Astro Bears is primarily a party game, though there is a single-player mode. The game is essentially multiplayer Snake, but on a sphere. You play as a bear with a brightly colored ribbon behind you, and your goal is to keep from running into fellow players or the ribbons.
About me and my play style: I have albinism. My visual acuity fluctuates between 20/100 and 20/500 depending on if I’m wearing contacts and how tired I am. I have color vision, but no depth perception. I also deal with eye strain if I have to focus too precisely for too long.
Visual Characteristics 8/10
The contrast, lighting, tracking, and clutter are all done very well. I wish players could select the color that they would like to be instead of being assigned one based on their player number, but I can live with that.
I am going to pick on a couple of things – one, the frame rate can drop quite low, even in the single-player mode. Given how fast the game moves, the low frame rate has caused many mistakes on my part. The choppiness also leads me to my second issue. If you have any sort of motion sensitivity, this may not be the game for you.
There aren’t any options to reduce the motion in Astro Bears. You move your bear around the sphere, but the bear stays in the same position on the screen while the sphere rotates. I am not particularly susceptible to motion sickness, but I can’t play it for too long without getting a little dizzy.
I wouldn’t call it game-breaking by any means because the game is designed for short play sessions, but it is definitely something for you to be aware of.
Accessibility Features 4/10
The game gives you options to control the music, special effects volume, and rumble through the use of sliders. The game also lets you turn off pages that give tutorial-like information that appears before games.
The tutorial information doesn’t really provide any great assistance, and it may be helpful for you to turn it off for players who can’t see to read it and would feel like they were missing out on the tips.
Assist Modes 6/10
There aren’t really any assist modes, but you can select options for the size of your sphere and the length of your ribbons in multiplayer games. These options do provide a good amount of tailoring when it comes to difficulty, allowing you to select which bear you would like to use.
Each bear has slightly different stats. One of the bears even includes an extra life, though it comes with lower stats in jumping ability and maneuverability.
Nonvisual Cues 8/10
The nonvisual cues include sounds and haptic feedback to indicate when players are jumping and when the collectible “jetfish” are nearby. They work quite well, though it would be a nice addition to have rumble used to indicate when you are getting close to a ribbon.
Decent Fonts 7.5/10
The font is not my favorite. The edges feel too rounded and bubbly and look like the bubble letters we used to decorate our notebooks with in the seventh grade. That said, it is large and bold, and I’m not one to complain too much when the fonts are large and bold.
Necessity of Text 9/10
(The higher the rating, the less necessary the text is)
The text is largely unnecessary in Astro Bears. It’s needed to navigate the menus, but with the menus being quite simple it shouldn’t be too taxing. Text is also used to show the stats of the different bears, but the differences are minor and balanced well, so it doesn’t matter too much if you pick a bear without looking at the stats.
Handheld Play NA
I’m not giving this category a score because I think it would be too deceptive. You would only want to play in handheld mode if you’re playing Astro Bears on single player.
Multiplayer, however, is done with split-screens so the handheld mode is not going to work at all for multiplayer. That said, playing in handheld mode for single player is exactly the same as playing it in docked mode.
Level of Precision Required 9/10
When you’re trying to collect the jetfish, the game is very generous and will give you the jetfish even if you’ve barely brushed the edge of it. When it comes to hitting a ribbon though, it is very strict. Even the slightest brush against the ribbon will mean that it’s game over.
However, with the optional bear that includes an extra life and the option to make the sphere bigger (meaning there’s more room to maneuver), this isn’t too much of an issue.
Controls and Depth Perception 8/10
The controls are simple, using two buttons and the left stick. I would like to see controller remapping in Astro Bears because I found myself getting the buttons confused a lot after playing other games that had the same functions, just with the buttons switched.
The depth perception isn’t perfect either. It can be easy to end a jump too soon because the jump changes your perspective a bit. However, you can get used to this pretty quickly.
Note that multiplayer is local only and done via split screens, so I would advise no more than two players at once in docked mode to avoid your screen becoming too small. I also advise playing in handheld mode for single-player only.
Recommendation for visual skills needed for enjoyment
If you’ve got 20/600 or better, you will probably be able to have a good time with Astro Bears in multiplayer for 2 players. For the single-player mode, you could probably be up to 20/800 or so and still have a good time. As your vision decreases, it will become a game that requires more planning and spatial reasoning.
Overall, I recommend Astro Bears for people who want a simple, local multiplayer game. It is not a game with much depth, but it is a great party game, and it will be easily understood by pretty much everyone regardless of age or experience with videogames. The good non-visual cues and bright colors make it a good option for low vision players.
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