Release Date: June 29, 2010 | Developer: A2M | Publisher: 505 Games | Platforms: 360 & PS3 | MSRP: $49.99
Providing you haven't been hiding under a rock, you may have been witness to the dozens of promotional trailers for Naughty Bear over the last 90 days. Everything from brilliant movie spoofs to gruesome death scenes were portrayed in the short trailers produced by developer A2M (known most recently for WET).
To be sure, they were hilarious, entertaining and well-conceived. They also pumped considerable buzz into Naughty Bear, causing cynics to ponder if the game had sleeper hit potential. Even our first impressions when sitting down with the review copy were quite positive.
It's a funny thing about Naughty Bear...in short, ADD-addled bursts it works. But prolonged exposure only serves to punctuate the many flaws and failings of what should have been a satisfying game.
Naughty Bear is a wholesome British Saturday morning cartoon, filtered through the combined lens of Itchy & Scratchy and Happy Tree Friends. The game's namesake character has turned violent and psychopathic, presumably after bearing the brunt of repeated accusations from the island's cutesy community of teddy bears. The game loosely tells the tale of his vengeful and sadistic rampage using a variety of scare tactics, psychological torture, and good old fashioned blunt trauma.
If one had to review the game based solely on PR bullet points, Naughty Bear would have a lot going for it. Innovative AI, 28 levels, a variety of brutal weapons, multiplayer mayhem and tons of unlockables, Also, it's impossible to see the phrase "Ninja and Zombie Bears" and resist the urge to play. Naughty Bear also features some warped humor that very well could appeal to the twisted readers in the audience.
Naughty Bear believes in a little punishment before killing his victims.
Unfortunately, the gameplay wears out its welcome after only a couple hours and repeated jaunts through the same environment causes you to realize why the install is only 750MB.
The core premise is simple: Meet certain objectives like "Kill Them All" or drive the poor teddies to the brink of insanity without laying a paw on them, and finish the level by harassing a target bear. Each level is divided into 2 or 3 small sections of the island, and should take about 10 to 15 minutes to complete. From a design perspective, we applaud the many sadistic and creative methods for killing at our disposal. There are separate contextual kills for each weapon (our favorite was the golf club), as well as ways to gleefully dispatch the poor bears using their own furniture, cars and kitchen appliances.
Meanwhile, you can pursue secondary objectives, and prevent "caution" events from unfolding such as escaping bears and reinforcements.
The deal breaker, however, is twofold. First, this is one tiny island, and its assets are constantly being recycled. Aside from changes in the weather and the placement of different structures like houses, dance halls, and docks, the graphics wear thin quickly. Naughty Bear also commits the same crime as Alpha Protocol, in that the main character takes up too much of the viewable screen, wreaking havoc on the camera.
Our 2nd issue is the lack of variety in the gameplay. While Naughty Bear does feature 6 objective types, they're only subtle twists on the basic "kill everyone and garner points" missions. Your first brush with Insanity (drive them all insane) and Untouchable (don't be hurt) will admittedly be enjoyable, but as the difficulty ramps up, the fun factor fails to come along for the ride.
If you're messing with this crew, you better come packing an Uzi.
To their credit, A2M gets points in the audio department. The narrator, an Ozzy Osbourne sound-alike, is constantly coaxing Naughty Bear to commit his various atrocities. "Look Naughty, Fluffy is having a party! Oh, weren't you invited Naughty?" "Look Naughty, a gun! Guns are fun!" And hearing the manic screams and panicked cries for help are a devilish touch.
The more advanced enemies are also creatively imagined, ranging from killer robotic teddies, Ninja Bears, 'ZomBears' who can't be scared, and what we can only describe as Jamaican generals who are tough to take down.
Unfortunately Naughty Bear really doesn't gain any new abilities to keep things fresh, nor combat the increasing difficulty. New challenges should result in new ways to tackle them, but you're forced to rely on your same ole, sadistic bag of tricks which starts to wear thin after seeing them 100 times. You can unlock various hats to perk up Naughty's attributes like Life, Accuracy, and Strength, but only a select few of them are practical.Add to that the lack of graphical variety and we're left with a great, barebones idea poorly executed.
The Bottom Line:
Publisher 505 Games should have altered course somewhere during the development cycle and trimmed down both the content and the price. Were Naughty Bear a $10 or $15 digital title for PSN or Xbox Live, we suspect this review would have been entirely different. Sadly, this $50 game belongs in the bargain bin.
Final Score: 62/100
Editor's Note: A review copy was provided to Examiner from publisher 505 Games.