Naughty Bear - Xbox 360

As a pure concept, Naughty Bear will either instantly intrigue or repulse you. You play the titular Naughty Bear who lives amongst other teddy bears on Paradise Island. After not being invited to a birthday party and having his thoughtful present mocked, Naughty Bear snaps and decides the best course of action is to murder all of the teddy bears on the island in the most brutal ways possible. We’ve all been there man.

Now just try and tell me that doesn’t sound like a game you want to play. You can’t can you? Of course not, because you are a rational human being.  I know I was completely ready to go with this one. I didn’t even let the nonstop trailers that refused to show any gameplay footage turn me away. The way I saw it was how could a game with that premise not be good. How could they screw this up?

Sadly it turns out that it’s not that hard.

In all fairness, Naughty Bear does not deserve the incredibly harsh reviews it’s been receiving so far. Lots of 2 and 3’s out of 10. No, it’s not bottom of the barrel terrible. It’s just thoroughly mediocre.

Everything gets off to a very promising start. The opening is twisted and fun with a British narrator talking directly to Naughty in the style of a 50’s children’s show, and before long you are dispatching big cute teddy bears in horrible ways. There really is a long list of ways you can dispose of these adorable bastards. You can hack away at them with weapons you pick up such as axes and bats. You can slam their heads in car doors, shove them into fires, and the list goes on. For the first 20 minutes or so of playing, I really couldn’t see why people were hating on this game so much as I was quite enjoying myself. It was soon after, when I realized how little the action was changing, that I started to see what they meant.

You see while there may be a lot of different ways to take out the bears, the actions these kills require are all basically the same. Melee weapons involving hammer the attack button until you are prompted to do your final killing blow. Enviromental kills are usually accomplished by sabotaging an object, waiting for a bear to come along to fix it, and then pressing a button to execute them while they are distracted. While these executions are certainly entertaining the first time you do them, the animation never changes so by the fifth or sixth time you throw a bear to the ground and stomp on his neck, the amusement has long passed.

One interesting touch is that instead of outright murdering bears yourself, you can drive them to insanity which leads to them killing themselves. This is done by killing bears in front of them, having them discover bodies, and just generally terrorizing them until their fragile teddy minds can’t handle it and they shove a machete into their own stomach. The first time the words “Cuddles is killing themselves” came up, accompanied by the image of a bright yellow bear shoving a gun in his own mouth, I don’t deny that I laughed. Again though, the novelty of this quickly goes away and you’ll find yourself (unless the game forces otherwise) simply killing them all yourself as it tends to move things along much faster.

Before the game’s release, no doubt due to the incredibly vague trailers, people were confused about what type of game it was. Is it level based, is it open world, just what hell is it? It turns out it’s actually a little bit of both. There are levels, and technically each one gives you an open environment to run around in, but those environments are very limited. They’re small maps and usually consist of some trees, a few cabins, and then maybe a dock. Oh and sometimes it’s night time. So don’t expect a wide variety of scenery here.

There are a total of seven chapters in the game. Each one kicks off with a story mission, although the story always boils down to “hey Naughty, better kill these fucking bears eh?” The remaining stages in a chapter are all based on accomplishing individual challenges in that same map. These include tasks such as: beating a stage without getting hurt, completing one without ever being spotted, driving all bears insane instead of actually killing them, and a few others. This does help the variety a little, and some of these stages are genuinely difficult, but it still doesn’t change the fact that you’re doing the same things over and over, no matter how you try to mask it.

The game is primarily score based, which was a genuine surprise for me. As you kill bears and generally cause chaos on the island, your multiplier will rise and your score will start to shoot up. At the end of the stage you are given a trophy based on your final score. These trophies then unlock further stages and challenges. There’s also a ton of different outfits to unlock, and leaderboards to post your high scores. So there is a ton of stuff to do in this game, it’s just a little too bad you may not be that motivated to do it.

Naughty Bear has a great sense of humour and to be honest I didn’t have many problems with the way the game plays (the occasional horrible frame rate issues being one exception to that), but the lack of variety really does kill a lot of the enjoyment here. The best route is to play it in really short bursts every few days. If you employ that technique, there is some fun to be had with Naughty Bear, although definitely wait until a price drop because I simply can’t recommend this at 50 dollars. 20-30 you would have yourself a deal, but 50? You sir, make me laugh.