I didn’t know very much about Naughty Bear before the game’s release a few weeks ago. I had seen one or two trailers that piqued my interest, and even though I wouldn’t say I was eagerly looking forward to the day the game came out, but the way the game was marketed made Naughty Bear look like something I might be into. Unfortunately, after playing the game for a few monotonously boring hours, Naughty Bear revealed itself to be nothing more than a mediocre attempt, with very little in the way of enjoyment.
Though there’s not much of a narrative in the game, the barebones story Naughty Bear has does at least make a modicum of sense. Naughty Bear is always being picked on or singled out by his fellow stuffed citizens, and the purpose of each level is to get revenge on the other bears. Whether it’s because he wasn’t invited to a birthday party or because the mayor wants him dead, Naughty will always have some semblance of a reason for his killing sprees. You could probably have figured it out all by yourself, but the game includes an extremely obnoxious narrator that describes what’s happening in a cutesy child’s programming style that grows old faster than Naughty Bear’s gameplay. Fulfilling your revenge fantasies is nice for about an hour (if that), but the game never rises above its “Go here, kill this guy” mantra. Could the developers have crafted a story and characters that made it worth repeating the same actions ad nauseum? Probably, but I’m not even sure the best video game story of all time could have made me sit through another twenty minutes of Naughty Bear’s gameplay.
Naughty Bear is all about scoring big before going for the killing blow. There are three basic tenants in Naughty Bear’s gameplay: trap, scare, kill. Killing is the easiest way to get points, but it’s tough to build up a strong score multiplier. Scaring bears before you kill them will help build that modifier, as will sabotaging phone lines, cars, boats, power lines, toilets, and the numerous other items in the game world. Putting the fear into as many bears as possible will rack up big scores, but you’ve got to be extremely patient. Setting traps can lead to both big scares and big kills, but it’s often better to let them escape to run and tell the other bears something is wrong, thus stirring a high-scoring multiplier in the process. You could ostensibly injure every enemy in a mission and just let the score continue to climb forever, but the only thing that will prove is how broken the gameplay is. There’s a bit of a horror film villain vibe to stalking your prey, but the payoff just isn’t worth it. The handful of melee weapons all work almost identically, save for the special killing animations, which aren’t anything to write home about. The standard combat is atrocious, and the game’s camera and lack of a lock-on feature make chasing down an enemy an exercise in futility. Every level plays almost the exact same way, save for a few optional challenges, though the layout changes ever so slightly from board to board. You get everything you need to get from this game in the first twenty minutes, and it never gets any better. It’s a shame because there was potential here that was squandered on repetitive missions, and though the developers thought the style, which is fairly pedestrian, would carry most of the game, there’s just not enough substance to keep you playing.
What little there is to look at in Naughty Bear isn’t that fantastic. Animations will cause characters to clip through one another, walls, doors, windows, trees, and just about anything else populating the game world. Naughty himself doesn’t look all that terrible, but he and the other bears certainly don’t look great. Environments are extremely bland, and though I get the whole bear village from a fairy tale style they’re going for, it’s so murky and shoddily put together that the aesthetic is completely lost. Sound effects and music couldn’t possibly be more generic or less memorable. Despite being a full retail release, the game looks very much like an arcade or downloadable game, which would have had a much smaller budget. The game often freezes during loads, which is annoying enough when the game you’re playing is good, but when it’s already a poor title, it can be downright frustrating. There is a multiplayer component to the game, but it’s incredibly laggy, and presents the same combat issues the regular game does against opponents who are much smarter than the computer. Of course, playing online comes with the caveat of having to find someone to play with first. Good luck with that.
Ultimately, I can’t say Naughty Bear let me down because I had absolutely no expectations going in. That said, the game isn’t very good, and can’t even be considered a decent time waster. It fails to be enjoyable or fun to play, and despite trying incredibly hard, fails to give gamers a hook to keep coming back for more. I don’t often wish for my time back after playing a video game, but Naughty Bear was easily one of the worst games I’ve ever played.