Bearslayer Early Access Review
Jumping with joy
According to Wikipedia (don’t judge me; it’s not like we don’t all use it daily anyway), “Bearslayer” is an epic nineteenth-century poem by Latvian poet, Andrejs Pumpurs, and tells the story of Lāčplēsis; a dashing young hero, chosen by the Gods to save his people. Why developer Bool Games decided to use this tale as the basis for a one-button platformer is beyond me, but I’m sure glad they did.
Those three words, one-button platformer, may initially conjure up images of tawdry mobile games, but Bearslayer boasts an impressive level of quality in almost every regard, well and truly justifying its place on the Steam Store. Though the price seems a little steep considering the game can probably be completed in around four hours, Bearslayer is very much worth the time and effort it takes to get through the 21 main missions, and that’s not including the insanely hard bonus challenges.
You might think there’s only so much you can do when your means of interaction with a game extends to a single jump button, but Bool Games takes this mechanic and deploys it to full effect, similar to how The Witness tackled the maze puzzle concept.
The jump button itself, which can either be a hotkey or a mouse click depending on your play style, is super intuitive and sensitive to the length of your press, and getting to grips with this reactivity is key to mastering Bearslayer’s courses. Many obstacles require different types of jumps and managing to pull off some of the really difficult scenarios represents a serious test of your reactions.
These courses, each of which exhibits impressive creativity and intelligence in their design, will not be completed on a first try. As with all the best ‘difficult’ games, completion arrives only through practice, which itself is accompanied by a recurring encounter with failure.
Luckily, the placement of checkpoints throughout each level is liberal, meaning you’ll only ever get stuck on a very specific environmental hazard, and won’t find yourself having to repeat whole sections of a level before repeatedly dying at the last second. This sure-fire gameplay formula turns Bearslayer into an extremely addictive experience, and it’ll likely have your hooks into you as soon as you’ve begun the first level.
The art of Bearslayer, which doesn’t shy away from its Latvian heritage, is really quite something too. Full of rich colors and slick animations, not to mention a wonderfully lilting flute-heavy score, it’s a true joy to behold everything that Bool Games has crafted with their artistic vision for the game. It also runs incredibly well, with an appropriately smooth frame rate to keep up with the fast-paced nature of the gameplay.
“Bearslayer might just be the first gem to have been discovered in this year’s Steam Shovelling project.”
The aforementioned story which Bearslayer is inspired by is retold through a few Punch and Judy style cutscenes, but it doesn’t make an effort to invest you in any characters or narrative arcs. It doesn’t really matter, ultimately, since the focus on refined gameplay definitely pays off for the entertainment value of the experience in the long run.
Bearslayer might just be the first gem to have been discovered in this year’s Steam Shovelling project. A pleasure from start to finish, it boasts the smart design of a great mobile game with the quality standards of a even better PC title. I wish it was a little longer, and the story lacks raison d’etre, but Bool Games have crafted something really neat with this chirpy little platformer.
Worth Your Money: NOW!