OXCGN’s Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise Review
Grin and Bear it
by Chris Fox
©2012 Chris Fox
The Queen Mother had just popped her clogs, Eminem was still good and games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City were blowing up on the Playstation 2.
Cue the release of Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise to a feverish gaming public who are impressed with the game’s state of the art play mechanics and cutting edge graphics.
In 2002, Naughty Bear can stand shoulder to shoulder with giants such as GTA and Halo and hold its head up high. The only minor problem with this happy tale is that it isn’t 2002.
Some one should have told Behaviour Interactive.
The download (DLC) only sequel to the somewhat cult hit of 2010 stars, once again, the eponymous Naughty (Bear) as he relentlessly stalks his fellow bear like Agent Furry Seven to brutally end them for not inviting him to their parties.
If it were entrails that went flying in this game instead of stuffing, Panic in Paradise would be a hell of a lot more controversial. This game features graphic scenes of bear decapitation and dismemberment and probably shouldn’t be played with any cuddly toys present.
Missions take place in various varied locations and have different completion objectives, such as massacre bear X using method Y and wearing costume Z.
The whole premise is actually unique in its own right and could have been a great final product. But, for the second time, that’s sadly not the case.
You Can’t Bear Serious
The first major problem with Naughty Bear that immediately slaps you in the face is that the game looks old. Last generation old. Textures are simple and animations are often clumsily executed and sometimes incomplete.
The small, closed off areas that contain each mission reminded me of the 3D platformers of long ago, not in any bad way, just in a really outdated way. Naughty Bear‘s graphics are too basic to be called stylistic and clunk all over the screen in a jarring way.
Murdering bears in multiple, brutal ways is fun… but only for the briefest of moments. At first glance the game appears to be a vast and diverse world of cartoonish carnage in which any number of imaginable kills are possible, but this illusion is soon shattered.
Weapons and environmental objects only have one kill animation each and get fairly tired after the initial thrill. A lot of the kills start off delectably promising only to peter out into a disappointing anti-climax.
The kills should be so ridiculously and outrageously off the scale that the statement made by the them would be much bolder and louder. Naughty Bear is, in fact, a lot tamer than it thinks it is.
This is a prime example of a great idea with poor execution.
Claws for Alarm
The game, that is, not the bear. The bear himself would ice you soon as look at you.
The game, however, does have some redeeming features. There is humour to be found here and you will find yourself raising the odd smirk as Naughty introduces bear cranium to lawnmower blade.
Yes, the kills can be funny indeed, which is the total opposite of the the try-too-hard narration which can get more than a little irritating.
Hunting down foes and “punishing” them is satisfying and held my interest for a time. The stealth mechanics even work fairly well. Hiding in the woods makes Naughty undetectable, sneaking around feels suitably ninja-like and, hell, you can even tell when enemies have spotted you (COUGH Dishonored COUGH).
Naughty can collect a vast amount of costumes and weapons that can be mastered in order to level up. Each stage contains other objectives as well as violence, such as finding and destroying party invitations. So, as you can see, there is a positive side to this game.
The unfortunate reverse side to the coin is that the majority of these additional costumes look as drab as the world in which they inhabit, each new weapon maims in much the same way as the last and invitations can only be destroyed in the most limited of locations.
There are a wealth of stages to complete, but they all begin to blend into each other, creating one massively dull experience. I found myself GOLLING (groaning out loud) upon execution of each new level. That isn’t the ideal sound one should make whilst playing a video game.
Bad News Bears
The game just feels unfinished. Too many animations don’t have sound or finish too quickly and any kind of soundtrack or musical score is pretty much nowhere to be heard. Stabbing stuffed toys to a bad ass soundtrack would’ve increased the absurdity of Naughty’s exploits: making it all the more enjoyable.
The whole interface is unintuitive and the game’s sensibilities are so very dated. The menus are a nuisance to navigate and should be avoided where possible.
All of the controls are presented to us in a long winded narration at the start of the game instead of, say, an easy-to-play tutorial. For all the long winded explanations from the narrator, some details remain unclear (such as how exactly Cuddles should be “punished”),
One bear needed to be dispatched with Naughty being completely naked i.e. wearing no extra costume or disguise. This detail, however, is only brought to light once the mission has actually started.
Not being aware of this before that point, I was scratching my head as to why I was failing my ‘hit’ criteria each time. The right bear was killed in the right manner, I wasn’t wearing a disguise, so what was wrong?
It turned out I was wearing little yellow boots. This, it seemed, was enough for me to fail my objective, forcing me to restart. Costumes cannot be unequipped during a mission, which means I needed to quit back to the front end to change my shoes.
It’s this kind of lack of streamlining and clumsy UI that becomes Naughty Bear‘s epitaph. Come on Behaviour Interactive, we have moved way beyond this type of prehistoric game design.
Its just a shame the content equates to a clunky final product that doesn’t really deserve your time.
Panic in Paradise should’ve been a lovably quirky, uniquely memorable and brutally over-the-top sleeper hit.
Instead, we have been presented with one hell of a damp squib of a missed opportunity. Again.