When the original Naughty Bear game was released, it was met with somewhat unfavourable reviews. So, has the move over to digital release been a step in the right direction?
I never actually played the first game, having been put off by its terrible reception. In some cases, I like to be my own judge of quality, but with Naughty Bear, it really was a case of ‘no smoke without fire.’ Still, every bear deserves a second chance.
Panic in Paradise sees all of the other bears on a vacation on Paradise Island, but unfortunately, they all forgot to invite Naughty Bear. Instead of perhaps sitting down with them and trying to find out why they all hate him so much, Naughty decides the best course of action is to follow the bus and slaughter every last one of them!
Each level takes place in a different part of the resort, with Naughty’s main goal to take out the ‘Head’ bear. In most cases, the game requires you to do this in a specific way. For example, in one level you must feed a Botanist bear to a bear eating plant. You are also given three other random tasks to complete, which will help boost your final score. These range from killing a certain amount of bears to collecting enough coins. Once you complete the main goal, the game allows you to take some time to finish the side-quests before exiting the level. As you complete each stage, more get unlocked. The level of difficulty increases as players progress, encouraging more careful planning.
Bears can be murdered in a variety of ways. You can straight up just attack them, or use object based kills with the various props scattered around each level. The problem is that the combat isn’t that great, so I often found myself preferring to sneak up behind the bears, grabbing them and then using the environment to make the kill. This not only is the easier option, but also the funniest. You can burn them in fires, throw them on spikes or even throw them in to shark-infested waters. That really is the highlight of the game. You can also scare the bears, which can sometimes lead them to taking their own lives.
Most of the levels require you to hide in the ‘woods’ to stalk your prey, as other bears cannot see you if you are hidden. There will also be times when the best option is to grab a bear, take him into the woods and then steal his costume. This allows you to walk about in the open, without the other bears noticing you. This does add a little depth to the game play, but not enough to make it stand out.
As you steal items, you can unlock them for use in other levels. The items can give you stat boosts, such as extra health and stamina. You also level these items up as you complete stages, which then boosts their bonuses. You will still need to collect coins during the game though, as unlocked items still need to be purchased. However, I did find that the game is quite generous when it comes to coins.
While the premise is sound, it is let down by a series of flaws, with the combat mechanic just one of them. The game has the most awful narrator. The guy pops up during both the levels and in-between. He has the most annoying tone of voice, and it seems that he is trying to mimic what you would expect from Monty Python. The whole thing falls flat and just becomes irritating, even before you start the first level.
If these were the worst crimes this game committed, I guess it wouldn’t be too bad. But alas, these are just scratches on the surface. There are two even more annoying issues with the game, both of which seem to be bugs.
To start with, it seems that the Achievements appear to be faulty. On a few occasions, I got Achievement notices long after I had done the thing required to unlock it. One, for completing a level, even popped up after I had rebooted the game and then was halfway through the next level. And why did I have to reboot the game, I hear you ask?
Well, that would be the biggest bug of all, and one that could potentially be game breaking. The game froze my Xbox 360 several times. I don’t think I made it through a single level without it freezing on me at least once. Every time it happened, I had to switch off my Xbox via the power button and start again. A couple of times it happened just as I was about to finish the level. Rather annoying, don’t you think?
The game seems like a missed opportunity to me. Sub-par graphics, uninspired game play and game breaking bugs just add up to make a game that should really be avoided. Yet the sparks of humour and the hint of a deeper game play mechanic just make me feel that with a little more effort, Naughty Bear could have found his true home in digital distribution.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.