E3 mini-spotlight: Naughty Bear

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Reggie and I hit E3 over the past week. Instead of long, winding previews of every game we got to see, we took pictures and are providing nuggets of impressions. Reggie’s got the pics from the show. I’ve got some words on what I saw. This one’s the first nugget. Hope you enjoy them!

Teddy bears are the universal embodiment of cuteness. They are the quintessential stuffed animal, perpetually open for hugs and snuggles.

But in Naughty Bear from 505 Games, they are prey. They are enemy targets who can be manipulated and destroyed in a quest for survival and vengeance. And, the main vessel of this vengeance is one of their furry, round brethren.

You play Naughty Bear, a stitched, beat-up and disgruntled occupant on an island full of bears who don’t seem to like you. So, you respond in kind, using as many twisted and brutal methods as you can to get the bears to leave you alone.

What made the game so intriguing to me was its dark nature, veiled by a very cute, fluffy exterior. It’s a trip seeing colorful, huggable creatures whipping out machetes and guns in an effort to defend themselves — but it’s also stirring to uh, bear witness to the sheer mental and physical brutality Naughty Bear can dish out.

The point isn’t to simply kill every bear you see. You have to do it in the worst ways possible to earn “naughty points.” The bears you find in various missions have an unscripted AI, and they all react to Naughty Bear’s presence in different ways. For instance, killing a fellow bear in the woods isn’t enough. But killing a bear in front of other bears and causing them to freak out, grab some weapons and call the police? That’s more like it.

Naughty Bear snaps necks, curb stomps, caves in heads with baseball bats and also won’t hesitate to put a slug in another bear’s fuzzy dome. This is relatively disturbing in its own right, but then there’s the psychological warfare Naughty Bear can wage against others. Instead of bringing death, Naughty Bear can yell “boo!” and scare the stuffing out of anyone who isn’t ready for it. At some point, you can drive a bear completely insane, cause him to snap, and eventually watch him off himself. In the demo, I saw a bear turn his gun on himself and pull the trigger. A puff of stuffing came out.

Naughty Bear was easily one of E3′s guiltiest pleasures for me. We’ll see if it can maintain that vibe when it comes out June 29 for the 360 and PS3.