The once-popular shmup genre has dwindled in size and interest over the years, but a new game coming out this month B.Ark is hoping to change that. Featuring co-op and cute characters, Tic Toc Games hopes to change the perception of shmups being too tough for everyone. The game’s colorful art style and family-friendly vibe caught our interest during E3 2021, so we asked Abraham Morales, the game’s Co-Director, for more information.
RetroWare: Can you please give us your elevator pitch for B.ARK?
Abraham Morales: B.ARK is our love letter to arcade shoot ’em ups of the 90s. We rarely see titles from this genre nowadays and for some reason, they have now become niche and super challenging game experiences.
With B.ARK we want to share our love for the genre in a game that’s friendly and approachable to players of all skill levels. And, to add the nostalgia, we mixed it up with a Saturday Morning Cartoon story and a cast of hand-drawn animated characters packed in a title that feels fresh for modern audiences.
People new to the genre will be able to pick it up and enjoy it solo or with friends. And people that grew up in the 90s will have a kick of sharing this fun shmup adventure with friends and family.
RW: What is your development background?
AM: I’ve been working in the Game Industry for 10+ years as a game producer for PC, mobile, and console projects.
RW: Where did the idea of B.ARK come from? Was it from a love of shoot-em-ups?
AM: I grew up playing games like Gradius III, Axelay, and Super EDF on my SNES, as well as Ikaruga on Dreamcast, we love shoot ‘em ups, and we want more people to be able to experience these types of games with a level of challenge that caters to all types of players, both highly skilled and new to the genre. We also wanted to make this a fun cooperative adventure
RW: Most traditional shoot ’em ups are portrait but some, including cute em ups, are typically horizontal. Was there a decision process and how do you approach the gameplay of each?
AM: Traditional shoot ‘em ups cute or not come in all forms and resolutions, but we definitely experimented on what would be best for B.ARK, we ultimately decided on horizontal (yoko) to have more opportunities to have in-game dialogue sequences, show background in-game animations, show more of the character’s hand-drawn animations, and have more screen real estate for players to use their Super Fusion attacks.
RW: What games were part of your inspiration?
AM: We got really inspired by games like Gradius V, Star Fox 64, and Cuphead.
RW: Is there a story to follow in the game? What is your end goal?
AM: Shoot ‘em ups usually either have a story that’s hard to follow or no story at all. In B.ARK, we wanted a strong compelling narrative with a Saturday Morning Cartoon feel and a cast of characters that grow as they progress through the game. Team B.ARK is in a quest to take back the Solar System and rescue their families from an advancing army of robotic sea creatures led by the game’s main antagonist.
RW: Please tell us about your cast of characters. What are their personalities?
AM: Lucio the Bear is the leader of the bunch, he’s cautious and over-protective, Felicity the Cat is short-fused, she shoots first and asks questions later, Marv the Rabbit finds his courage eventually, and Barker the Dog is a very simple creature who just wants to make friends along the way.
RW: What supers can you perform in the game?
AM: Each character has their own Super attack that fits their personality, Lucio has a Shield that protects other players from incoming bullets, Barker and Felicity unleash different types of bullet barrages that melt incoming enemies and bosses, and Marv is able to slow down time for everyone but his team. And also, you can fuse their Supers for crazy support and attack combinations that stack with each character!
RW: How did you intertwine co-op and shoot ’em up gameplay?
AM: We wanted each character to have their own weapon type, a bit like RPG classes, so that players were able to find their favorite gameplay style while also providing different types of support and teamwork opportunities when playing cooperatively. We also added mechanics where if somebody’s ship gets destroyed you are able to rescue them and keep them in the action while their ship repairs.
RW: In what ways can you upgrade your ship?
AM: Your ship powers up during the level by collecting enemy drops or items called plutonium. After players collect a certain amount of plutonium, their ship gets powered up and their weapon becomes stronger by adding more bullets or bigger explosions, but if you get hit, you run the risk of losing your upgrade, so be sure to dodge and use your super to get out of tough situations.
RW: Do you have any post-game content?
AM: There are definitely unlockables after beating the game for the first time: a more challenging difficulty mode, an extra stage, and a secret character for players to look forward to!
RW: What inspired the colorful art style?
AM: We wanted an art style that felt approachable but had a strong Saturday Morning Cartoon vibe, a bit of Steven Universe, and other modern cartoons; we aimed for something that really made B.ARK stand out against the traditional shmup art aesthetic.
RW: Is there a demo down the line for people to check out?
AM: The demo is up on our Steam Store page! We would love to hear your readers’ feedback on our Steam Community and Socials: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1416760/BARK/
RW: Are there any plans to port B.ARK to other consoles like the PS4 or Xbox One?
AM: It’s definitely not off the table, but right now we are pouring all support to our Nintendo Switch and PC Steam players.
RW: Is there anything I missed?
AM: B.ARK releases on Nintendo Switch™ and PC via Steam on July 29 for $9.99. For more information on B.ARK, visit the official website, follow Tic Toc Games on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook.