The Bear Essentials is a collect-em-all platform game, released by Pond Software in December 2016. It was developed single-handedly by Graham Axten. The story is, that you are a bear that has been lazy for most of the summer, and that does not suit mama bear! She orders you out into the dangerous nature to collect over 300 apples for the winter. And don’t come back until you got ’em all!
Bears need food for the winter. Your task is to find and collect 326 apples. No more, no less. All these apples are spread out over several connected screens in 6 different stages called Home, Forest, Cloudy, Rocky, Jungle and Mining. It’s not always possible to collect all apples on a screen in one go. Some are unreachable, and you have to find another way to get to them. Each stage has their own style of surroundings, enemies and unique music. The Mining stage can only be accessed, if you have collected all the apples from the other stages (except Home). Then there are the check point rooms. These are hub rooms, that connect the different stages. You can’t get to all stages from one of these rooms, so you need to find the right room, if you are missing some apples on a certain stage. Oh, and a nice touch is, that each screen has an interesting name. Kind of like Manic Miner…
The Wild Nature
You are not the only animal out there. All kinds of other animals are prowling about, and ALL of them are lethal to the touch! Even the insects – but that may be because they are the same size as the bear.. Enemies have no kind of AI. They all move around in specific patterns. All you have to do, is observe their behavior, and find a way to avoid them. That does not mean it’s always easy. Sometimes you have to take more than one enemy into account, when making a move. And there are tight spaces as well. You WILL experience some pain! Luckily, there is an extra life to be found in each stage. These do not always look the same, so keep your eyes open! Should you lose all your lives, then you have a certain amount of ‘Continues’ you can use. If you choose to continue the game, you get to keep all of your collected apples, and start from the last visited check point room. You can earn more ‘Continues’ by discovering more of these check point rooms.
All games are subjective, of course. But if you ask me, this game is damn near perfect! The game has a nice and normal pace, and there is no time limit. I love games that don’t pressure the player too much. I find the graphics and sound very appealing, and it creates a nice and cozy environment. The intro screen with the dancing bear sets the mood immediately. The style of the graphics is obvious. A homage to the proud pixel! The game also makes use of the upper and lower borders of the screen, and it’s done perfectly, with no graphical artifacts. Use of the border on the C64 is not as rare as it used to be, but I still find it impressive. The controls feel VERY tight and precise, which is handy when you have to time your moves. You can also change direction mid-air, and you don’t have to worry about fall damage. If I had a gun to my head, and had to mention something that is less than perfect, I guess it would be the music. None of the music is bad! But they are not equally good either.
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This game impressed me! A high quality game with great graphics, sound and gameplay. A very polished product. If you have not played it yet, consider yourself a criminal. Give it a try!
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