Naughty Bear puts you in the shoes, or paws rather, of a murderous, conniving, brutally violent but simply misunderstood over-sized teddy bear called Naughty. Over the course of a couple of missions, Naughty will fight and frighten the other bears on Perfection island for his own survival, to lash out at a society that has rejected him and of course because it is just plain fun to do. The game combines several different elements together to make for a rather interesting final product.
In terms of visuals the game is, unique, for lack of better words. I do imagine that if giant human sized bears all lived on an island it would look something like this. Everything is kind of bright and colorful but has just enough of a worn in feel to it that it adds some sense of realism to the setting. I know talking about realism in a game about killer teddy bears may seem redundant, but it keeps the game from having too “cartoonish” of a look to it while maintaining some of that “looks like a kid game, but isn’t” aspect. It isn’t perfect, or even all that amazing, but it certainly has the desired effect.
The core of the game revolves around Naughty lashing out at the other bears on the island. In the first level/mission, Naughty has not been invited to a birthday party; rather he has been the focus of a cruel joke. As a result, Naughty decides, with the convincing of the narrator that we can only assume is Naughty’s internal monologue, to punish (kill) them all. All the missions (I hesitate to say levels as there is no linear development in the game, you simply complete some task and everything essentially resets for the next mission), revolve around this is some way. The other bears want Naughty gone, or aliens conquer the island or zombie bears rise from the grave, etc., and Naughty must “save the day” or simply himself. Each mission makes one bear in particular the main target, but the assortment of other bears appear in each mission (despite having been killed in the previous). It is best to look at each mission individually rather than as any sort of narrative.
In this we find the game’s biggest weak points. The game is repetitive, the individual missions don’t add up to much combined and there is only one relatively small island to explore; the order of the zones you visit simply changes depending on what mission you are playing. It also is fairly short overall, if you think of completing the main missions as having beaten the game, which isn’t really the way to look at it. Each mission also have several other game modes that can be unlocked and each one has several tiers of medals associated with it.
Naughty bear does have some redeeming qualities though. While there isn’t a ton of variance among them, the game offers plenty of different game modes in addition to the missions. The most enjoyable of them all is the stealth, or “Invisible” mode. This mode is sort of like Splinter Cell meets cuddly teddy bears with axes. Naughty must complete his task/eliminate the other bears while only being seen a total of three times. To do this you must creep around in the bushes and set up traps for the bears. This includes obvious things, like laying out bear traps, and less obvious things like sabotaging power boxes, cars, grills and more to draw them away from the group. It is in this mode that Naughty Bear’s surprisingly strategic side really shines.
The game is very “arcade” at its’ core; functioning on a point based system where you can build up combos. The best way to build combos is to be destructive or frighten bears at a constant rate. Just running around smashing everything will net you a solid score, but building it up by scaring the fluff out of the bears for a while first can really boost it. Simple things like hiding in the bushes and screaming will frighten them a bit, so will sabotaging various items but to keep the combos really going you have to mix it up. Lay a bear trap and have several bears witness another get caught will boost that combo as even more. Smash a bear’s head into a power box so that the others can find him will do the trick to. Play your cards right and you can have a pretty impressive score before you have even taken a swing at a single bear.
Also worthy of noting is that while pretty simple in concept and function, Naughty Bear plays well. The controls are simple, but very intuitive. A mission or two and you will have it all down and be ready to really deal out some damage. It isn’t the best example of a “pick up and play” I’ve seen, but it shouldn’t take you very long to master it either.
Many complained that Naughty Bear might have been best suited as a downloadable title rather than a full fledged release, and there is some truth to that. I certainly think it would have been better received at least. The best way to experience Naughty Bear is to approach it as an arcade game, something that is a little mindless but ultimately fun. A game where high score is the real goal and the tactics it takes to get it are king. Viewed in this light, Naughty Bear can be a fun time; especially when played sparingly. Pay full price for the game and sit down to play it all in one sitting and you will be disappointed.
Final Rating: 6.5/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Time to completion: Main campaign on normal, 6 hours. Far from “complete” though.
Gamer Score Earned: 315/1000
Price Bought at: $15
Current Price: $18.08(Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: Under $10 is solid, $10-$15 is the max.