- Fomat: PS3 (version reviewed), 360
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: 505 Games
- Developer: Artifical Mind and Movement
- Players: 1 – 8
- Site: http://www.naughtybearthegame.com
We’ve all heard of the modern mantra of inviting every child to a birthday party so that none of the little dearies get upset and learn about rejection too early in life. It’s best that we let it hit them later on when they can simply start a blog about their innermost pain. Well, Naughty Bear wasn’t invited to Daddles’ birthday party; in fact, Naughty Bear doesn’t get invited to much. Let’s see how he handles it.
The setting for Naughty Bear is absolutely brilliant, and ripped straight out of the imagination behind lots of 90s children’s television. The peace loving teddy bears of The Island of Perfection snub social outcast Naughty Bear, who then has to go about dealing with it. However, instead of doing it in a depressive and upsetting way which will eventually teach the other bears a moral lesson about accepting every bear for who they are, he turns excitedly demented, causing him to take out his frustrations violently.
The game happily lets you chase bears around with machetes, handguns, golf clubs, and just about anything else that lets you pound fluff into the ground. If you aren’t content enough with beating them to death, you can psychologically scar each cuddly critter as well, slowly driving them insane. If you do it enough, you can even take them to the tipping point and coerce them to commit suicide. The comic plume of stuffing that launches from a bear’s head when it shoots itself is a very clear reward for emotionally bullying them over the edge.
This twisted and sadistic comic humour is backed up by a very familiar sounding narrator whose nostalgic tone of voice happily tells you how naughty you are being at every turn. It really pains us then that such a fantastically setup idea has been so poorly executed.
Gameplay focuses on gathering naughty points, which are awarded for carrying out dastardly deeds against everything, which generally revolves around scaring the other bears. You can be quite plain and simply hack them to bits but very often, snaring them in a bear trap and terrorising their friends whilst they are forced to watch will net you higher scores.
Each level is made up of three or so areas, but very often you encounter the places that you have already been through which gets boring quite quickly. The other sad thing is that the game only has seven levels – but to unlock them all, you need to replay each one over and over again, trying to unlock bronze, silver and gold trophies by being as naughty as possible.
Each re-run of a level tasks you with doing things slightly differently, whether it is to kill all bears, not get spotted or complete goals within a time limit. It only changes the rules concerning how you should play the level though, rather than changing anything that would make the experience noticeably different. It really feels that the new challenges you unlock to replay a level should have been put in there as optional goals for achievement and trophy hunters. Having to redo the same level over and over again gets very old, very fast and seems like a lazy approach to artificially extend the life of the game.
The main objective in each instance tends to be about teaching a particular bear a permanent lesson by killing them. Of course there are many bears between you and the target, each one a potential fountain of points, but extracting those points just becomes routine after a while. There are plenty of context sensitive actions which very often give you the choice to kill or scare the victim, with terrifying them netting you more points. To activate these though, you need to be standing in just the right place which can be fiddly to find, especially if you are trying to evade an unhappy bear that is pursuing you with an axe.
The game starts off quite easy as all of the colourful, rather naive cuddle buddies seem to bumble around blissfully unaware of the horror that is about to be inflicted around them. You can hide in the shrubbery which makes you fairly invisible – only sneaking out to sabotage equipment – before sleuthing back into bushes like a psychotic cougar, enthusiastically waiting for the opportunity to murder the poor soul investigating whatever you broke. This only works for so long though, as later in the game the bears get uzis and often chase you out of bushes. This stealth mechanic can get frustrating as sometimes it can be difficult to know how safe you are on the later levels, especially if you are trying to avoid unnecessary contact as part of a challenge.
The main objectives never seem to change, making these tougher enemies the only real difficulty escalation, unless you discount the more ridiculous challenges of ‘don’t get hit’ or ‘don’t get spotted’, which seem to only be there for frustration. All of this is amplified by there being no checkpoints, meaning a judgement error in the last area earns a complete re-run of the level. Each repetition feels like you are climbing the same hill over and over again, just with more weight added each time and sharp bits digging into your shoulder blades.
We really wanted to like this game, we really did. The darker sense of humour is the only saving grace that this game has to offer, as it is draped over the dried out husk of a 3D arcade formula that doesn’t give any satisfaction to the player. At the very most this game will be worth having a quick look at if a mate has it, as it will definitely crack a smile on your face, which ups the score slightly. Other than that, we can only recommend that you too snub Naughty Bear like his peers do, and just hope that he goes away so we can all enjoy our lives that are better off without him.