Naughty Bear is better seen and heard about than played. To play it invites mental punishment.
At a glance, the concept is intriguing. Take something usually associated with fluff and cuteness and turn it into a vehicle of dark vengeance. It would not only offer something relatively unseen, but it would also administer a possibly entertaining poke at our psyches. Done right, it could be clever.
Clever is not what happens here. Instead, we get the equivalent of spaghetti thrown against the wall, except it’s to the sounds of party favors being stepped on, other bears tottering around in anguish and a narrator who bellows at you like a demented babysitter.
You’re Naughty Bear, a stitched-up, brown outcast on a island full of brightly colored bears who don’t like you. Rejected from general beardom, Naughty Bear decides to turn the island into his own personal hunting ground.
The game will remind some of Postal, an older title that featured a tortured soul who eventually just went outside and started wiping out everyone he found in every way possible. He’d do everything from shooting people in a park to hurling flaming cocktails at a marching band.
At the time, that pushed the envelope. The sheer brutality was new. In a cartoonish way, Naughty Bear seems to hope that sentiment still exists among gamers who have had years to refine their tastes and look past goofy sadism.
Naughty Bear can either treat his enemies like prey to be stalked or like bouncy grass in the way of his machete.
He can toss them into fires, file down their faces with a malfunctioning record player, shock them to death or, in a disturbing twist, drive them into insanity and eventual suicide.
I’ve seen a bear off himself with a gun, causing stuffing to eject from the exit wound. Another bear beat himself to death, while yet another self-inflated himself to the point of blowing up.
I actually found this amusing for just a shade under an hour, but then realized that this was all there was to the experience.
The concept is to earn points by being as vile to fellow bears as possible, and after a few more hours of running around pillaging the bear community, my interest waned and my irritation grew. It got to the point where I wanted to try and blow myself up.
There are nuggets of potential here, such as the game’s unscripted AI. This gives you the ability to play each mundane scenario like a junior version of Splinter Cell: Conviction, where you can actually gain some strategic joy out of laying traps for bat-wielding, frightened bears.
The game also lets you string bits of nastiness together for combos. Snatching a bear in a trap is fine, but scaring a trapped bear in the presence of other bears and therefore frightening them as well puts you in the game’s true space of entertainment. This sometimes turns the experience into a chain-reaction puzzle, where you can attempt to examine how many dominoes of chaos you can topple with some well-timed jumps out of a closet.
This is far from enough, however, to stop the game from easily devolving into a cheap thrill. It’s an advanced version of melting crayons on the radiator. Sure, it might be entertaining for a bit, but then you stop and wonder what the hell you’re doing.
505 Games / AMM
Xbox 360, PS3
Rated T for Teen