There is nothing worse than disappointment, especially when you’ve built up your
hopes so high. This is particularly true when you know that the game in
question has such great potential, and has never been more true than when it
comes to Naughty Bear. When I first heard of this title, I couldn’t help
but be excited about the possibilities. An island full of too-cute teddy
bears that have been playing practical jokes and blaming everything that goes
wrong on you until you snap and decide to kill them all in a variety of creative
ways? What could possibly go wrong? Well, it turns out that quite a
bit can go wrong here.
In this age of HD televisions, 3D rendered graphics, and character model
polygon counts going through the roof, Naughty Bear is nothing short of
depressing. Even though it goes up to 1080p resolution, Naughty Bear looks
more like early last-gen console graphics. Anybody remember the ’80s
cartoon The Care Bears? Characters like Cheer Bear were pink with a
rainbow on the front, while Grumpy Bear was blue with a rain cloud. You
get the idea. Well, that’s pretty much the extent of variety and quality
of animation you get in Naughty Bear’s character models. Naughty himself
is a plain brown teddy bear (with a few scars, because he’s naughty of course)
while your enemies (with names like Cuddles and Daddles) are purple or yellow or
blue, or some other random primary color. Not a whole lot of variety
there. The biggest changes you’ll see are the police bears, with police
vests and blue caps, and the undead Zom-bears. Unfortunately, each of
these only use one character model, so once you’ve seen one of these creatures
you’ve seen them all.
Adding insult to injury, the camera control for these mediocre graphics is
endlessly frustrating. Plenty of clipping and bizarre camera angles
that completely obscure the action on-screen are par for the course. Be
prepared to have to tweak the camera viewpoint constantly to get any idea of
what’s going on. For a game that’s basically a 3rd-person shooter, this is
Things aren’t much better on the sound front either. Naughty has the
option of hacking and slashing to kill the cutesy bears or roaring to literally
scare them to death. You’d think that this would make for a ton of variety
as these cuddly little bears were terrorized and hacked to pieces. And
you’d be wrong. In keeping with the cute atmosphere of teddy bear island,
the bears emit a squeaky sound whenever they’re scared, or when they discover
some destruction you’ve wreaked on the island. While this squeaky/cute
little sound is definitely in character for your intended victims, it gets
incredibly old and obnoxious after about five minutes of gameplay.
The game’s narrator is every bit as bad, sporting a faux-English accent and
rattling off inane comments like “Complete Defluffication!” every time you kill
a bear. Believe me when I say you’ll be wincing every time you hear him
speak, and will be turning the sound way down (or muting it completely) by the
end of the first level.
The gameplay of Naughty Bear is fairly open, leaving it up to the player as to how they want to tackle each area of the island. The game is broken up into seven episodes, telling the story of Naughty’s rampage of revenge against the cuteness that is Perfection Island. Players are able to exact their own brand of Naughty justice in one of two ways, either by killing the other bears or by scaring them until they commit suicide. Naughty is able to hide in the woods unseen and except for a few specialists, such as the Zom-bears and the Ninja bears, he’s completely safe.
Naughty can carry one weapon and one miscellaneous item at a time – this would force the player in most games to make some difficult choices in how to arm themselves. Not in Naughty Bear though; combining a limited arsenal with a liberal scattering of these weapons throughout each level means that you never have to settle for a bad choice. When it comes to your miscellaneous item, you’re limited to either a bear trap or a birthday gift. Using the bear trap provides one of the few enjoyable moments in the game, letting you trap your enemies and then proceed to scare the living daylights out of them. As for the birthday gifts, these are often hidden around the levels, giving you huge bonus points if you find and then destroy them by either throwing them into a fire or flushing them down a toilet.
As each level begins, you are given a short list of objectives to complete, usually along the lines of killing a specific bear, racking up a certain point score, or making sure no one escapes. You then begin your Jason Voorhees-esque rampage throughout the island, hiding, terrorizing, and hacking to pieces anyone you can find. You have the choice of either sabotaging items in the area, or destroying them. Destroying gives you a quick points bonus, but sabotage has the effect of attracting teddy bears that will try to repair the item in question. It is then that you can choose to either scare or attack the bear you’ve attracted.
This is the gimmick that Naughty Bear truly hinges on – scaring versus killing. If you decide to play through this game as a straight 3rd person shooter, you can enjoy hacking apart stuffed animals to your heart’s content. Each weapon you can use has a specific “Super Kill” that you can trigger for a short animation of you dispatching your enemy. For example, the machete’s Super Kill involves you burying the weapon to the hilt in your victim’s torso, and then giving it a good twist as stuffing pops out their back and they sag to the ground. Using the golf club’s Super Kill lets you slam your enemy to the ground, line up your shot and *WHACK*, off with his head! There are several other weapons and kill animations to enjoy, but you get the idea.
Anyone looking for more of a challenge can scare all the bears to death. Instead of taking health damage, the teddy bears get more and more unbalanced until they’re wandering around in a daze, ripe for a Super Scare. Super Scares are pulled off the same way as the Super Kills, but instead of doing the damage yourself, you scare the bears into committing suicide with whatever weapon they happen to be carrying at the time. This can lead to some fairly disturbing animations. Should I be this entertained when I see a teddy bear giggle, pull out a samurai sword, and commit seppuku while I watch and cackle with malevolent glee? Is that wrong? It might be, but it is definitely one of the high points of the game.
As stated previously, the game is broken up into seven episodes, with each one being divided into five sub-episodes. At face value, a game that includes four separate multiplayer modes (more on these shortly), leaderboards, and thirty-five levels of play sounds like a fantastic deal. The bad news is that the sub-episodes are just rehashes of the story mode with different requirements for success. Instead of having the freedom to complete the level how you want, you have to go through it without taking any damage, or you’re required to scare all the bears to death, without directly damaging them. While it sounds good in theory, this just means that you have to play the exact same level at least five times using a slightly different strategy. With the small size and limited variety in each area, this comes off as monotonous and not much fun.
Naughty Bear has four multiplayer modes to play through; in Cake Walk, players are challenged to grab the Golden Cupcake and hold on to it for as long as possible, while in Golden Oozy you have to find the golden machine gun hidden in the level and use it to dispense indiscriminate violence. Jelly Wars has a team of normal bears trying to bring jellies to the Mixing Machine while Naughty Bear tries to stop them, and in Assault each team has a Unibear statue they need to defend while attempting to destroy the other team’s statue. Matchmaking is responsive and works without a hitch, but the wonky camera controls make the multiplayer modes even more frustrating than the solo campaign and will eventually drive most players away.