing.

Or you might just accidentally charge near a human test subject while being mobbed, and the countdown to their doom starts before you have a chance to respond. Other times, you’ll revisit the level and have a breeze. Then immediately be met with failure all over again on one you handled fine the first time. Barbearian is a cruel mistress, which is a shame given how much it does right.

It's not that Barbearian is bad, so much as it feels about five degrees off of 'just right'

I like Barbearian. It’s got some serious gumption and a bold sense of style that encapsulates the best of the independent mobile game scene. There’s a curious world, good sound design, and an aggressive pace that players will totally jive with. It’s just hard to ignore the fact that this game definitely can get hairy at points.

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I don’t want to seem grizzly, I just can’t shake the feeling a last-minute once over could make this go from a mostly fun game to a top-tier mobile game. Still worth getting your paws on, either way, but bear this in mind.

Our Rating

ProsCons
An absurdist sci-fi/fantasy brawler with promise and tons of bizarre charm.Anticipate frustration thanks to the controls and iffy balancing
Rating
7.2/10
Barbearian
Barbearian
Developer:
Price: $8.99
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Elijah Beahm

Elijah is a man who can't stop talking about games, geeky things, and to the chagrin of his colleagues, horrible puns. He's been working as a game journalist for several years now, and in addition to Appolicious, His other work can be found at GameCritics.com, I Need Diverse Games, and The Unabridged Gamer on YouTube. When not reviewing games, you'll probably find him ranting on Twitter, writing, or replaying Dead Space 2 for the zillionth time.

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