Naughty Bear is the culmination of great ideas gone horribly wrong. Imagine a game as violent as Manhunt, but instead of blood and gore, we get stuffing. The ideas behind this game are brilliant in their own right. Unfortunately everything in the form of execution is absolutely atrocious. Rarely do I find myself actually unable to enjoy a game based on its merits, but Naughty Bear pushes you to the limit of what you are able to stomach when it comes to poor design.
When I first heard about the game I was definitely excited. I mean when the description involves you torturing cuddly fuzzy bears with a plethora of weapons and inventive environmental kills; what is not to love? Unfortunately none of this comes to fruition as you boot up the disc. The first thing you will notice is that if you don’t install it (on Xbox 360) it locks up sporadically; not exactly sure why considering the disc is a whopping 700mb to install. That is the same size as a classic PSOne title for comparison. Amazingly this is not the biggest issue because at least when it locks up you have a chance to turn off the pain.
The overall premise of the game has you taking on the role of Naughty, a bear with a horrible name and an even more horrible agenda. He was not invited to Daddles birthday party and for that he will make the inhabitants of the Island of Perfection pay. The idea here is to find unique ways to torture your fellow bears, and the game does a great job of offering multiple ways to do this. Amazingly it really is kind of sadistic when you think about it. Even though you are just beating the stuffing out of these bears, the way you do it is truly sick. You can slam their heads in car doors, beat them to death with various blunt objects and even scare them into committing suicide.
There are several levels to run through and many ways to kill, but the game still feels relatively small. Every environment retains a familiar look and feel, and eventually you lose your creativity in killing your foes because of the sporadic camera system. Each kill earns you points, and the more creative your kills the more points you get. This could have actually been a highly addictive system as it earns you trophies within the game, not to mention bragging rights on the built-in leaderboards. As it stands though you rarely want to try for anything more than the getting by as the controls and everything else just feels broken.
Amazingly even if you could deal with the terrible camera, shoddy controls and downright embarrassing lock-ups and glitches; the game simply isn’t much fun once you get past the first few levels. While there are plenty of ways to dispatch your foes, none of them feel terribly exciting. When pummeling someone with a machete it feels identical to hitting them with a stick. Setting traps becomes a waste of time and anytime you get caught, simply run into the woods for an instant name clearing. It truly is near impossible to derive any enjoyment from the game as you constantly struggle with all of its shortcomings and problems.
As an added bonus the game also comes packed with an online mode for up to four players. Even more amazing is the fact that it rarely ever works like it should. Getting into a match can be a chore because first off, no one is online playing it. Secondly once you do get into a game it constantly kicks you or someone else in the game back to the lobby. Almost like the online mode really isn’t there, it is just a menu to see how long you will put up with it before turning it off. Somehow I doubt any of the problems the game has could be solved when sharing it with friends though.
Visually the game is plagued with plenty of problems; the most obvious is a lack of interesting locales. The entire island the game takes place on feels incredibly small and drab. There are also a number of clipping issues and clipping through walls that really are upsetting. As mentioned the camera is constantly fighting with you and overall the animations and character designs are just plain dull. The sound isn’t much better with some annoying music and the announcer is constantly grating on your nerves with his not-so-funny humor.
Naughty Bear holds true to its name by truly being a badly behaved game when it comes to the essentials. The location feels claustrophobic, the camera system is atrocious and the act of torturing cuddly bears is simply not as enjoyable as it should be. The game suffers what I like to call “Fairytale Fights Syndrome” or “FFS” for short, where the idea is brilliant on paper, but fails miserably in execution. There really is no reason to drop $50 on this mess of a game. It will hit the bargain bin sooner rather than later, and even then I suggest proceeding with extreme caution.
Review copy provided by publisher.