Review – BE-A Walker

December 18th, 2009. That was the day James Cameron’s ridiculously ambitious movie Avatar was released to general movie-going audiences in America. It quickly became the highest grossing movie of all time until Marvel re-released Avengers Endgame like three times in order to take the first place. It was a movie a lot of people loved at first for its technological feats, only for them to realize that the story was far from great weeks later. Why the hell am I talking about James Cameron’s Avatar in my opening paragraph for the brand new Switch game BE-A Walker, you might ask? Well, the answer is that after playing BE-A Walker, it felt like I was basically playing a brand new Avatar game.

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This is not Endor. Nor Pandora.

BE-A Walker takes place on a forested planet that has been recently colonized by humans. Said planet features a toxic atmosphere for our puny human lungs. It is also inhabited by tribes of native aliens who have access to caveman-level technology, as well as guerilla warfare tactics. You arrive on said planet after your brother had died, and it’s your task to continue his job, defending the remaining human outposts and trying to ensure your species’ survival. Does that ring a bell? Yep, thought so too. The main difference between BE-A Walker and Avatar is that you never actually turn into a native with some weird convoluted technology. Nor do you end up making love to one of them by tying a sailor’s knot with your dreadlocks. Instead, you spend the entire game inside a knockoff AT-ST blowing up every single living being that comes your way.

Controlling the walker is somewhat clunky, as to be expected. But weirdly enough, and this will sound very weird, it’s not as clunky as it should have been. I grew up playing tons of different Star Wars games which featured playable AT-STs, and they were all a pain to control to the point I assumed that was just part of the gimmick. BE-A Walker starts off telling you to control your walker’s legs in a way that reminded me of that QWOP browser game, but it never committed to that clunkiness. Instead, it just told me that I could toggle auto mode and walk from left to right normally, without needing to care about precise foot placement. That is unless there’s some ally stupidly walking around in front of me and not noticing his life might be at risk of a stomp.

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Some delightfully violent sections… at least while your painfully annoying heat gauge allows it.

The rest of the gameplay basically revolves around walking from left to right, managing your two health bars (armor and oxygen) and blowing up basically everyone from the opposite faction that shows up in front of you. Your oxygen bar slowly depletes with time, and it starts depleting even faster if you get hit constantly. This makes the early missions a pain to undertake, as you won’t have enough time before dying of lung poisoning. You have a wide assortment of (purchasable) weapons with stupid overheating and cooldown mechanics that you’ll use in order to defend yourself. Although, you can also stomp enemies with your gigantic mecha legs if they’re too idiotic to notice the painfully slow foot that will result in their demise.

BE-A Walker does have a story and different missions to partake in, but none of them are particularly interesting or varied. With the exception of a handful of delivery missions that reminded me way too much of the forty-five hours I spent playing Death Stranding last year, quests could be easily summarised as “walking from A to B killing everything in sight”. There’s just not enough plot that can make this repetitive loop interesting, especially when the game’s “plot twist” can be seen from a mile away. If you have watched Avatar or any of the other “colonizer meets natives” movies out there, like Pocahontas or Dances With Wolves, you already know what’s going to happen. Sadly, that won’t result in new and exciting changes to the gameplay, it will only decide who you’re going to kill from then onwards.

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Bringing back the worst memories from Death Stranding.

I may have sounded too harsh with the boring gameplay loop, but BE-A Walker does feature some positives, namely in its visuals and some aspects regarding its sound design. I like the overall design of your knockoff AT-ST and its excellent animations. The game does run beautifully on the Switch and it’s particularly more enjoyable to the eyes when in portable mode. Enemies aren’t drawn or animated with the same level of care, but thankfully they’re so small onscreen that you won’t even bother looking at them for too long. I also like the brief instances of voice acting included in here. Sure, the story might be as boring and generic as possible, but I have to admit that the voice actors did deliver a fine job with the limited material they were given.

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“Sir, excuse me? I would rather not stomp you to death.”

All in all, BE-A Walker is far from being a bad game, but it’s pretty hard to recommend. Its gameplay loop gets tiresome pretty quickly and being inspired by one of the most generic and uninspired movie plots of the entire century really doesn’t help. You can have a few minutes of fun blowing up tons of natives (or humans, it’s up to you) with a rocket launcher-powered mech, but this won’t be a game that will captivate you for hours on end. I’d still buy a miniature of that walker, though.

 

Graphics: 7.5

Some visual elements clearly stand out, namely the well-designed walker, its animations, and the game’s overall performance on the Switch’s hardware. Other elements definitely do not stand out, namely the Microsoft Paint-esque character portraits and cartoonish enemy animations.

Gameplay: 6.0

Piloting the walker is intentionally clunky, but the game never fully commits to making it a challenge, as it features an automatic moving mode. You’re then mostly confined to walking to the right side of the screen, murdering everything in sight until the game tells you to stop.

Sound: 6.5

The soundtrack is unremarkable and the enemy sound effects are as bland as you can imagine, but I do have to admit that the game does feature solid bits of voice acting.

Fun Factor: 5.0

As entertaining as piloting a thrift shop AT-ST might be at first, BE-A Walker gets boring quickly due to its repetitive mission structure, annoying oxygen and cooldown meters, and painfully predictable plot.

Final Verdict: 6.0

BE-A Walker is available now on Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of BE-A Walker was provided by the publisher.