B.Ark (E3 2021 Preview)

Earlier this month during E3, I got to talk to the team behind B.Ark (or Bio-Interstellar Ark) an upcoming co-op space shooter from Tic Toc Games. In B.Ark you and your friends (up to 4 players) get to play as different animal heroes and pilot their ships.

B.Ark (Bio-Interstellar Ark) – Character selection screen.

I had the great pleasure of chatting with some of the team twice during E3 (virtually). My first meeting was a chat while watching Tic Toc Games CEO, Shareef Morse, play through some B.Ark levels. Later on, I got to play the game myself with the Game Director (Abraham Morales) which was a lot of fun. I also got to chat with Studio Art Lead (Sara Pocock) and Studio Creative Director (Steve Jimenez) about making a co-op game during a pandemic, the game’s art direction and more.

Each ship has its own unique character, weapons and abilities. Abilities which when used together can create deadly combos against the evil aquatic space creatures. The hand-drawn art style gives off vibes of the Saturday morning cartoons I grew up on. While playing B.Ark I noticed many subtle and sweet little character animations.

The Game

B.Ark is coming to PC (via Steam) next month, July 29, 2021. It’s also set to release on Nintendo Switch with no firm release date (although I do expect it soon after its Steam release). When speaking about the inspiration for the game Abraham (game director) told me he wanted to create a game like the great games from his childhood. He grew up in Mexico and B.Ark is an homage to one of his favorite game genres — Shoot ‘Em Ups.

B.Ark does remind me of some of my favorite classic Shoot ‘Em Ups (R-Type, Earth Defense Force), but with a fresh new look and feel. It’s very colorful and the character and overall design while simple, gives this game personality.

It was a great time listening to the team explain the game and joke with each other. The full “team” of people who have actually had a part in making this game expands to about 30 people, but the core team that works on the game day-to-day is just around 10 people. Interacting with four team members at once made me feel like this was a tight-knit group.

Playing B.Ark

B.Ark starts off with a beautiful animated sequence. This is the real part that reminds me of childhood Saturday morning cartoons. I didn’t want to include the whole opening video, so I grabbed some images to show off the simple yet beautiful art style.

B.Ark can be played both with friends and solo. The true magic in this game is figuring out the right combo of heroes to beat a level and it’s bosses quickly and easily. The team said they are still tweaking each character to keep the game balanced.

When playing solo a death equals “Game Over” — return to the last checkpoint. While playing with others, if one hero dies another can pick them up and they’re able to continue shooting, causing less damage, as their ship rebuilds. I can’t wait to try this game out with the full four players on one screen.

B.Ark (Bio-Interstellar Ark) – Hard Mode Losing the Boss Fight
B.Ark (Bio-Interstellar Ark) – Easy Mode Boss Fight Win!

There were two recent Shoot Em Ups that I played on my Switch that came to mind while playing this game — Graceful Explosion Machine and Freedom Finger. Even though these games follow a similar gameplay formula, they all have their unique qualities. First off, B.Ark is the only one that allows co-op play.

The art style of Graceful Explosion Machine and B.Ark are both colorful, but B.Ark has a bit more charm with its animal heroes. Freedom Finger sports a totally different style of hand-drawn animation. It’s more punk rock with the music, and features some great voice actors (Nolan North, John DiMaggio, Eric Bauza, Sam Riegel) and silly, adult humor.

I’m not saying any of these games are better than the other for these reasons. It’s just nice to have different choices in the same sort of game genre.

B.Ark (Bio-Interstellar Ark) – Level Exploration

I was only able to capture solo footage from B.Ark, but even with one extra teammate the gameplay can get very hectic. I can’t imagine how crazy it gets with up to four players. In some games like the Overcooked games, while it’s better to have more chefs in the kitchen it also creates pure chaos. In games like B.Ark it may just be harder to spot your own hero on the screen when there’s so much going on.

I really enjoyed playing a co-op game with its game director/creator (Abraham). It was especially cool that I outscored him by a few hundred points in the first round. He didn’t want me to share that information, but it’s ok because he carried our team in the second round, bringing me back to life multiple times and doubling — possibly even tripling — my overall score.

Something that is fun in this game is that although you’re playing co-op, as a team, in the end they give you each players scores and accomplishments. So, if you want you can still be competitive while working together — trying to outscore your friends and be “team leader.”

My Thoughts

I only got to play a few rounds of the first two missions in B.Ark, and the game is still being worked on. I can say that the levels I did play already feel very polished and well-made. This game feels like a Shoot ‘Em Up should feel and the team should already be very proud of what they have accomplished.

Shoot ‘Em Ups are not my top game genre, but I do enjoy having one (or a few to jump into). I bought Graceful Explosion Machine at a deep discount (on my Nintendo Switch) just to have a Shoot ‘Em Up ready to play. I was addicted to it (playing each night) for a few weeks.

I really look forward to the upcoming release of B.Ark. Although you can play on your own I think it’s ideal to play with friends (even if it’s just one friend). I’m very excited to get this game on the Nintendo Switch for some couch co-op with up to four players.

On PC, you’ll be able to play online with friends which is also a great feature. Sometimes it is hard to get your friends together in one place to play. Of course, I do hope the Switch will allow for both, online and local co-op at some point. I can see people playing this game at a friend’s house, then getting them excited to keep the party going.

B.Ark is also a friendly game to newcomers. Hardcore gamers and newcomers can both enjoy this game. It features easy to jump into mechanics.

B.Ark (Bio-Interstellar Ark) is releasing on PC (via Steam) on July 29, 2021. There’s currently a demo on Steam for Windows PC for anyone who would like to try this game out for themselves.

B.Ark is currently listed as coming to Nintendo Switch TBD (I will update this when revealed).

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