Naughty Bear isn’t a broken game nor is it a pile of junk. It’s simply a game that relies too much on one particular element that isn’t as fleshed out as it could be and that ultimately results in a less than stellar game. The premise is funny and the comedy is well executed but it just isn’t enough for the long term.
The dark humor is done well and doesn’t feel too forced or immature. Some of the kill animations are simply brutal and are really damn funny. The combo system is nice and really encourages players to think things through a bit instead of causing mindless mayhem. Bonus costumes add a nice amount of gameplay enhancements.
Even though it’s hilarious the core gameplay comedy and the actions of Naughty Bear get a bit repetitive after awhile. There aren’t enough diverse locations and weapons to keep things interesting. At times the camera and framerate issues can be really distracting. It would’ve been nice if the action had varied kill animations.
So far the world of video games has offered us quite an array of original games with unique characters to play as. We’ve played as futuristic soldiers in green armor, an aging master of stealth and even an average joe adventurer. But now we have a character to play as that isn’t a bald space marine nor does he wear bulky armor; instead he’s filled with stuffing and near blinding rage. Naughty Bear from 505 Games and developer Artificial Mind & Movement is one of those games where the premise has a lot of potential and you can tell the devs were rather passionate but for some unexplainable reason the final product just isn’t all it could be.
I’ll be upfront and say that yes, prior to release I was hyped as hell to check out Naughty Bear. After all I do like cute plush teddy bears and over-the-top violence so when those two things are added in a game I couldn’t help but have a hype level that was close to exceeding 9,000. But actually getting my hands on the game and playing it I couldn’t help but be a bit let down by certain gameplay elements along with a few areas that lacked polish.
Following a simple premise the concept of Naughty Bear holds an almost unimaginable amount of promise. Players assume the role of the titular Naughty Bear who after constantly being left out of activities finally snaps and decides to teach all the other bears a lesson by killing them all. Yeah, an uber violent teddy bear may sound a bit juvenile but all the comedy in the game is actually funny and tastefully done. So we got the premise down: angry bear decides to unleash his furry in a series of episodes each involving a different bear that needs to be punished.
The problem is that the game really doesn’t offer much in the way of comedy outside of a few intro cutscenes which simply set-up the premise for the current episode. Being someone who has followed the game for awhile I was a bit disappointed that there isn’t more to Naughty Bear from a comedic angle outside of the cutscenes. If you were expecting stuff like the Alien parody trailer to show up during the game then you’re going to be a sad bear since stuff like that is missing in action. It’s not that the game isn’t funny as there are some nice gags in there and seeing Naughty Bear smile after shooting a bear in the face is worthy of a chuckle. The big issue is that the game relies too much on the gameplay to elicit laughs and sadly that doesn’t last for long.
Leading up to its release no one really knew what sort of game Naughty Bear was. Is the game some sort of open-world game where you just kill bears or does it have a linear nature with specific goals to achieve? Well Naughty Bear is linear in nature but the game and combo mechanics do allow players to mix things up a bit. The whole point of Naughty Bear is to rack up points by doing naughty things. It shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise since your name is Naughty Bear so doing stuff like breaking statues, killing frogs and sabotaging automobiles will net you points. Oh, you can also earn a lot of point by doing things like shoving a telephone in a bear’s mouth. Yeah, it’s a bit hardcore but you got to keep that combo meter going somehow.
One thing that Naughty Bear does well that should be applauded is that the game doesn’t encourage players to just straight up kill everything in an area and then move on. In some cases you can’t due to stronger bear types (Army Bears and Zombie Bears) but if you do immediately kill bears you won’t get the max combo score. Doing stuff like disabling telephones and scaring bears will slowly spread across all the bears in an area so you can literally just be standing still and still get points based on how the A.I. of the bears will react to thing’s you’ve already done. The big problem is that even while it’s fun to stab a bear with an axe or bash their head in with a car door it eventually gets a bit old. That says a lot since I’m a dude who digs senseless and over-the-top violence. Naughty Bear’s repetitive nature stems from a few things such as the game taking place in the same environments with almost the same environmental hazards, a lack of diverse kill animations and some downright nasty technical problems. When I roamed the same cartoon style woods for the sixth time things you pretty much know what you need to do in order to kill the intended target and rack up a good score; so much so that it almost feels like I was following an outline of sorts instead of playing a new experience.
It’s also really disappointing that there is only one kill move per weapon. So if you go up to a bear and decide to kill it instead of scaring it to the point of insanity you’re going to see the same exact animation every time for that particular weapon. The game encourages you to switch up weapons since you get fewer points for repeating attacks but the limited kill moves really sets back the amount of comedy the game offers since you won’t be laughing as much in your fourth hour of playing compared to your first.
There are a few cool new additions in some of the later stages such as weapons and insane enemies but it’s still the same environments, same hazards and the same key goals. The game does offer a few challenge stages such as ones where you can only be seen by five times and then it’s game over or another where you can’t be hit at all. Those stages offer a nice amount of challenge on the gameplay side of things but it’s not enough to really fix the core problem of there not being enough content in the game.
I also couldn’t help but be disappointed and puzzled by how iffy the camera and framerate is. Usually the camera is fine when Naughty is running around but when he’s sneaking in the forest or running around a house the camera often gets too close or makes it difficult to see where the exit or key threats are. But what I found puzzling was how the framerate would drastically drop in some instances. Usually framerate drops can be associated to when tons of crap is happening on screen but in Naughty Bear I found it to be an almost common occurrence in some areas which didn’t have a lot of action happening. Technically Naughty Bear is a decent game as the cartoon style visuals and production values are good, but the camera and stability of the frame rate left me desiring a lot more.
Naughty Bear is a game that just isn’t realized as it could be. Yeah, other reviews have been downright bashing the game and I can definitely understand some of their complaints. Is Naughty Bear one of the best games released this year so far? No it isn’t, not by a longshot, and inside that somewhat pains me to say since the concept of the game is just funny as hell. In my time with the game the laughs were definitely strong as the imagery and accompanying voice over is executed well but that isn’t enough to fix the issues with the gameplay. It almost seems like Naughty Bear would’ve been better suited as a PSN/XBLA release with individual episodes that would have new content. That’s not to say that Naughty Bear is a half-assed project as the online mode is decent and I could tell that the core concepts and ideals were there. Naughty Bear may be cute and adorable and his antics amusing but it’s not enough to elevate Naughty Bear past being a sub-average game at best.