Naughty Bear Review
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On 08/02/2010 at 02:53 PM by Chessa DiMola
If you go down in the woods today, you're in for a big disappointment.
I'll be really honest here, usually I try to begin my reviews with some sort of back story pertaining to the game I'm about to review, or the concept in general. But my absolute disappointment with Naughty Bear has obliterated my ability to do that this time around. There are no words I can think of, or way that I can twist what I have experienced, into a nice introduction for possibly one of the worst games I have ever played.
Now, let me clarify this statement. I suppose I should have ended that paragraph with "worst game I have TRIED to play". Because after completing the very first level, I had to HARD reset my 360 FOUR TIMES to get to Level 1-2, since Naughty Bear insisted on continuously freezing my system. While I was confused and pretty much ready to give up anyway after my very first level (we'll get to that in a second) I managed to get through the second part of Level One, and have it freeze just as I completed it, forcing me to redo the entire level again. After another dozen or so freezes while playing a few more levels, my rage took over and I vowed to never touch, look at, or think about the game Naughty Bear ever again once I am done with this review.
My play experience with Naughty Bear began in his house, as the narrator told the story of how Naughty Bear wasn't invited to a birthday party, and although he tried to bring a gift anyway, the other bears laughed at him until he left. As there is no other response for such behavior, Naughty Bear sets out to teach them all a lesson through violence and terrorism.
After the story finishes, players step out of the hut and are shown how to pick up a weapon and destroy birthday presents by throwing them into the fire. After that they are directed into a wooded area where the bears are partying and a set of objectives appear in the lower left-hand corner. That's it. Players are given no further direction on how to do anything.
After thinking to myself a few times, "Maybe if I wander around they'll explain what I'm supposed to be doing," I did just that, however no direction came. I noticed that I could sabotage or destroy objects, smash windows, and move objects in front of doors, but really had no idea why I would want to do any of those things.So instead I picked up a machete and simply bludgeoned all the bears to death, including the coppers that eventually showed up.
There was no background music and barely any sound effects, other than a generic hacking sound that poorly represented what I assume a knife slicing through material and stuffing would sound like. Considering I had no idea what I was doing other than killing every bear in the exact same way, I thought that perhaps there would be entertaining finishing moves; perhaps something along the creative lines of the overly-violent Itchy and Scratchy show from The Simpsons. But no, I think the best thing I saw was Naughty Bear flatten another bear's head with a baseball bat, and it was cartoonish, but not even remotely violent.
As my boredom grew and I simply broke windows, toilets, and burned birthday presents to earn enough points to move onto the next level, I resorted to something I haven't done since the NES days: I read the manual. Apparently Naughty Bear is designed to be a stealth-like game, in which players try to avoid being seen and manipulate objects in the other bears' environments in order to make them nervous. Once these bears are startled enough players can rack up high numbers of points by either giving them an ultimate scare or ultimate death.
So, the entire basis of Naughty Bear became apparent to me: earn points, end of story. Try to get your XBLA name at the top of the leaderboards and flash your digital manli- (or womanli-, I suppose) hood for the whole world to see.
Now, while that premise couldn't be the least bit more unappealing to me, I thought that the concept of slowly driving characters to paranoia and insanity was actually unique and entertaining. The problem is that Naughty Bear does not guide the player in any sort of direction to make that apparent. All it would have taken was a 10 minute standard tutorial to show me how to utilize the level to my advantage, and perhaps some examples.
But even armed with the knowledge of what I was supposed to do, the experience was still hollow and lifeless. I felt as though all the tools were at my disposal, but that they were pretty much worthless. What use is it for me to sabotage a barbecue if I can't direct a bear towards it? What good is it to hide in a closet if I'm waiting ten minutes for another bear to walk in the room? This game was just a bunch of decent ideas thrown together without any direction or sense of how to execute them.
The game only becomes worse as you go into the subsections and quickly realize that you are in the exact same level, with a different set of goals. Some of the goals direct you towards playing the game how it was intended to work, while others give you the option of killing the other bears, which in reality, is never a good idea. Killing the other bears will get the job done, but it’s not interesting, very easy, and it nets you a negligible amount of points - the whole reason you are playing the game.
What’s worse is that while playing through objectives that encourage sneakiness and stealth, before Naughty has actually done something wrong, everyone is suspicious of him, making it annoying to actually do anything that might lead to fun. Furthermore, because Naughty can’t walk amongst the bears after they are scared, for fear of the police being called or having the bears run away from him, it’s extremely time-consuming to wait for the proper opportunities to booby trap objects. If no bears saw Naughty commit a bad act, he should be free to roam, and suspicion should only rightfully rise over time.
When it comes down to it, Naughty Bear is a game that requires some thoughtful, well-designed levels and objectives to function properly. The concept is a decent one, but without interesting levels and ways to scare other bears, the fun is quickly sucked from the game. A wide variety of missions should have been offered as well, but none of them should’ve encouraged murdering the other bears until they were deeply disturbed, especially if the objective was to absolutely terrify just a single bear.
Building on every other horrible aspect of Naughty Bear are camera issues, choppy controls, bland melee combat, and a lack of personality. One great example is in sabotaging the items in the stage. It’s often very hard to position Naughty properly to perform the context-sensitive event, and not getting that to happen in the usually small time frame players are allotted is annoying.
Finally, Naughty Bear also suffers from some massive framerate issues. Throughout the game players will notice chugging as they enter new areas, or if a number of characters all show up in the same place. This could be overlooked if it happened infrequently, but players will notice these issues in every single level.
I’m not sure what else there is to say about Naughty Bear; it’s just bad. The game was clearly born from a good concept that was seemingly poorly executed. The array of huge issues makes it seem as if an incomplete game was forced out the door due to a lack of funds. I couldn’t help but feel as I played through the game as if it was a prototype for the product that would be eventually made. While Naughty Bear looked as if it had potential to be an interesting game,it was, in execution, a very poor one, and I recommend that all players ignore this title. For those who had interest in it, pray that a sequel is made to fix all of the problems seen this time around.
The PS3 version of Naughty Bear offers no notable differences from its Xbox 360 brethren.
It is not clear whether or not the PS3 version also suffers from the freezing issues I encountered, as I reviewed the game with a copy for the Xbox 360.