Naughty Bear Review
Among the many interesting titles hitting the market today is Naughty Bear, the new game from Artificial Mind and Movement that puts you in the shoes of a murderous teddy bear bent on revenge. This one is just strange enough to pique my interest, so I was very glad to get a chance to review it.
Naughty Bear is the story of a bear named Naughty, which seems like some awfully fortuitous naming by whoever stuffed him. Naughty is laughed at and made fun of by the other bears repeatedly, and the last straw is when he isn’t invited to a birthday party for another bear. Rather than suffer this indignity, he decides to do something about it.
Naughty Bear (PC, PlayStation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360)
Publisher: 505 Games
Released: June 29, 2010
At its core, Naughty Bear is an attempt at creating an open world game in limited environments, something that isn’t always possible. While you have complete freedom to roam the part of the island you’re adventuring in, these areas are normally a bit small.
Each area holds a number of missions. Unfortunately, these missions don’t really vary except in how you are required to approach them. The “Insanity” mission has you do exactly the same thing as the “Friendly” missions, except that you have to drive all the bears insane without killing them instead of killing them all without hitting them. This forced variety feels like it was shoehorned in to get more out of the existing levels (which get reused. A LOT).
Additionally, you’ll need to complete the missions with a high enough score to unlock the right trophy (bronze, silver or gold) or you won’t be able to unlock later levels of the game.
Early on, you can experience one of the best features of Naughty Bear, which is the narrator. He sounds like a public school teacher who got picked on so much that he now lives vicariously through the violent exploits of someone else, namely Naughty Bear. “You’ll have to go and punish him, Naughty,” he intones as you watch a bear prepare for a birthday party. Naughty then heads out to do his dark bidding in a small variety of areas.
Your missions are simple: Hack, maim, and terrify your way through a phalanx of teddy bears to reach the main enemy. In one of the episodes, it’s a bear who’s running for Mayor on the platform of killing you. So, how do we deal with these troublesome bears?
You can handle your foes in a number of ways. You can use traps to catch them, and then approach them for a context-sensitive killing blow. You can use weapons found lying around the environment, such as an ax, bat, pistol, or even an umbrella to attack them in melee. Pound a bear enough in melee, and you’ll get the option to scare or kill him, and that’s where the trouble starts.
Kills that are made with the same weapon invariable have the exact same animation. It doesn’t matter if there is a piece of the environment in the way, or if the target’s head is clipping through a wall, the animation won’t change. You can vary the animations by varying weapons, but there aren’t nearly enough weapons in the game to make this a viable tactic.
Scaring a bear results in him running away whilst you pursue him. Scare a bear enough, and he’ll go insane, roaming around the map in a daze. Give an insane bear a good scare and he may even commit suicide. As a bonus, you let him wander around for a while and watch the effect his insanity has on the other bears. You can literally see the agitation spread through the community as fast as your points are rolling in.
You can also use stealth to some degree. Walk into the woods, and Naughty automatically hides behind a conveniently placed large leaf. You can also place traps, such as bear traps and land mines, to snare your prey.
All of the combat suffers from the same problem: it’s repetitive and tedious. There’s no instant kill from stealth, so even if you execute a flawless stalk, your target will still start running and crying for help the minute you attack them. You can hide in a closet inside a building for an insta-kill, provided you’ve got the patience of Job.
The one positive about the stealth situations is that the enemy bears don’t follow pre-described paths, but rather wander around like you’d expect them to. It’s not enough to make the stealth mechanic compelling, but it is a welcome change from guys who walk the same path so much that you’d expect to see them standing in a ditch.
The controls are not hard to master, but they do present a problem.. Most executions and scare opportunities are triggered by context sensitive buttons, and getting them to pop up properly can be a Sisyphean feat at times.
Naughty Bear also features a few multiplayer modes, but they feel sort of tacked on. There’s deathmatch/attack and defend (Assault), one vs. all survival (Golden Oozy), and capture the flag (Jelly Wars). There’s also a Cake Walk mode in which one player holds a cake that prevents them from attacking or defending, and everyone else has to beat the hell out of them. I call this one, “Run Away!”
All in all, Naughty Bear is a game that has a great concept marred by slipshod execution. I have to admit that watching the trailers of bear on bear violence was enough to make me want to play this game. Unfortunately, things never really progress beyond the point of those trailers. There is some fun in working your way through all the weapons to see their kill animations, but even that pales after a time. In the end, you’re just a sad little bear wandering the island beating on people and hoping the cops don’t show up.
I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy parts of Naughty Bear, but the whole package is something I can’t recommend that you go out and purchase. It’s a fun distraction for a while that quickly becomes a chore to play. If you can’t get it as a rental, I’d give this one a pass.
- Great Concept
- The narrator fits the game perfectly
- Graphics, while plain, are perfect for the concept.
- Other Bear’s reactions to injured / crazy bears executed well
- Repetitive gameplay and environments
- Poorly executed stealth mechanic
- Clunky Combat
- Lots of forced replay to unlock game content