STAFF REVIEW of Naughty Bear (Xbox 360)

Friday, July 23, 2010.
by Ken Laffrenier

Naughty Bear Box art Growing up I was always fascinated with the more mischievous opportunities presented to us on a day to day basis. I found simple pleasure in minor pranks and provocations; being the oldest of four siblings I was regularly reminded of my duty to accommodate. Through my teen years I began to see the effects that poignant remarks and biting commentary had on groups and individuals (it is these comments that perhaps saved me from creating any real chaos). But now here I am in my late (late, late, late) teens and I've been able to witness how someone can be driven to take harmless antics too far or rather, how someone can completely lose track of that little voice inside their heads telling them to take a more honorable path.

Obviously, the gang at 505 Games and Artificial Mind and Movement identified a vast and virtually unexplored little niche of our own psyche ripe for console gaming manipulation. The idea, it would seem, was to tap into their subconscious and deliver for the masses, a unique and enjoyable game. While it's clear they were able to find the twisted parts of their imaginations, it?s only clear because of the shear frustration experienced when trying to play this title.

As a publisher, 505 Games has seen some minor success since its inception in 2006 and has even released a few Xbox 360 titles. But it seems that the games developer Artificial Mind and Movement was hoping to make its move into the console market and away from the realm of handheld game development. Much of the games more ill conceived issues made a lot more sense when I found out that the studio was a handheld developer; as this is what the game feels like?a poorly executed handheld offering.

The opening story offers an enticing morsel of what could be a great gaming experience; ?Naughty Bear? (we assume he?s always been a bit of a bad seed) has once again been left out of sharing in some of the fun taking place in the unassuming land of Perfection Island. This time, however, being left off the guest list of 'Daddles' birthday party inspires Naughty to try to 'make nice' by offering a gift for a fellow bears special day. As fate would have it, Naughty runs into Chubby and Giggles on the way to Daddles party and their laughter and taunting drive Naughty beyond his typical prankster antics. Unfortunately I believe the games pitch to the publisher concluded the above opening with ?and then all @#&* breaks loose??.at which point the teams scramble about creating a game without ever reviewing the actual implementation or gameplay dynamics.

I really wanted this to be a good game. The last couple of months have seen an almost endless amount of marketing that, over and over, told the tale of a cuddly bear out for revenge. Like any male adult I?ve imagined my mute yet reliable, childhood stuffed toys creating havoc among its group of ?Caring? Bears (hope that was enough to avoid any lawsuits, lol). Well perhaps not everyone has had the idea but I?m certain anyone can see the entertainment in creating a mischievous adaptation of childhood classics.

Naughty Bear was to present endless hours of opportunity to slice and dice the residents of Perfection Island using any number of implements including knives, axes, guts, fire, traps, big clubs of meat and sabotaged machinery. The marketing led me to believe I would be exploring a unique area creating a real sense of havoc?.kind of Manhunt meets Saturday morning cartoons. The actual game however is a real lesson in modern marketing (especially those who actually ran out to buy this game), simply stated??buyer beware?.

The mechanics are straight forward?naughty points are the scoring method of choice and points can be acquired by any number of various means. Causing random destruction = points?trapping, abusing, frightening bears = points, using your surroundings to set up unsettling scenes = points, sabotaging various equipment = points, killing the bears through unsettling means = points, driving the bears beyond the edge of sanity = are likely getting the idea here, but the real challenge is combining these different tasks to gain point multipliers thus increasing your overall score. Your score is then showcased among your friends (with the game, of course) giving some real bragging rights to a high scoring round.

Doesn?t everything I?ve described in the paragraphs above present an intriguing picture? It sounds enjoyable (in a twisted sense)?unfortunately the game is plagued with issues?enough issues to drive any gamer beyond the point of sanity themselves.

To begin with, all of the action takes place over 30 levels but in seven (tiny) areas?there is no variety in the areas beyond the first seven?you are sent back again and again to the same surroundings to try to learn something new (it was high school classes all over again). Continuing with the repetitive issues; the actual means of creating havoc or actually killing the bears initially is mildly rewarding (seeing a teddy bear hold his breath until he explodes is a little funny) but seeing the exact same animation hundreds of times seems to lose much of its entertainment value. Finally, each of the levels are unlockable which means you cannot proceed until you complete the requirements laid out in the past mission?this wouldn?t be a big deal except that you are forced to endure this repetitive play with no hope of exploring any more challenging levels.

The controls are frighteningly muddled throughout and are only hindered further with clumsy camera angles. You must be in the right location relevant to a bear, for example, to be able to actually implement the ?scare? function and it is virtually impossible to gauge how ?damaged? a bear is, so that you can prepare for an 'ultra-kill'. The graphics themselves, while less than stellar are not that bad but I did expect a lot more for a title of this price range.

By far the most unforgivable issue the game presents are the random game crashes?in my first hour of gameplay the title crashed 3 times?each of the crashes happened while trying to transition to the next level?so not only did I have to play repetitive levels but I had to replay them multiple times! Needless to say, I believe there is a lot more at work here than simply a naughty bear?there are also, less than diligent, game studios. Many gamers moved away from PC gaming a number of years ago to address the ?crash? issues and to have a $50 title locking up an Xbox 360 is unfathomable.

There are gamers out there that will justify the purchase of this title by pointing out the inclusion of the multiplayer options or the unique sound offering (the narrator is rather funny) or the one of a kind twisted nature of the game (it must be 2010 if twisted gameplay is a selling point)?and to be truthful it is these few points that save the game from a 1 out of 10 rating (every game gets 1 point just for being packaged properly). Did I hate the game?.no, do I recommend the game?no. Would I like the developers to get there combined @#*& together and give us the game that all of us know could be created?.you bet your naughty points I do!

Overall: 4.5 / 10
Gameplay: 3.0 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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