July 04, 2010
There seem to be very few surprises left in the gaming industry, so when a novel idea does come along, people generally sit up and take notice. So the idea of a slightly unhinged, fluffy teddy bear running amok and killing off his brethren is so off the cuff that it just had to work, or at the very least garner some column inches. However, the title has slipped mysteriously under the radar and it is only upon playing it that you can see why. The tagline could well have been: "When good ideas go bad."
The premise of Naughty Bear is pretty much the only solid foundation in the entire game. An outcast from society due to his misdeeds and generally scruffy appearance, Naughty - who is a teddy bear, of course - tries to come good by putting together a surprise birthday present for one of his peers. After being laughed out of the party though, it seems that things take a, rather violent, turn for the worse. And so begins his quest to get even with all those people who continually make fun of him, although frankly, if there was a bear running amok where I lived, then he would probably be treated the same way. Naughty incidentally gets his advice from the helpful narrator, who sounds like a children's TV presenter on too much sugar, who provides him with hints and actually eggs him on rather more than you would expect.
So a decent enough premise for chaos, but that is where the novelty ends really and the issues start to crop up. As soon as you start playing, the camera is a nightmare and will often hinder your progress thanks to some seemingly random viewpoints. The game also has a number of glitches and issues too, most notable of which is the fact it will randomly freeze every now and then for no apparent reason at all. This results in you having to completely reset the 360 and start the level over again - my, what joy! Considering it happened twice in the first hour of play alone, an issue such as this is hardly likely to go away. Throw in some random graphical bugs - objects vanishing, floating bears, etc - and things really do start to look a little rushed.
Unfortunately your goal on every map is the same too, as you just have to dispose of your chief target (denoted by a hat) in any way you can – along with any other bears that have the misfortune to get in your way. All well and good so far, especially considering there are a variety of weapons and traps to aid you, plus you can stealthily sabotage various items and lay in wait for a bear to come along and repair them. You can also scare your foes to the point of insanity, at which point they will do your job for you, although the variety is fairly deceptive, as you still have to just scare or kill off all of your foes regardless of the implement and finishing move you use – and by the hundredth time you have pulled off some sadistic kill, is it funny anymore? Quite simply put, no. No it is not.
Naughty must be careful though, as his fluffy opponents can fight back, and they also grow in stature as you progress. Certain foes have special abilities – like Ninja being able to spot you in the woods and Zombears being resistant to scares. They can also try to escape from your wrath or even call in help too, although the real problem here is just how dumb they are - you can often stab a bear to death in the middle of his comrades and they will just stand around waiting to be next. They often act in such a random manner as well that any advanced planning is pretty much wasted. The only real reward here is the creative ways you can kill them all and chain the deaths together for big old points.
All of your actions will snag you Naughty Points, which in turn can unlock new areas, new outfits and new challenges. The problem here is that there are only three unique areas in the entire game – say what? I kid you not. So basically you can play seven unique episodes, with four challenges each, but will only ever see the same three areas. Wow – the diversity is mind blowing. In fact, the quest for points is the only way you can see and do everything, and provides the only real challenge in the game. The key is to build up a massive multiplier by chaining together naughty actions and also acting in a clever way to keep the points flowing, so rather than finish off a bear you could let him limp around and put a bit of fear into his friends when they see him. Mixing up your killing style, weapons, traps and scares is the only way to hit the big scores and ensure you snag a gold or platinum medal come the end of the level. The more medals you get then, the more challenges open up. Still, considering you will be wandering through the same old areas time and time again and killing the same bunch of bears, the amount of variety is kept to a minimum.
The look and feel of the game is perfect though, but it's just the execution that is just sloppy. Every level plays out the same way, and even the challenges are just more of the same. This time you have to kill everyone, this time you have to drive them all insane, this time to have to remain unseen (exactly why can no one see you when you are stood in a bush?) – the ideas are all tenuous at best and stretch the fun of the game to breaking point really.
You can also head online - although why you would want to is another matter - and take part in similarly themed antics against your friends (and enemies). Just getting into a game is an ordeal though, as more often than not players will all end up getting booted back to the menu – whether this is a problem with the game, the servers or some dark magic is a matter up for debate at the moment, but it makes the whole experience less than enjoyable. Once in a match things don't exactly pick up either and the gameplay is exactly the same as single player. With nothing but traditional modes like Capture the Flag and King of the Hill, if the single player wasn't throwaway, the multiplayer certainly is.
Even the achievements are a let down as you will have to spend a lot of time grinding out Platinum awards on pretty much every level to snag everything, and some of them are more reliant on luck than judgement. You also have to build up a massive 250 million in Naughty Points which would test the patience of even the most devout saint. Do not even get me started on some of the annoyingly fickle irony kills and secret tasks. Frankly, anything that has you playing this game for long after the fun has worn off (about an hour) is less than welcome.
Naughty Bear had the potential to be something a little bit special, but instead turned into a shallow festival of violence that is far too lacking in variety or entertainment to be worth a rent, yet alone a purchase. There are a whole bunch of glitches to drag things down and you really have to wonder what kind of vacation the QA department were on while this game was supposed to be getting tested. Avoid at all costs as even the achievement points are not worth this much torture.
The insanely chipper narrator is fun at first, but his voice soon begins to grate and the music is sub par at best.
A good mix of cute and creepy, and the whole atmosphere is presented as well as could be expected really. However, there are far too many glitches and graphical oddities that should have been spotted before this was pushed out of the door.
Fun for about an hour and then the obvious repetition kicks in – you will soon be tired of performing the same few moves and seeing the same few maps.
A good idea, but one that has been dragged out well beyond its selling point via some dubious challenges and online modes. After a few hours trawling through the main episodes you will have seen everything of note.
A boring list and one that requires for too much grinding and time for such a weak title. Only for the hardcore really as anyone else will have had enough long before the full 1k is in sight.
A horrendous disappointment, and one that is not helped by the numerous glitches and bugs that constantly plague your playing experience. The one good idea here is the premise, but it is almost like the developers didn't know how to spin it out into a decent game and instead have created a jumbled, repetitive mess.