Naughty Bear has slowly gained popularity over recent months thanks to trailers released depicting an angry looking bear brutally murdering other happy bears, generally in scenes reminiscent of popular films. It is hard to dismiss such trailers as the premise of such a combination, mixed with the games style and personality, instantly makes you of Conker’s Bad Fur Day mixed with brutality of a-kin to Manhunt. Mix both of these games with teddy bear mayhem and the possibilities for a fantastic experience seem guaranteed. Unfortunately, with Naughty Bear this is not the case.
Naughty Bear is nothing close to either of these games and fails to be the tactical, humorous, teddy bear assassination experience I was hoping for (my fault for making assumptions to be fair). This became apparent from the offset as my adventures began, watching happy bears celebrate a birthday party that I was naughtily not invited to. The narrator, in an annoying condescending childish voice, teases you that they are having a fun time without you and instructs you to destroy their party (it is amazing how many times he manages to say ‘naughty’). Taking a step out of my small home I prepare to sneak up to the bears in question and find that there is no ‘sneaking’ movement to speak of, only the ability to walk by slightly moving the movement analogue-stick. Move it too much and Naughty Bear will run alerting everyone to your presence, however this is far from the largest problem with attempting to sneak in Naughty Bear. Simply being anywhere that isn’t in grass land, or in specific hiding places (such as a wardrobe or a… wardrobe), will have you caught the second a bear comes remotely near.
Instead of stealth to my surprise Naughty Bear is best enjoyed with a hint of mayhem and a dash of chaos. The aim of the game is simple; you are Naughty Bear, be naughty! Being all quiet and secretive isn’t very naughty, so pick up a bat, run up to the other bears and begin beating the living fur out of them. Smash the windows of their houses, the toilets in their bathrooms, the turntable in their personal disco and even the frogs lingering around the island. Simply wreck as much havoc as you can, as fast as you can, in as long a combo as you can. The longer you spend being Naughty, the more points you will rack up thanks to large score multipliers earned from combos. Unfortunately such success is rewarded with the narrator announcing such awe-inspiring phrases as ‘insane refrigeration’ or even ‘awesome electrocution’.
As you wreck the various teddy bear parties, picnics and general fun times the bears themselves will run in a panic going from suspicious to ‘insane’, a state in which the traumatic experience has caused them to lose their mind (aided by the occasional “Boo!” when they least expect it). At this point the bears can be pushed over the edge into taking their own lives, always refreshingly enjoyable to watch. If you fail to keep the bears under your control they will attempt to flee the island from boat or car, which can be sabotage prior to your assault to ensure they stay put. Alternatively they will use phones to call for backup, which come in the form of an additional bear joining the island, in a cute police uniform with a little cute pistol.
This gameplay is repeated for seven episodes, each containing several variants of the same episode in the form of challenges (i.e. get a certain combo without hurting anyone, kill everyone on the island or beat the level in a certain time). The problem is that it is literally repeated, the game world changes only very slightly and the tools available never expand much from the initial selection. Once you have played for 30minutes, you have basically seen the majority of what the game has to offer. Each new chapter will change the story, be it killing X teddy for not inviting you to a disco, X bear for trying to kill you or defend from a zombie bears, but regardless it does little to decrease the overbearing repetition.
In order to keep you coming back for more the game has challenge trophy reward system for each level, in which platinum is the best grade and certainly requires a good deal of effort in order to obtain. There also several multiplayer modes on offer (online only, no single console multiplayer) but unfortunately due to being completely unable to launch a single game after hours of trying I have no experience or knowledge into what that includes (and I wasn’t the only one). A note certainly to be aware of, Naughty Bear is buggy – very buggy. I was starting to lose count of the levels I had started that had no user interface whatsoever, meaning completion was nigh impossible, not to mention the sporadic game crashes that would wipe half an hour of progression.
One area the game does hold merit is the overall presentation, from the graphics to the fittingly chirpy background music, I’d certainly have liked to see more animations for kills than the few per weapon available, along with a heap load more gore (or fur if need be) but that aside the cute and charismatic design of the game will no doubt be the main pulling point for earning sales.
In closing it is hard to recommend Naughty Bear, as it’s a missed opportunity spoiled by repetitive gameplay and rough controls, forgetting the painstaking bugs and the narrator that will make you want to mute the television permanently. I’d have hoped that multiplayer would help the game greatly, due to its score obsessed nature; however without being able to sample it and with there being no support offline whatsoever I remain pessimistic.