Oh Naughty Bear!
Do you remember Naughty Bear, the sneaky action game from 505 Games that features a psychotic teddy bear who wants to wreak violent revenge on his fellow teddy bears in 2010? Well, it’s back and, unlike the developers who have changed their name from Artificial Mind & Movement to Behaviour, Naughty Bear is still the same – naughty.
In a way, I can understand why he would be upset. The other teddy bears have only gone on holiday to Paradise Island and didn’t bother to invite him. I think I would be upset too. Whilst I can empathise with Naughty Bear’s upset, I really can’t condone his plan to very violently take revenge on each of the 36 bears that neglected to include him. It seems a bit extreme.
But whether you agree with Naughty Bear’s very own brand of vengeance or not, and I hope it’s not, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun. Naughty Bear Panic in Paradise plays out very much like the old Hitman games, albeit with teddy bears, in that the player is given an objective for each level, a very particular way by which the target has to be taken out, and then leaves the player to approach that objective however they see fit. Each area is open for the player to find and study their target, working out how exactly to achieve their objective, be it feeding the offending teddy bear to a giant carnivorous plant, or murdering them whilst wearing the face of their brother.
The thing is, the other teddy bears are not stupid and they will raise the alarm if they see Naughty, bringing the possibility of armed bears inflicting their own kind of justice. So the player has to plan carefully and be ever aware of any wandering bears. Naughty can easily hide from view by ducking into any of the small wooded areas that are littered throughout the levels. Once within the wooded areas, Naughty cannot be seen and is safe to stalk his target. He can also steal outfits, and even the faces, of other bears so that he can move freely amongst them. However, despite the large emphasis on stealth in the game, there will come times when the only option is to kill any surrounding bears.
Which is not really a big deal as the player gets rewarded for any kills that they make. The game has a variety of different areas to play in and, strewn throughout these areas, there are many different ways to kill. In fact half of the fun is in finding the different ways of dealing death. There are a huge number of different weapons, from knives and sticks to the more unusual electric guitars and giant keys, and the player gains experience for using each weapon, to a point. Once the experience with a given weapon has been filled, the weapon will still work but the player would be better off dropping it and finding something else to continue with the experience.
Besides the weapons, there are also plenty of ways to use the environment to kill your targets. The teddy bears are a fun loving bunch but really have no idea of health and safety. Whilst the need for a dumpster, into which the body of a bear can be dumped, is understandable, someone should really address the other issues such as vats of acid and random bonfires. And don’t get me started on the desk bell which bizarrely has a large spike sticking out of it, perfect for impaling a bear onto. Panic in Paradise becomes as much about finding all the different ways to kill the bears as it does completing the objectives.
Which is just as well, as the mission structure can sometimes be a little vague, whereas other times downright confusing. Finding out that the player has to be wearing a certain outfit just as they are about to take out their objective is frustrating, and finding out that you can’t afford the weapon needed to complete a certain kill makes the game drag for longer than it needs to.
As it stands, most players will get about 12 hours of gameplay from Naughty Bear Panic in Paradise, which is not too bad for a downloadable game. However, there is a lot of repetition and even grinding in those 12 hours, something which many gamers will find annoying. Whilst the objectives differ from level to level, the method of achieving these objectives doesn’t change that much. Find the target, carefully eliminate any bystanders, take out the target in a particular way. How long you will keep playing for really depends on how much entertainment you can get from sadistically terrorising teddy bears.
Which for me, it turns out, is quite a lot. The level of humour in Naughty Bear may be considered as warped by many, but it is still worth a hearty laugh. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments in the game, a lot of which are provided by the “children’s TV” narrator. Is it juvenile? Probably. Is it fun? Hell yeah.
Beyond the main task of killing teddy bears, there are plenty of other things to do in Paradise, such as optional side quests and numerous outfits or items to find and collect. These add to the variety of the game and will give many players a reason to go back and replay levels.
Naughty Bear Panic in Paradise does suffer from a repetition problem, and a sense of humour is most certainly required. It can also be a little glitchy in places, but not to a game breaking degree. Otherwise, Panic in Paradise is a solid action adventure game actually squeezes in quite a lot of content for the 1200 MSPoint asking price. It is definitely not for everyone, but if killing teddy bears in imaginative ways is something that appeals, pick the game up now. Small children everywhere will be grateful.