Released in 2010, the original Naughty Bear was unfairly criticised by many. While it’s true that the experience was a somewhat bug ridden affair it remained a hugely enjoyable high-score romp akin to a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater videogame, a facet that many impatient gamers overlooked when demanding a more action-orientated affair. And so it’s a welcome surprise that Behaviour has decided to bring a sequel to market, and while it may be limited to digital distribution services this time around, Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise is not limited in scope.
Following the largely negative reaction to the original outing the development team have seen fit to change the fundamental mechanics of the experience considerably. No longer are player chased by a constant need to string together combo kills – an system which saw the first half of any level involve setting up traps before then executing them all in swift succession – instead the player is free to pick any single victim and take them down whenever they see fit. Bears will still attempt to get help by escaping in vehicles or getting to a phone (all of which can still be booby trapped) but these are more relaxed asides rather than panic inducing do-or-die combo breakers.
The level design has had a significant overhaul too, with much larger areas playing host to fewer bears, meaning that players can work on taking out a small group at any one time without fear that others will stumble upon them and ruin their carefully orchestrated killing sprees. There’s also a whole host of new interactive items and hidden objects to find. However, as the size of each map is that much larger the levels no longer move through more than one before completion; a design decision that has both positive and negative effect on the gameplay, and whether you prefer the change or not will only be discovered after a considerable amount of playtime.
Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise brings many new additions to the formula aside from the revised score system and expanded maps. Loads more weapons and contextual kills are included, as is a brand new grab manoeuvre which allows you to move foes into a preferred position for a kill using environmental objects. The grab also allows you to take bears into the wooded areas where you are camouflaged and steal their outfit, thus offering Naughty a disguise. A nod and a wink to titles such as Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, the bears in Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise won’t recognise Naughty when in disguise until he starts misbehaving.
This time around the unlockables aren’t based on a total score system but rather the all-new XP system. Working in a fairly similar fashion, XP is automatically spent on upgrades for Naughty (such as health and sprint increases) as well as the typical progression trough the campaign. Players can earn XP with every new weapon kill, but once a weapon has been maxed out they must change to another to continue earning more. In addition players will earn coins for nearly every naughty action which can then be spent on buying new items from the in-game store; thankfully at present there’s no sign of microtransactions weeding their way into Naughty Bear.
Visually Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise is hardly anything to write home about. It’s an improvement over its predecessor for sure, but to the untrained eye it will be a barely noticeable step forward, especially when bigger budget productions have come on in leaps and bounds in the intervening years between Naughty Bear instalments. A number of graphical errors do remain, but thankfully much of the bugging hat affects gameplay has been removed; no longer will your high scoring run be cut short by a fall through the floor or a misplaced club that sees you stuck against a wall and slowly beaten to death.
Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise is a product born or love for the original videogame, ignoring the naysayers and producing an experience that the fans have been craving for. From the amusingly playful title screen to the Achievements/Trophies that are reflective of those offered by the original title, Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise is the kind of tongue-in-cheek affair that is all too rare on current-generation formats. It’s never going to convince those who belittled the first videogame, but in its own right Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise is a hugely enjoyable aggressive gameplay experience, and one that is entirely welcome on digital distribution services. So that’s two-out-of-two for Naughty, and Electronic Theatre most certainly hopes he gets a third spin on consoles.