tue 25/06/2019

Bear Winter | reviews, news & interviews

Bear Winter

Bear Winter

If you go down to the woods today... tomorrow... and the day after

'Bear Winter': Brooding atmosphere and strategy lurk beneath...

As a genre, the "Match 3" puzzle game seems like a sort of evolutionary dead end. You can gussy it up with dramatic sound effects and sparkling animations all you want but ultimately it is still Candy Crush under there. Bear Winter takes a slightly different tack. Rather than letting you match more tiles for combos or adding powerups and special effects, developers Nevercenter have pared the gameplay down to a 3x3 grid on the one hand and added a light tactical and resource management element on the other.

In Bear Winter you are a hunter. You go out every day into the frozen wilderness and try to survive long enough to hunt Ice Bears. The game spells it out for you, "I gather fire for warmth. I gather acorns for sustenance. I gather arrows for defense. Then the bears come."

Bear WinterThere is no timer hurrying you along in Bear Winter, although time does pass with every move. Each turn, you must swipe away a line in a 3x3 grid. A second grid is visible above and here you can see the tiles that will drop down to replace those you swipe away, allowing you to set up future turns.

You start out with four hearts representing your health and 24 fires to keep you warm. Each turn consumes one fire and if you run out, you freeze to death. You can replenish your fire by matching three fire tiles. Your task is to hunt bears, which you can do by matching three ice bear heads in a row. Swipe through a line with fewer than three bears in (e.g. two fires and a bear) and you will lose a heart as the bear attacks you. When your health hits zero, you die. You can recover this health by swiping through a line of three acorns, which restores you to full capacity.

The fourth variety of tile is an arrowhead. Swipe three arrows and you get a single-use attack that can kill every bear in the current grid, adding them to your score. After the first use however, you will require two lines of arowheads to gain the same effect. After that it is three lines, and so on.

Bear WinterYou hunt from dawn until dusk, then return to your camp to sell your bear hides and gain a small boost to health and fire stocks before setting out again the next day. Each hide that you sell earns you a coin that you can use to buy a second chance if you are killed. You can top up gold using real money or by viewing an ad too, if you so desire.

It's a simple game but the need to balance your resources and think ahead makes it a pretty compelling play. Describing the game mechanics doesn't really give you a sense of how the game feels, however. There is a rich atmosphere of melancholy hanging over Bear Winter. The piano score tinkles forlornly and little snatches of text between levels suggest that you are doing all of this 'to find her' while underscoring the uncompromising grind of what you are actually doing.

Bear Winter is not a game you can win - sooner or later you will make a mistake and if the bears don't get you then the cold surely will. Or is it? Maybe there is an ending lurking somewhere in the frozen tundra? The game hints at it but you never seem to get any closer to finding 'her'.

This lack of progression makes for broody atmospherics but will probably be the thing that causes you to stop playing Bear Winter after a while. Each day is pretty much like the last and there are no new enemies or more challenging grids waiting for you, just more of the same daily toil. Quite how long it takes you to reach that point will vary. Until then, Bear Winter is an enjoyable puzzle that has (some) hidden depths.

Sooner or later you will make a mistake and if the bears don't get you then the cold surely will...

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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