Monday, 16 August 2010

Game Review: Naughty Bear

OK I'll admit it. I actually quite enjoy playing crap games. In the same way some people like watching low-budget schlocky horror films or read trashy magazines, I get a kick out of playing crappy games. I dig beneath the poor graphics and repetitive gameplay, in the hope that I'll discover the proverbial diamond in the rough. But 505 Games' latest offering almost pushed me beyond what even I could bear.

Naughty Bear's concept is part 'Telly Tubbies' and part 'Halloween'. You play as the eponymous disenfranchised Naughty Bear, who following his exclusion from the latest Teddy Bear's Picnic, decides to go on a murderous rampage. By stalking, stabbing and scaring his fellow bears, Naughty can finally quell the ever-cheerful yet completely psychotic voice in his head. Sounds compelling doesn't it? In truth, Naughty Bear could have been an interesting and unique game, but ends up barely being a mediocre one.

When I first loaded up the game, after a seemingly never-ending tutorial sequence, I was ready to start terrorising teddies. Having read all the instructions on how to sabotage phones and escape vehicles, and how to drive bears to the brink of suicide, I eagerly anticipated a slow, methodical descent into the mind of a killer, albeit a soft and fluffy one. My hopes were shattered immediately upon entering the first area; the small environments were heavily populated by hostile bears, making it impossible to carry out my subtle yet bloody scheme.

Upon further inspection, I found that the level was literally littered with weapons and items, and the score multiplier countdown ticked away with vicious velocity. For all its talk of sabotage and stealth, the game seemed designed to encourage a frantic killing spree rather than a more carefully planned approach. To test this, I replayed the same level, dashing from house to house and beating to death any bears I found with a stick. I attained a gold trophy and roughly quadruple the points I had acquired on my previous play through, in barely half the time.

Naughty Bear's presentation is appropriate, if not terribly impressive. The simplistic graphics and cutesy sound fit in with the game's 'children's show' aesthetic, but the annoying camera and limited number of animations spoiled the experience. Repeatedly watching Naughty spin an unsuspecting bear around and yell 'BOO!' became old very quickly.

Repetition had better be something you enjoy if you buy this game, because not only are the levels and objectives very similar (there are only four environments in the entire game. FOUR!) but you are asked to replay each scenario several times before you can unlock the next one. In fairness, you are asked to do so with different parameters in place (such as 'don't hit anyone' or 'make everyone go insane'), but this doesn't make progressing through the game any less teddy-ous.

As a time-killer, a game to play while the dinner's cooking or to wind down from an intense online session, Naughty Bear is a nice change of pace. Once you find the right pace to combine stealthy sabotage with rapid violence without losing your multiplier, there is a modicum of fun to be had. With the addition of downloadable content and online multiplayer, the more deranged among you may be drawn in. However, I do wonder who this game was aimed at. It is too childish and simplistic for older gamers, yet obviously the subject matter is above the heads of little kiddy-winks. I'm really not sure who I could recommend this game to.

505 Games' Naughty Bear is a game that aims high but hits low, less a case of 'Fur-iday the 13th' and more of 'Tom and Beary'. That is to say it was pawful. I couldn't bear it. How're these bear puns working out for you?

Lukao gives Naughty Bear 3 brutal murders out of 10.

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