Yes. You are reading the title correctly. This is the review for Epic Dumpster Bear. A Unity-made precision platformer with a hilarious twist. Created by Log Games Ltd. (creators of the Wii U puzzle game Puzzle Monkeys), Epic Dumpster Bear takes you through the tragic life of Dumpster Bear, an unsuspecting brown bear traumatized by an "evil corporation" who is left to eat trash after his home is destroyed. The tables have turned however, as Dumpster Bear is tired of eating trash and is out for revenge.
Epic Dumpster Bear is a mashup of all your favourite platformers, and the first level will make that clear. As you run (hilariously on two legs, we must add) through the stage, you'll begin to get a feel for the unique, yet familiar tactics. Running and jumping requires momentum, something felt in the earlier Sonic games. Bouncing on enemies heads to clear gaps and reach higher, and sometimes hidden, locations reminds us of the controls found in old 8 and 16-bit platformers. Coins are scattered throughout each stage, and three rare red coins are hidden around. You start with two hearts, and every halfway point - which is a dumpster with the light of the heavens shining down on it - will replenish any missing hearts and act as a checkpoint. The levels often end with a belly flop down onto a red and white target on the ground. If you can manage to get it in the center, you get full points during the scoring. The completionist in you will be searching out those coins and trying to bullseye every level. Even though there are plenty of stages (over 70 levels in 7 worlds), you may find yourself coming back to ones you've just completed to find that extra red coin.
The game must be commended on its unique controls. Not only are you able to gain momentum while running and jumping, but higher speeds can be obtained while grinding rails (of course you can grind rails) and taller locations can be reached by bouncing off bumpers and wall jumping (and you can wall jump). You'll be laughing through the whole thing, because nothing adds up, but the gameplay feels tight. The boss fights will keep you frustrated, however. Sometimes those tight mechanics loosen up when you're "fighting" instead of platforming. The very first boss is a prime example. After obtaining your army helmet to throw bombs (we imagine disbelief after every statement like this, but we assure you that everything written here is true), you drop down to fight a giant wasp. The boss has a life counter that starts at 10 and drops down 1 for every bomb that hits it. Sounds simple enough, but keep in mind you've got two hearts, which means you've only got room to get hit once before you have to start over. Since you're frantically running back and forth, maintaining your momentum to move out of the way of the boss is extremely difficult. You need to time your bomb lobs to hit the wasp, give yourself enough time to run out of the way of its sweeping attack, and then hit the springs at the edge of the map to bounce yourself over the boss and try it all again from the other side. It's complicated, and precision is required to pull it off, but sometimes it feels like the game fights against you in instances like that - it's not a one-off either, as most of the boss fights suffer from this issue.
As a Wii U exclusive, it's nice to see indie games take advantage of the console that they run on. Each world offers up numerous puzzle levels that utilize the GamePad. The previously mentioned target belly flop ending also has a nice little Wii U surprise. If you manage to bullseye the flop and score 100 points, then you're rewarded with a Miiverse Stamp. Epic Dumpster Bear has full Miiverse support, with posts at the end of each level and up to 35 unlockable stamps. The GamePad also mirrors the action on the TV, so you're able to take your trash-eating adventures anywhere with you in your home.
This game is just laughs, left, right, and center. Though, while looking for those laughs, sometimes things seem really out of place (more so than the enemies you encounter, like cows, wolves, hornets, mechanical flying drones, etc.). Towards the end of a world, you'll find yourself traversing a castle with lava. A nice throwback to Mario for sure, but it also destroys the setting that's been established for the world, and there's no explanation relating to the castles since the overworld doesn't continue any images other than buttons that indicate each level.
Another attempt at a laugh is the poor use of textures and models. Gameplay-wise, it's great. Visually, not so much. Sure, the rough textures on the 3D models may be designed that way on purpose, just for comedic effect, but it still makes the game feel dated (think N64 textures and slightly better models). Each level sports a bland background too. Although the 3D world in the background with the parallaxing is a nice touch, it often makes the stages feel empty.
Epic Dumpster Bear is the epic adventure of a dumpster-diving bear as he attempts to battle against the evil corporation, and proof that you should never judge a book by its cover. The title sounds ridiculous, because the premise for the game is ridiculous, and everything looks ridiculous… but that's the charm. This fairly robust platformer does have some balancing issues but is hiding under a hilarious layer of ridiculousness and provides a surprising amount of challenge and fun. Plus, while you wait for levels to load, you get interesting little tidbits about bears. "Don't camp on the shore of a spawning stream".