Surprisingly, after a disappointing full retail release last year, Naughty Bear is back as an XBLA title; complete with tweaks and improvements to try and win you over with its extreme, yet highly amusing premise. Is it second time lucky for this psychopathic teddy bear?
Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise certainly still exudes the same charm as its predecessor. Whilst the visuals are woefully basic, with solid colour textures and bland lighting, the teddy bears themselves show real character, and are amusing and odd from the outset. It’s a compelling setup; having the teddy bears live some facsimile of real lives, fearful of facing their own mortality through Naughty’s revenge and general inability to stop killing his fellow stuffed toys, you’d expect a cute Hitman-esque experience, full to the brim with tongue in cheek humour. Unfortunately it’s directionless and sloppy, with frequent nuisances distracting from the enjoyment.
For one, it’s highly repetitive. Your 36 targets – so chosen because they were invited to enjoy a relaxing vacation on a tropical island, whilst you had to strap yourself to the undercarriage of the bus to tag along – are spread out over 11 small locations and follow the same script of you gruesomely beating, cutting and warping the stuffing out of them with the many environmental opportunities, and weapons, strewn across the map. And whilst the variety of punishments you can dish out are commendable, with the setup barely changing, the spectacle of a new approach to murder can only impress for so long.
Each mission tasks you with stalking and killing a specific bear, with bonus points awarded for killing them in a specific manner. Meanwhile, additional objectives are present to flesh out your time in each area, such as finding and burning invitations, frightening bears to force them to commit suicide, and more. It’s unabashedly dark with its concept, yet whimsical with its theme, making the juxtaposition truly unique and peculiarly comfortable to play. It’s an intriguing position to place the player in; forcing you to do terrible things to other living beings, but with everyone being a teddy bear it’s un-relatable enough not unsettle you until you stop and think about it. The missed opportunity is that Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise doesn’t play on this, it even fails to make light of it with humour.
You end up stalking your prey by hiding in areas of thicket – which makes you undetectable the second you’re in it, and accidently rhymes – before dragging unsuspecting bears amongst the leaves to strangle them or steal their clothes. Donning their outfit allows you to walk amongst the population freely, until you do something suspicious. However, only those that witness your indiscretions will attack or run screaming from you, everyone else will ignore their pointing and proclamations of your horrible deeds. It makes it a very simple game.
Furthermore, you can unlock clothes and accessories from kills and stolen getups, that can be levelled up and even grant you stat bonuses to health and stamina. Each item can only be levelled once, encouraging you to buy new gear and switch it around to experiment with everything on offer, but it makes an already easy murder simulator even more so.
Throwing bears in dimensional warp gates, burning them up on fires and grills, smashing their heads in with bats, clubs and car doors, and not to mention disturbing a bear so much they take their own life, all sounds like a blast, and it is, but only for the first three or four levels. Beyond that murder becomes routine and all the variety in how you go about it has been witnessed time and time again. Additionally, frequent crashes prevent you from progressing through it, a brief and inadequate tutorial fails to prepare you for the task at hand, and it’s repetitive, repetitive, repetitive, and repetitive.
Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise certainly has the right idea but it’s masked behind the rest of the package. It is possible to enjoy a few stuffed toy murders here and there but losses its appeal very quickly.
MLG Rating: 4/10 Platform: XBLA Release Date: 10/10/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.