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POLAR BEAR IN SPACE! title screen
Game No. 504
Voting 8.29 points, 7 votes
Developer Silvan Reinhold
Company Unrolled Loop Studios LLC
Publisher Psytronik Software
Musician Jon Wells
Release December 20, 2021 (digital)
March 2022 (physical)
June 1, 2023 (cartridge)
Platform C64
Genre Shoot'em Up
Gamemode Single player
Operation Icon Port2.pngJoystick Keyboard
Media Diskette Datassette Cartridge
Language Language:english
Information Different versions available!
Only works on PAL systems

Description[edit | edit source]

Polar Bear flying above ground and defeating aliens.

POLAR BEAR IN SPACE! is a single-player mixed shoot'em up and platform game released in December 2021 for the Commodore 64. It was developed by Unrolled Loop Studios LLC and published by Psytronik Software.

The protagonist, Polar Bear, is stranded in space. Having found a nearby alien space station, he must collect the 99 krystals scattered across its underground caverns. Once collected, he can then use these krystals to charge and operate the station transporter in order to escape.

Goal of the game is to help Polar Bear navigate the space station and its caverns, and to ensure his safe return home.

Polar Bear arrives defenseless and with the ability to run and jump. He can collect extras, such as a jetpack, shield, and smart bombs, which deplete with use, and weapons upgrades, which downgrade after a demise. These extras allow him to fly across the space station above ground and fend off the various alien enemies attempting to prevent his escape.

Along the way, Polar Bear can also pick up his companion, Snowball. When collected, Snowball deflects enemies by orbiting Polar Bear. With combined forces, Polar Bear and Snowball can also fire a high-energy beam that destroys all enemies in its path immediately.

Each underground cavern is guarded by a terminal, which must be deactivated to unlock the cavern entrance. Polar Bear can do this by unscrambling the visual pattern displayed by the terminal within a given time limit. The time limit decreases with each subsequent terminal, increasing the difficulty.

Once Polar Bear has collected all krystals, he can use them to charge and activate the transporter to return home.

Design[edit | edit source]

Graphics and Animation[edit | edit source]

The game consists of a side-scrolling above-ground level about 28 screens wide, and nine flip-screen underground caverns spanning a total of 40 rooms.

The background graphics follow a clean, technical look, occasionally broken up by more organic elements. They are implemented with multicolor character mode and use raster interrupts to display multiple color schemes on each screen.

The above-ground playfield scrolls smoothly at a full 50 Hz.

Polar Bear unscrambling a terminal puzzle to unlock a cavern entrance.
Polar Bear hopping over an alien in underground cavern level 1.

Polar Bear about to pass sinister spheres in underground cavern level 2.
Polar Bear assessing the situation in underground cavern level 3.

The main character is rendered as a combination of one multi-color fill and one high-resolution single-color outline sprite. Enemies display using non-multiplexed hardware sprites. Bullets and phasers are drawn using characters, and smart bombs multiplex one of the player sprites onto the screen.

Polar Bear's demise sequence is of note in that the game implements a particle system to render it. In this sense it is similar to Archer Maclean's Dropzone and Sensible Software's Wizball, which also go to great lengths to make that sequence as spectacular as possible.

Polar Bear collecting krystals in an underground cavern (animation).
Polar Bear meeting his demise in a skirmish (animation).

Music and Sound[edit | edit source]

Jon Wells contrbuted four music tracks, which are reminiscent of Martin Galway's compositions. The cassette version includes an additional piece, which plays while the game loads from tape.

Only the (approximately 30-40) in-game sounds play during actual gameplay. They do make for an appropriate atmosphere, however, and provide a sense of connection between action and reaction.

The rich explosion sounds, paired with the respective visuals, give a dramatic flair to the use of smart bombs, and even to the explosion of the protagonist.

Hints[edit | edit source]

Startup Options[edit | edit source]

The 2021 (digital) and 2022 (disk, cassette) releases of the game have two options on the Photosensitive Warning screen to start the game:

F1  starts the game in Regular mode

F7  starts the game in Reduced Strobe mode

The 2023 (cartridge) edition adds a new Bearable Mode, which can be triggered by also holding the SHIFT  key while starting the game from the Photosensitive Warning screen.

Game Options[edit | edit source]

F1  swaps fire buttons 2 and 3

F7  toggles between joystick and keyboard modes

RUN/STOP  pauses or unpauses the game

Q  quits the running game, if it is currently paused

Joystick Mode[edit | edit source]

In joystick mode, the player can jump and fire shots with the first (or only) joystick button. When using a POTX/POTY multi-button controller, shield and smart bombs can be activated using the additional buttons (2 and 3). Otherwise, the keyboard can be used for this purpose:

SPACE  triggers a smart bomb

Any Other Key  toggles the shield on or off

Keyboard Mode[edit | edit source]

In keyboard mode, the game can be controlled via two separate key blocks, which allows both left- and right-handed players to play. The following keys indicate Up, Left, Down, Right and Fire 1, 2, 3, respectively:

W A S D , 8 9 0  (left-handed)

I J K L , 1 2 3  (right-handed)

Upgrades[edit | edit source]

Polar Bear can collect various extras along the way. With the exception of his companion Snowball, which appears by itself, extras appear randomly when dispatching enemies. A spare bear is awarded every 50,000 points, unless the player already has the maximum of three spare bears.

