After last year’s decidedly underappreciated WET, Artificial Mind & Movement (A2M) are following-up with a second original Intellectual Property in as many years. Naughty Bear doesn’t flaunt its style and sex appeal with designs on a particular corner of the market however, instead appealing to long-time gamers having grown-up with cutesy Platform antics and random bouts of violence. But instead of revisiting those familiar themes in the traditional fashion, Naughty Bear mashes them up with the cutest flurry of angst imaginable.
Divided into seven chapters, Naughty Bear’s campaign tasks players with achieving a variety of goals based on the basic principle of revenge. Each chapter is divided into a number of arenas – often with the first introducing a new addition to the formula – and each arena presents different opportunities for eliminating your foes. Not all bears need to be killed before moving on, often players need only achieve a set score, but most will carry on to kill every enemy simply for the sheer joy of achieving the perfect execution of a series of well planned assassinations. Players can simply beat, slash or shoot opponents to death with the many weapons littering the arenas, of set traps from an assortment that can be found scattered across the terrain, but the more tactical kills involve sabotaging environmental objects. While simply killing the enemy bears can be fun, the real meat of the game lies in its interesting scoring system, and learning its nuances is vital to progression.
The scoring system is largely based around combos. For each scare, kill or bonus objective completed players will earn a set amount of points and an increase to their multiplier meter. The multiplier meter ticks down with time, and so keeping it regularly topped up by keeping the bears on their toes is the key to a healthy score. Incidental actions will increase your score also, such as bears finding the lifeless bodies of other bears or thwarting attempts to contact the outside world for help, and in order to benefit from the greater multiplier the player is recommended to vary their actions; the more offensive manoeuvres executed in quick succession, the greater the boost to the multiplier meter. Players will earn bronze, silver or gold trophies for each chapter, and each subsequent chapter requires a preset trophy tally to unlock.
Making-up the tally needed to access the following chapter, players will find Challenge Levels existing alongside the basic chapters. Challenge Levels set the player within the same arenas as their host chapter, but with the bears, weapons, traps and objects reshuffled, and a set of alternative goals. From being tasked with eliminating every bear without hitting them even once to the objective requiring the player to send every bear mad by repeatedly scaring them in a variety of ways, the Challenge Levels provide plenty of additional content without resorting to simply increasing the difficulty or scattering hidden collectables throughout the arenas.
Complimenting the single-player campaign is a number of online multiplayer gameplay modes. Following the typical set-up of the most familiar competitive gameplay modes, Naughty Bear’s multiplayer is an unfortunately shallow experience next to the single-player inventiveness. While the combat system is unreliable at best, in single-player it lends itself to tense getaways, here with human opponents it generally delves into little more than repeatedly hitting the attack button in the hope of being the first to receive the option of an instant kill trigger.
While Naughty Bear is bright, colourful and pleasantly brutal, there’s no denying its visual quality is a little rough around the edges. Many areas look flat and lifeless and repetition is the game’s byword, but everything is adequately represented for the task at hand. Players can unlock new costumes for Naughty Bear which not only provide a comical new look, and also vary the stats of your character in a meaningful way.
Naughty Bear is a clever idea, and one that is undoubtedly enjoyable. However, with the seemingly low budget delivery and variety of problems with collision detection, it will take a certain kind of gamer to look past the poor execution and draw the most from Naughty Bear’s bag of tricks. Much like Bizarre Creations’ The Club, Naughty Bear is an experiment that long-time gamers will hold A2M in high regard for attempting, but reaching out to a larger audience may well be beyond the game’s means.