If you go down to the woods today…It won’t be pretty.
Naughty Bear from 505 Games was highly anticipated. This is mostly down to the aggressive web marketing campaign which saw video after video being released in which the hero of the game cleverly, or more often violently, dispatched his fur covered rivals. And therein lay the main draw of this game. Offering supreme violence is nothing we have not seen before, but making the main hero a rather sad, slightly psychotic looking teddy bear amongst a community of teddy bears was something new. I, for one, was chomping at the bit to explore strange, new ways of defluffing these annoyingly cute bears.
Then the game arrived and it became apparent that the reality was not going to be as much fun as my slightly warped mind had imagined.
The core objective of Naughty Bear is to score points. This is done by being naughty through the games small number of episodes. There are a number of different ways to be naughty, ranging from a little touch of vandalism to all out murder. The score a player achieves is dependant not only on how naughty they are, but also on the variety of ways they use to be naughty, with repetitive actions scoring less points.
There are missions within each of the games episodes that need to be completed in order to get the big scores and progress in the game. These missions mostly revolve around revenge, in one way or another, on the local bears that have caused our hero so much anguish.
The concept is good, great in fact. It was the concept alone that managed to make the game sell like hotcakes at launch and launch my imagination into teddy bear homicidal bliss. But where the game fails is in the execution.
The first problem lies with the setting. Don’t get me wrong, the island is great. We just don’t see enough of it. There are four key areas in which Naughty Bear can go on his homicidal rampage. These areas are repeated again and again through the various episodes, to the point that it became boring.
Whilst on the subject of boring, the relative lack of mission types are also a problem. One could forgive seeing the same scenery over and over again, if there was a variety of things to do within this scenery. But there is not. After having played for a couple of hours, the player will have seen and done pretty much all that Naughty Bear has to offer.
The biggest culprit in the games failure to live up to expectation, is the camera. Time and again I found myself getting stuck on door frames, not being able to see where my prey had run off to, or simply not getting to where I wanted to be. It prevents the game from running fluidly and became simply frustrating as I lose points, or even lives, due to the camera not doing its job.
There is a lot to love about Naughty Bear. The game looks great and will no doubt raise many cries of “aww, cute”, at least until the violence starts. The narration is top notch and seems to drip with sarcasm and over enthusiastic talking down to Naughty Bear himself. A lot of thought has gone into the various ways that the player can be “naughty” in the game and some of the kill animations are hilarious, if slightly disturbing. In fact, due to the generally disturbing nature of the whole game, I would recommend that the developers go and seek some help. Quickly.
Here is the thing. Naughty Bear revolves around fluffy teddy bears being psychopathic towards each other. Fluffy Teddy Bears that walk and talk. They are not real, they are not even realistic. yet the game left me with a sense of unease that I have yet to feel from any other violent video game, even ones containing humans. Is that right? Should I be enjoying things such as scaring teddy Bears into committing suicide or beating bears to death with baseball bats, only to be racked with guilt after?
For all of its great concepts, laugh out loud moments and ability to make the player question the rights of Teddy Bears, there is just too much wrong with the game to enjoy it for any length of time. The lack of variety, repetition and seriously dodgy camera control all let the game down. I love the idea behind Naughty Bear and I hope to see a sequel that fixes the main problems. But not until my conscience has recovered.