Developer: FinalBoss Games
After watching this year's Wholesome Direct indie show, my partner and I joked that this is the "year of bears" for indie games. LumbearJack specifically was an nice surprise announcement for me, and when explaining it to my partner I called it the one where "bear does eco-terrorism". LumbearJack is a chaotic but cute adventure game where you play a bear taking back nature by destroying factories, cars, and other sources of environmental pollution and destruction. LumbearJack has satisfying gameplay that lets you destroy freely as well as wholesome premise that I wish would've perhaps been expanded a little bit more.
You start the game as a sleeping bear, awoken by a bird friend who's come to share the news about "Evil (literally the name of it) Corporation", a big company that's destroying their home. This unnamed lumberjack bear grabs their axe and confidently heads out to fix this problem themselves. You can destroy any man-made object with this axe and it breaks into little pieces, which you collect in your recycling backpack and use to craft your weapon further. As your axe gets bigger, you can destroy bigger obstacles, like trailers. Each area is a separate level where you must help your animal friends who have fallen prey to the dangerous human creations. You can fully complete each level by clearing it completely of these man-made items (and bringing back all the vegetation), "pardoning" all the humans, and finding secret trap items. Some levels bring on additional puzzle-like challenges, like figuring out how to destroy larger buildings and even deflecting bombs strategically.
It's satisfying to see the immediate effects of turning this (left image) back into this (right image).
The art of LumbearJack almost reminds me of Donut County with its cell-shaded style, but it lacks a little bit of that charm. It goes perhaps a bit too simplistic, which I understand for a game where you break a lot of items into smaller pieces, but it could've given us a little bit more with the cutscenes. The music is breezy and fun, but for the most part is the same in many levels. It's peaceful to listen to despite the sound of cars honking, buildings collpasing, and bombs exploding. Also, I appreciate that the weapon designs just grow more and more outrageous and huge as you move along the game. There was also a nice level of detail given to each human, as they would all end up doing something different and having a different outfit than the last human.
The gameplay is pretty simple - there's one button to just destroy with your axe. However, that same button, when used on an animal, gives them a friendly pat on the head. Then, that same button again but used on a human will literally slap them out of being corporate drones. Despite chopping across occupied trucks and buildings, no humans are actually hurt or killed - just slapped once by a bear. Once the humans get slapped, they take on a new outlook and activity: from farming, to surfing, to painting, or anything else that's not destroying the environment. I really enjoyed this part and always looked forward to slapping the humans to see what each one would do next. As someone who loves to destroy stuff in games, I really liked doing a lot of that, especially when you could cut things down to specific sizes. My biggest complaint is honestly just that I wanted more of this game - more destruction, more levels, more challenges. Also, there were other little issues that could have been improved. For example, sometimes the camera would be very wacky when shifting from one location to another. Also, even though I would equip fun outfits, sometimes the next level I suddenly wouldn't be wearing that outfit. It seems kind of pointless to give you outfits to change into but then not be able to actually wear them for certain parts.
Your goal in LumbearJack is to get rid of all of the machines, factory, and pollution, but definitely not to get rid of the humans. It's idealistically hopeful in the way that the bear is able to "remind" the humans to be kind and respectful to nature, and in the end they're all able to coexist happily - animals and humans. I like this sentiment, but of course in a realistic lens, there's always going to be power-hungry, selfish people at the top of a company like this one who wouldn't change under any circumstance because profits are number one. It definitely would've been grim to kill any humans in this cute game, so I understand the choice. I appreciate that the game had a feel-good plot while also letting you take out your frustration through destruction.
LumbearJack is a fairly short but really fun little destruction adventure. I was surprised by how cute and wholesome it was despite its premise. I think it's doing something really important in the conversation about the environment and animal rights, even if it was sort of an idealistic and silly approach. I recommend this game to anyone who likes to destroy things in games and who likes cute animals saving the day. If this game ever had additional content or DLC added with more challenges to complete and more to destroy, I'd be all about it. For now, though, the game left me wanting a bit more.
Oh, also, to the devs: help me understand. Why is it LumbearJack with a capital J and not LumBearjack or LumBearJack, since the key word is Bear? I know this is silly, but I kept thinking about this the whole time I was writing this review. Anyway.
LumbearJack is available on PC, Switch, and Xbox Series X|S
Played on: Switch
Playtime: 2.5 hrs