Extra Description
pbis-extra-energy.png Energy to replenish Polar Bear's energy level to 100%
pbis-extra-jetpack.png Jetpack, which allows Polar Bear to fly above ground; this is not functional in underground caverns
pbis-extra-shield.png Shield to protect Polar Bear from enemy attacks; this does not protect Polar Bear from water, rays, or sinister spheres
pbis-extra-smartbomb.png Smart bomb, which destroys all currently visible enemies when dropped, along with any ground installations it hits; this is not functional in underground caverns; Polar Bear can carry up to three smart bombs
pbis-extra-weapon.png Weapons upgrade in five steps: uni-directional horizontal, bi-directional horizontal, diagonal, vertical, more bullets at a time; weapons cannot be used underground
pbis-extra-spare-bear.png Spare bear as an extra life; Polar Bear can have up to three spare bears at a time
Frenzy, which launches an attack of mines following Polar Bear relentlessly; avoid picking this up!

Solution[edit | edit source]

General Notes[edit | edit source]

  • The game is easier to play with a multi-button controller or in keyboard mode, as shield and smart bombs are more readily accessible in those cases.

Caverns and Terminals[edit | edit source]

POLAR BEAR IN SPACE! Polar Bear unscrambles a terminal code (animation).
Polar Bear unscrambles a terminal code (animation).
  • The order of caverns is identical between games. However, the cavern entrances are randomly redistributed across the surface with each new game. Each subsequent cavern can only be entered after all krystals have been collected from the previous cavern.
  • The unscrambled pattern is the same for all terminals. Only the scrambled pattern is generated randomly each time, so that the goal is to shift the tiles such that the top row ends up dark blue, the center row purple, and the bottom row light blue.
  • Cavern rooms with a "radioactive" sign drain Polar Bear's energy. To make it through such a cavern without losing a bear, enter with full energy and shield. If necessary, collect these beforehand!

Extras[edit | edit source]

  • Polar Bear is relatively helpless at the beginning of the game, so extras and especially weapons upgrades should be collected as early and quickly as possible.
  • The shield should be used frequently, as it can be replenished easily and fends off many attacks. The probability of finding an energy or shield extra increases with decreasing energy and shield level.
  • Smart bombs are more destructive whenever Polar Bear is not just hovering in position, but flying either to the left or to the right. In those cases, they will cause adjacent ground installations to be destroyed along with the first installation that is hit.
  • The current jetpack level should be monitored particularly when flying over water, to avoid surprises.

Cheats[edit | edit source]

  • POKE 35942,128 disables all terminal timers and gives you infinite time to solve the terminal puzzles.
  • CSDb includes cracks with trainers[1]

Voting[edit | edit source]

Voting of the C64-Wiki users (10=the best vote):
8.29 points at 7 votes (rank 50).
You need to be logged in to cast a vote.
K&A Plus 9/10 Issue 20, April 2022
ZZAP! 64[2] 87% Issue 6, January 2022
Reset64[3] 8.5/10 Issue 15, January 2023
Retro Gamer Nation[4] 82% March 24, 2022
Lemon64 7.08 28. February 2024 - 13 votes
Ready64 8.33 28. February 2024 - 3 voti

Reviews[edit | edit source]

Retronerd: "PBIS! one of those games that will split the audience, but definitely among my absolute favorites for the C64. Its simple rules belie the fast pace and difficulty: you have to immerse yourself to master it. But I found my perseverance worthwhile: the less tentative you get about the controls, the more the game rewards with an engaging visual and aural response. The graphics are excellent, with smooth scrolling and colorful and beautifully drawn backgrounds. There's no in-game music, but the various tunes that play otherwise add to the mood, and the sound effects are plentiful and very fitting. A must-have for the C64 in my book."

Miscellaneous[edit | edit source]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

ZZAP! 64 reviewed the game twice: once as a pre-release version in issue 4[5] and once at the time of release in issue 6. The final version included changes, such as non-respawning enemies and easier gameplay with reversed terminal controls and less persistent mine attacks, and received a higher score than the pre-release version.

The author of the game published an article in January 2023[6] discussing some of the details around the development of the game.

Cover[edit | edit source]

POLAR BEAR IN SPACE! was published as a digital release (D64, TAP, CRT) and as a physical release, including a Collector's Edition (disk in large cardboard box), Premium Plus Edition (disk in clear plastic case), Clamshell Tape Edition (cassette in clamshell case), regular cassette version, and Limited Edition USB version (USB tape in clamshell case).

POLAR BEAR IN SPACE! Collector's Edition (disk) box
Collector's Edition (disk) box
POLAR BEAR IN SPACE! Cassette Edition
Cassette Edition

2023 Game Updates[edit | edit source]

Psytronik[7] released a physical cartridge edition of the game on June 1, 2023[8], which includes a number of updates and enhancements over the original version[9]:

  • A Bearable Mode with easier terminal puzzles and less dangerous enemies and obstacles
  • Mechanics changes like a full jetpack from the start, easier liftoff, and larger flying area
  • Changes to make underground levels easier to complete

Video[edit | edit source]

Psytronik: POLAR BEAR IN SPACE! Official Promo Video

Highscore[edit | edit source]

While the game does not track completion time, it is fun to speedrun it. If you add a completion time, please be honest and track it from the beginning of the first Polar Bear appearance to the beginning of the Congratulations screen.

Topscore of RetronerdDE aka Paulie
  1. RetronerdDE aka Paulie - 189,570 - in 25m 37s (16.04.2022)
  2. Nobody - 0 (dd.mm.yyyy)
  3. Empty - 0 (dd.mm.yyyy)

#2 Nobody #3 Empty
#2 Nobody #3 Empty

Links[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]