Review: Naughty Bear: Panic In Paradise
No matter the outcome of the original Naughty Bear game or how Panic In Paradise has turned out I still think that whoever first came up with the idea for Naughty Bear is onto something. Naughty Bear is different, in many ways it’s sadistic and somewhat disturbing in its execution, but there’s potential here to make a game that’s not only unique but also a lot of fun. And in some ways Naughty Bear succeeds in doing just that. Yet at the end of the day Panic In Paradise just has so much holding it back and these are things that you can only ignore for so long.
In Panic In Paradise the bears have once again made the terrible mistake of not inviting Naughty Bear with them while heading for a vacation on the beautiful Paradise Island. The bears very clearly do not want Naughty Bear around, some of which go very far in trying to keep you away, and so Naughty Bear deems it necessary to seek out some revenge. I may be alone in this thinking but the setup for Naughty Bear is great. There’s potential there but very little of it is ever fully realized. Despite a short cut-scene in the very beginning of the game there’s never any more movement within the story. You simply choose mission after mission completing the main objective of killing a specific bear and then moving on. Once all of the missions are complete there’s not even some sort of ending sequence. Nothing to signify that Naughty Bear has completed his revenge or anything. It’s certainly not the worst thing about the game but I’d expect that there’d be some sort of conclusion after ‘defluffing’ all of the bears.
There are 36 missions within the game to complete. Each mission has a main objective and three side objectives. The main objective will ask you to dispose of a certain named bear in a number of ways. To the game’s credit they do a decent job of mixing up the different ways that you need to kill bears. Sometimes you’ll have to use a specific weapon, objects within the environment, turn bears against the target, scare the bear into committing suicide among other methods of murder. For the most part, and this goes for the entirety of the game, each of the main objectives are relatively easy. I did however run into a few problems where I felt the game didn’t fully explain what I needed to do which lead me to play specific missions numerous times just blindly trying different things to see what would work.
The side objectives differ every time you try a mission. These range from killing, trapping or causing suicide among a set number of bears, collecting a certain amount of coins or destroying invites. These are not required to complete the mission but they’ll earn you more points which will earn you a better mission trophy.
Missions take place in varying environments that end up repeating throughout the game. There’s a little more than a handful of locations that you’ll play through numerous times throughout its course. There’s certainly a fair amount of repetition that can be spoken of but the various requirements for each main objective (and for some levels a different layout) help to keep the repetition at a minimum. That said each environment isn’t exactly huge so it would have been nice to see a few other environments to explore.
At the same time the level design among each environment works pretty well. Stealth plays a large role in the game and each environment features plenty of places to hide. You’re essentially presented with a sandbox in which you can wreak havoc in whatever way that you desire. I think a lot of it loses its luster after some time but the first time you grab a bear’s tongue and stick it in a lawnmower is pretty entertaining just due to how ridiculous it is. I think that’s where I reach a dilemma of my own.
I love the idea of Naughty Bear in the same way that I love dumb movies. Ripping the stuffing out of helpless bears, shoving bears into freezers, hanging them from the horn of a Uni-Bear statue, shoving their face through an arcade cabinet and among numerous other methods of murder are all stupid, bizarre in some ways but also, weirdly enough, kind of fun. It’s not something that everyone will enjoy but I think there’s a good idea that deserves to be given a fair shake, and perhaps this sequel was enough, but I don’t think the direction Naughty Bear has taken at this point is the right one.
Throughout the game aside from simply murdering helpless bears you’ll find yourself unlocking costumes, unlocking weapons, leveling up, customizing your mission loadout and uncovering the lost tombs within each level. You’re given control over a bear that feels menacing towards other inhabitants of the island but at the same time you never feel invincible. Naughty Bear is filled with great ideas but I don’t think they’re ever able to come together long enough to provide fun that lasts throughout the entire game. Which is rather unfortunate because, as I’ve mentioned numerous times before, I love the concept.
If nothing else I think the leveling system should be applauded. Throughout the game whenever you steal a costume from another bear not only does this allow you to blend in throughout that mission but you also unlock that costume for use in other missions. Every costume (head, face, body and legs) as well as weapons used can be leveled up. Each time one of these items are leveled up you’re given experience to your base level and your stats increase. This encourages players to use and experiment with numerous combinations throughout the game. Along with the ways levels are setup I could see a scenario where multiple routes can be taken to complete certain objectives. This isn’t always taken advantage of throughout the game but the beginnings of something really great is at the very least in place here. Unfortunately you have to purchase costumes and weapons after you unlock them which means you have to eventually replay missions to unlock everything which can grow rather tedious.
I don’t think the gameplay within Naughty Bear is actually bad at all. There’s even moments where it’s kind of great. The game as a whole just doesn’t have any form of polish. Graphically the game isn’t going to turn any heads and yet it still has some terribly nasty pop-in issues. Naughty Bear crashed a total of eight times on me throughout the time I spent with it. (Luckily only once did this cause me to lose progress.) But eight times is absolutely inexcusable. There’s no reason for that to happen. On top of that the game can’t keep a steady framerate either.
Yet, and I’d wager to guess that this mostly stems from how much I like the concept, I still found myself enjoying Naughty Bear. There are things to like in this game but you have to understand going in that it’s not good and in a lot of ways it’s broken. To that I can’t recommend this game to people. There are moments of greatness that do show up every once in a while but is it really worth it to go through the rest of the game just to experience a few short moments of fun. I don’t think it is.
I enjoyed my time with Naughty Bear a lot more than I probably should have. There’s moments in which I saw what were possibly the makings of a good game and yet none of that ever truly came together. It’s wrapped in a package that features loading screens that let you throw knifes at a tied up bear, instructions of playing your own Naughty Bear drinking game, and even dishes out some pretty good laughs. Yet Naughty Bear just isn’t something that I can recommend to other people.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- The concept is great
- There's a lot of different ways to "defluff" the target bears
- Unlock costumes/weapons and the leveling system.
- "Loathing" instead of "Loading" among many other things found in the menus
- The first few times I saw specific sequences. (Turning a bear into a cookie.)
What I Dislike:
- Having to purchase the costumes/weapons I unlocked.
- Only a few maps in the game
- Lots of pop-in
- The eight times the game crashed on me.
- The appeal starts to wear off over time
- Inconsistent framerate
- No ending?
- Certain aspects of the game aren't explained all that well