Recently, we spent time in Austin, Texas at Fantastic Fest. In addition to being the country's best genre film festival (read: geek/horror/sci-fi/Asian/shock), they've added a Fantastic Arcade element that highlights the weird and wacky games out there, particularly in the independent games arena. We'll be presenting those for you right here.
Justin Smith's Enviro-Bear 2000 was inspired by actual news stories about bear attacks, including one where a bear broke into a parked car to steal a sandwich, and then couldn't get back out. When it hit the parking brake, the car rolled down the hill from the house, which is where the owner found it, complete with a bear sitting inside of the completely demolished interior. So naturally Justin Smith thought "Bears + Cars = Video Game." And that's exactly what he designed. The game isn't new (Attack of the Show talked about it last summer), but this was our first chance to play it. And fall in love with it.
In Enviro-Bear 2000, you only have one control: the bear's right paw. And there's only one place the bear sits: in a Ford Escort. With that one paw, you can snatch food (you need to eat enough to hibernate), toss stuff out the window (the car is constantly invaded by bees, fish, badgers ... you name it), steer the car, push the accelerator, hit the brake, or shift the car into forward or reverse. Smith thought controlling both hands would be too confusing, and to be honest it would dilute this small yet enjoyable game that tickles your funny bone while you search for bear vittles.
The graphics are chunky and retro, to be sure ... but when you drive your bear over a hallucinogenic mushroom and eat it, the graphics turn semi-realistic. But, you'll still be hunting for fish and berries, while avoiding the badgers, and of course, other bears in cars. When you manage to eat your fill, head to a nearby cave as fast as you can to hibernate for the winter. Then, the game starts over again. Definitely bizarre, yet extremely fun to play. Especially in front of a group of people, most of whom will be saying "What the ... what?!" while asking if they can play it.
The game is available for download on PC, or you can pick up the iPhone/iPad version (called Enviro-Bear 2010 Operation Hibernation) as well. You can also check out his hilarious new game, So Long, Oregon (originally called F*ck Oregon, let's go find El Dorado), which is a factually accurate, yet completely satirical send-up of the classic The Oregon Trail. It is very hard not to love Justin Smith.