Naughty Bear, a morally questionable game from Developer Artificial Mind and Movement, has been brought to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by publisher 505 Games. It places players on an island of tranquility populated by a host of colourful bears, it feels reminiscent of a children's television show in every manor, but with a dark twist.
Players take control of Naughty, a brown bear with a bit of an attitude. It's shown early on that everyone else on the Island makes fun of him and really doesn't want him to join in on the fun. Things take a dark turn when the narrator, who is the perfect stereotype of those seen in kids TV shows, announces to Naughty that he should do something about these mean bears. There's something just a bit disturbing about being talked to like a child and told that guns are naughty and should be used to "punish" the island's inhabitants.
That's pretty much as deep as the story gets, as from this point on the plot changes every episode. Although it probably made little sense to start with, it actually gets more ridiculous as the un-ted (undead), robots and aliens all appear. But each time it essentially involves the inhabitants being mean to Naughty and then the announcer convincing him to do something about it. Over a total of seven episodes it doesn't really get mixed up much at all, and with each episode having four additional challenge versions of the exact same thing, but undertaken with a specific additional goal to achieve, it doesn't aid the lack of motivation to play. That said it's meant to be just a fun game and the story doesn't necessarily need to reflect that.
It's a shame that the gameplay doesn't quite make up for the lack of a story. While it is well thought out and does work well, players will find themselves essentially playing the exact same stages every single episode or challenge. The island is split into four zones: Cabin, Factory, Disco and Naughty's Hut. These are reused constantly, but are almost identical every time. The only thing that differs is the weather or time of day. This makes it very hard to actually want to keep playing after completing an episode and even though new enemies and weapons are added the variation still lacks. All the enemies behave more or less identically and while some are slightly more aggressive their AI routines are the same.
The objective of a level is to be sneaky, sabotage, destroy and kill or make bears insane for Naughty Points. The more Naughty Points earned the better the trophy will be awarded upon completion of an area. This is actually the most fun part of the game, just because how players can go about this is entirely up to them. By sabotaging an object a bear will attempt to repair it. At this point Naughty can then come up behind them and perform an instant kill using that object, and there's a fair few different animations and death sequences that can occur, some of which will cause players to chuckle some what. However, the real points seem to occur for making bears insane so they kill themselves. This is done by laying traps, staying hidden and causing contextual scares instead of kills. This will cause Naughty to grab a bear and roar at him instead of ripping his stuffing out. There are numerous weapons on offer, each with its own ultra-kill performed by injuring a bear first, and by chaining all these together with some variation large point combinations can be achieved.
While that all sounds well and good, players will find everything gets a bit repetitive once the initial episode has ended. Why? Because they are treated to the same thing over and over again. Bears will phone for help, attempt to flee, repair things and barricade themselves into rooms. Despite the later levels adding army personal, ninjas, zombears, robot bears and even the aliens, they all follow the exact same routine and are essentially re-skinned enemies. The challenges, as mentioned before, don't help this either. The game even forces players to do some of them to open the next episode. These challenges involve not being seen, not being hit, speed runs, kill everyone and making everyone insane. They do add some variation and cause players to think a bit more about the right approach, but honestly doing the same level with the exact same items and everything else 35 times just seems a tad disengaging. This also becomes an issue when loading times are actually quite long and when the option to retry a level isn't available when a player fails it, things becomes quite aggravating.
The game controls reasonably well, and players won't really find themselves fighting the game to get through each episode. But some functions really seem lacking. The combat has a very mild auto-aim with melee weapons, but sometimes players will find themselves missing a target completely. The gun's seem so delayed on their actual shots that players will have to add a lead in front of a moving enemy to actually hit them, and shooting a bear dead with a gun really doesn't do anything useful for the Naughty points total. There is also an extremely redundant dodge function, which doesn't really help matters and seems far too pointless to bother using. One other thing that actually seems a bit exploitable is the ability to hide in any shrub or forest spot. The majority of enemies won't be able to detect Naughty and he can melee out of these spots or fire weapons while being completely hidden.
From a graphical point of view the game actually is very colourful and fits the whole setting it was trying to create. It's totally believable that as a player you've invaded a kids TV show. However, there are faults with regards to frame rate drops which is extremely surprising as the game doesn't really break boundaries either. The sound is also hit and miss. The narration is perfect, though the announcer does get a little annoying when he shouts out consistently throughout a level, but the music, while apt and fitting, will tend to grind on players.
There's a fair bit of replay value in terms of getting platinum trophies on each of the episodes and challenges, however the score system seems rather confusing with what actually gives the most points and achieving a gold or platinum for everything could potentially be extremely frustrating. There are 30 costumes to unlock as well other rewards, some of which provide actual changes to the game such as being able to blend in unnoticed. It's also worth mentioning that even though there is a multiplayer mode for up to 4 players, it is a bit of a let down. It looks as though it should've been more for a local console audience and doesn't really seem to cater for the online audience. There are 4 modes and each is quite varied and unique, but while they are fairly entertaining they are also frustrating and the majority of people will leave online as soon as they begin to lose. There are a quite a few power-ups and different traps available which makes it quite fun, but it really would've been more ideal for a local environment.
Naughty Bear has some nice elements; the stealth gameplay works well, and doing the different kill animations and driving bears insane is strangely satisfying at first. But overall it becomes apparent that little development went into actually making the game varied. There's very little to hold players attentions for long enough and it all becomes too similar all too quickly. The multiplayer seems like it could've been implemented much better too. Overall it's probably best just to avoid Naughty Bear.