Naughty Bear is the latest game from the developer, Artificial Mind and Movement. This game started turning heads when it was announced because of the brutal portrayal of teddy bear violence. The game focuses on horror movie style gameplay, where you are suppose to stalk, frighten, and eventually kill all the teddy bears at summer camp. So, is Naughty Bear an awfully good game, or just awful?
Naughty Bear has you controlling a scruffy, brown teddy bear as he runs around a summer camp killing other teddy bears. Gameplay is points based, and that is the main focus of the game. You earn points in the game by scaring the other teddy bears, completing side challenges, destroying things, and by killing teddy bears. If you are able to earn enough points at the end of the level, then you will earn a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum trophy. You will need to get these trophies to unlock the next levels. Next to each level, it will tell you how many bronzes, silvers, or golds you need to unlock it. Once you unlock a set of levels, you can play them in any order you want. There are seven chapters and each one is broken up into five levels. The first level in each chapter is the most straight forward. Just kill as many bears as you can and try to get as many points as you can. The 2nd through 5th levels in the chapters will have extra qualifiers for victory. For example, in one you may have to beat the level without getting hit and in another you can’t let any bears escape.
No matter what level you are playing, the goal is always to get as many points as you can. There is a combo system so having a teddy bear get caught in a bear trap, and then killing him with a golf club will get you more points than killing in a less complex way. When you injure a bear enough, you can either do a contextual scare or a contextual kill. A contextual scare will actually cause the bears to kill themselves out of fear. Depending on what weapon they are holding at the time, this will be different. For example, if holding a katana, they will stab themselves in the stomach. If they are holding a gun, they will shoot themselves in the head. A contextual kill will cue a cinematic where you violently kill the teddy bear. These kills also depend on what weapon you are holding. You are also encouraged to use the environment to kill teddy bears. For example, if a teddy bear tries to escape in a car, you can pull them out and slam the door on their head. If you sabotage a fuse box, a bear will come by to fix it and you can shove their head into the circuits and electrocute them.
There isn’t much to the story, but what is there is refreshing. At the start of each level, you are treated to a cutscene that sets up the level. These range from not being invited to a birthday party and getting angry, to stopping Cuddles the Bear from being elected mayor. You stop Cuddles from becoming mayor by killing him, of course. None of the bears talk, but there is a folksy sounding announcer who gives the narration. These cutscenes are the only redeeming part of the game. Unlike everything else, these were able to stay fresh and entertaining throughout the levels.
The game puts a lot of emphasis on the cutesy graphics, characters, and environments of the game. At first, it is cool to have this disjunction between the Saturday morning cartoon atmosphere and the violent actions, but any quaintness quickly wears off. Music gets very repetitive, and the announcers voice does as well. It doesn’t help that all the environments all seem very similar. When I started playing the second level, I actually mistaken it for the first level until I got to the end.
Gameplay gets old almost as quickly as the music. After you’ve played the first few levels, you’ve seen all the game has to offer. Gameplay quickly boils down to just a few actions you repeat over and over. Any attempt by the game to add variety by including bear ninjas, military bears, or even zombie bears ends up falling flat on its face. The sneaking mechanic is also completely broken. When in the bushes, your bear holds up a fake leaf and is invisible to enemies. If an enemy sees you run into the bushes, your still invisible. For the harder enemies, I would run out of the bushes and hit them with a melee weapon. When they started shooting, I would run back into the bushes and the enemy would stop firing and walk to the edge of the bush. Then I would run out and hit the bear again. Doing this is usually enough to get me a bronze.
If you need to get your score higher just hit them until they are injured and they will limp away. Any other bear that sees them limping around will get scarred and you will get points. If none of the bears have guns, you can just run around in a circle and rack up the points that way. I’m sure the developers intended to recreate the stalker feel of horror movies by letting you keep your victims alive as you toy with them, instead of outright killing them. However, when I’m working my way toward the gold or platinum trophy in a level, it just feels like I’m dragging on the level for no reason.
Naughty Bear supports up to four player online multiplayer, but it is just as bad as the single player. There are four modes: golden Uzi, cake walk, assault, and jelly wars. Golden Uzi is the best mode. A golden uzi spawns in the middle of the map and your suppose to get a certain amount of kills with it. The golden Uzi is much more powerful than all the other weapons, and once you get it, it’s pretty easy to hold onto it.
The next mode is cake walk. In this mode, you have to pick up a cake and hold it for a certain amount of time. You can’t fight or run while holding the cake. This mode will hold a special place in my heart, because it has the most annoying music track I’ve heard in my life. When you get the cake, children start chanting “Go” and clapping. It truly is extraordinary.
Jelly wars pits one naughty bear against three regular bears. The three regular bears have to go around the map finding jelly plates and bringing them back to a big vat in the center of the map. The naughty bear has to kill the other bears. Regular bears only have one life, and if you die as a regular bear, you have to sit the rest of the match on this raft a few feet off shore. Lastly, there is assault mode. This mode has you alternatively attacking and defending a golden statue and this is based on teams. Obviously, the most you can have is 2 vs. 2, but you could set up a 1 vs. 3 match if you wanted to.
Naughty Bear, on paper, seemed a game that had a lot of potential and could of delivered an exciting and engaging experience. There were so many good things they could have done with this game, but, unfortunately, delivered on none of it. After 20 minutes of gameplay, you will have fully exhausted what the game has to show you.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
Underwhelming multiplayer component
Several broken mechanics