Review

Naughty Bear Review (Xbox360)

As you may have noticed from any of the six billion trailers released over the previous couple of months, Naughty Bear is a slightly disturbed chap. Spurned by his so-called friends and uninvited to numerous social gatherings, this is a cartoon cuddly on the brink of breaking down and getting all Michael Douglas up in these here woods today. Fear, anger, violence and sweet revenge are firmly on the menu, and it's up to him to deliver them with weapons, traps, sabotage, high scores and multipliers. No bear shall be spared, no stitching shall remain intact. Get ready, for total defluffication.

As a premise it's fantastic, and the initial impressions of both the bear and his environment are positive. Narrated in the style of a late-seventies or early-eighties British kids television show, wandering around the fairytale forests and garishly colourful saccharine-sweet buildings is the perfect juxtaposition for an announcer that positively brims with subtle, demented malice. "Are we really going to let them get away with it Naughty? It's not fair is it... And after all the trouble you went to making that present."

One of the many contraptions to sabotage

And they certainly won't get away with it. Naughty Bear's basic gameplay loop is best described as a mishmash of elements lifted from the Metal Gear and Manhunt series, with the overall emphasis on taking down all of your enemies in as creative a manner possible. Scores and multiplier bonuses are rewarded for getting innovative, and the whole thing is split into arena-based chunks that take anywhere from thirty seconds to 5-6 minutes each to complete. Although the cutscenes are an apt reward at the beginning of every chapter, the primary drive is the leaderboard system, and a healthy community seems to be thriving with some improbable scores.

On entering the woods, it's worth taking a note of exactly which bears are present and coming up with a plan to play them off against each other. These are no clones you see, with each character having his or her own distinct personality that make them react in a specific manner. On sight of a dead body, some will run to the nearest room to barricade themselves in, some will immediately grab the nearest weapon and begin their own hunt, some will make a break for either the car or boat to escape, and others will simply cower in fear. Through trial and error it's possible to gain a good understanding as to how the level will flow once you begin your carnage, and although things are complicated with the arrival of police, army, zom-bears and robo-bears later in the game, those core elements always remain intact.

Naughty Bear!

There are three basic mechanisms for dealing with your furry nemeses, broken down roughly into direct combat, psychological combat, and sabotage. Direct combat really needs no explanation, and there are plenty of weapons lying around with which to dispatch your foes. It's the lowest-scoring of all three tiers however, and so should only be used as a last resort. You have to be sure to mix up projectile, blunt and sharp weaponry to stand any chance of reaching the requisite number of points to succeed, although there are a few challenges scattered throughout the singleplayer that simply require you to bludgeon everybody to death as swiftly as possible.

Of far more interest are the psychological and sabotage options. Each map is broken down into wooded and non-wooded areas, with Naughty becoming invisible the moment he steps into foliage. Stalking your foe, popping out behind them silently and hitting the 'scare' button will gradually fill their insanity meter (along with events such as discovering dead comrades, etc), eventually leading to a straight decision as to whether to perform a cheap kill with whatever weaponry you have present, or alternatively to force them to kill themselves. Those suicide animations are probably the most amusing sequences in the game, and watching a teddy bear blowing the stuffing out of its head or committing seppuku with a machete is laden with the sort of dark humour that characterises Naughty Bear's best achievements. 

Also scattered throughout the environment are various bits of machinery, phones, weapon crates, barbecues and arcade cabinets, and sabotaging any of these items will draw enemies closer to repair or investigate, allowing a quick one-shot contextual kill. In practice, it's useful to stay in cover and sabotage a few of these as a jumping off point, and then follow-up on the ensuing chaos by reacting to whatever the bears decide to do. Health pickups and multiplier freezes allow for some ludicrous combo-chaining once you elevate above the basics, with manic crowd control reminiscent of something like Geometry Wars mixed in with the tense score management of The Club.

Feel the fear

But unfortunately Naughty Bear scarcely reaches even the worst moments of either of those two titles, thanks largely to the incredibly repetitive structure. After playing the first chapter you'll likely have experienced all there is to see on the island, with further chapters mixing in a few new enemies, objects and lighting conditions to relieve the tedium. But there simply aren't enough items to tinker with, bears to exploit or different territories to explore, and it all falls apart rather swiftly. To their credit, developer A2M has attempted to throw in as many different challenge types as possible within that one environment, but it just isn't enough to pad out a full retail game, and it's compounded by a frankly terrible camera that fights against you at every possible opportunity.

Had the core gameplay been better polished then Naughty Bear would have been able to get away with having only a few solitary environments to explore, but as it stands it's a hell of a lot of fun for a couple of hours, but that's your lot. For all its flaws though, you have to applaud the intent and salute the setting. It's a shame we don't get more of this type of experiment hitting our shelves in the UK.

Best Game Moment: Any of the fear-suicide fluffy death animations

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Comments

By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Aug 06, 2010
BoneArc
NAUGHTY BEAR !!!!!!!!!!!!
damn , i would kill so many Bears .
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 06, 2010
Wowerine
Yeah. Same stuff just on an other platform.