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BE-A Walker

Platform(s): Android, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Sonka
Release Date: Feb. 28, 2020


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Switch Review - 'BE-A Walker'

by Cody Medellin on May 28, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Take control of a huge mech on an alien planet! Shoot and trample the natives, avenge your brother, or forgive his killers? Join the rebels to restore peace on the exotic planet of Eldorado.

You may or may not know the name AT-ST, but you'll certainly recognize the vehicle when you see it. The bipedal vehicle, sometimes described as a chicken walker, is mostly known as the vehicle used to hunt down the Ewoks in "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi," and the furry natives eventually crushed it. Despite that, there's been some fascination in wanting to pilot one of those vehicles, and that was something you could do in various Star Wars games, albeit in small doses. The idea of having an entire game revolve around this kind of vehicle might seem far-fetched, but that's exactly what Tequilabyte Studio has done (minus the famous license) with BE-A Walker: Battle for Eldorado.

Believe it or not, the story borrows quite a bit from "Avatar." You play as a newcomer to a planet where the air is poisonous and the native population is violently opposed to your presence. Despite this, the humans are determined to colonize the planet, and you've been drafted by the military to take over the role that your now-deceased brother had: piloting a walker to defend the colonial outposts and eradicate the active threat. Like the James Cameron film and countless others like it, that means eventually seeing things from the native point of view before deciding who to side with. It's a well-worn storytelling device, but the experience is forgettable enough that you'll tune out the cut scenes.

After a brief introductory level where you're introduced to your weaponry, the first real level gives you full control of your walker in its most basic form. This is where you learn the vehicle's distinct control scheme, which has you tilting the left analog stick left or right and pressing the ZL trigger to actually move a leg. The leg is automatically chosen for you, but the distance covered by the leg is determined by the amount of time you hold down the ZL trigger (within reason). It doesn't take that long to get used to the scheme, but it feels needlessly complicated when, after a practice session, you can switch to automatic leg movement and skip the trigger altogether.

Brief control issues aside, the rest of the game follows a pretty standard cadence. You need to make it from one base to another, moving from the left side to the right side, while trying to blast or step on any enemies that are in front of or behind you. At times, you'll get enemies dropping in from above, which forces you to shake the walker forward and backward to make them lose their balance and fall. Despite your powerful exterior, even the primitive weapons are strong enough to make a dent in your health, and with no refills until you reach your destination, you'll have to play carefully. On top of that, you have an oxygen meter that is constantly dwindling, and damage to your hull also causes oxygen leaks. Like your overall health, the oxygen also isn't replenished until you reach your destination, but it may lead you to play recklessly as you hurry to your goal before you run out of air.

On paper, this seems like it would be a fine game that rides on a simple but tested concept. The idea of running around in a machine that's grossly overpowered compared to the enemies you're up against has appeal, since it doesn't take too many shots to blast enemies to a pulp. Seeing one of your mechanical legs squish a creature is humorous in a sickening way, and while the game can be lengthy, the missions are short. In some levels, it's beneficial to be careful of where you step.

In practice, however, everything is a mess. The weapon system is the first complaint, as the cooldowns take far longer than expected. Special weapons have such long cooldowns that it almost feels like you can fire them only twice per level, so you'll rely on your main guns most of the time. Those guns can only fire a few shots before overheating, though, and the cooldown is long enough that it feels like you're relying on your stomps way too much. This is improved once you get the funds to upgrade the cooldown meters, but the experience is painful until that occurs. Even then, you'll have to deal with the fact that most enemies are kicked around by a giant moving mechanical foot instead of being squashed. Foes that look like they'll turn into a puddle of goo come away unharmed.

The oxygen meter is perhaps the biggest source of frustration, since it depletes rather quickly. Stand around enough to pick your shots, and you'll have depleted a good deal of the oxygen meter. Trying to ignore everything and just walking through results in many oxygen leaks that'll also chip away at the oxygen meter. Like the weapons, this gets better when you upgrade the oxygen filters to slow the depletion rate, but it is a constant source of frustration until then.

This mixture creates a rare situation where the first level is unwelcoming. This isn't a situation where you have to learn the game's nuances before you can succeed, like in Dark Souls or Ninja Gaiden, but the game doesn't balance itself to compensate for your severely underpowered state. You can see this in later stages, where your upgrades make you a fierce killing machine, but getting to that point can be a miracle since your meager earnings make it too heavy of a lift . It is enough to give you a terrible first impression of the title, and those who power through it to realize the vision of an ultimate killing machine will be disenchanted by the time that achievement is reached.

The presentation is borderline fine. Graphically, the Flash-like look fits well thanks to some smooth animations and varied color depth for the backgrounds and active characters. Particle effects are decent, and the game moves at a good clip with no frame rate drops. The graphics aren't exciting, but they fare better than a chunk of forgettable games on the system. From an audio standpoint, the music and effects are fine, while the voices barely convey interest without sounding too bored. In this regard, it probably helps that the voiced cut scenes aren't plentiful, so you won't get tired of them.

BE-A Walker: Battle for Eldorado is needlessly cruel. The number of things you have to monitor due to the fragility of your craft, combined with the ridiculous cooldown times, make for one of the most off-putting opening levels a game can have. If you're able to power through, the rest of the game is monotonous, even if you get lucky enough to grab enough funds to mitigate the constantly depleting meters. Combined with a lackluster story and absent fun factor, it'll take someone who really enjoys masochism to power through to the end of the game. With the multitude of better shooters on the system, it's easy to skip this one.

Score: 4.0/10

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