Naughty Bear – Preview
If a Fable 2 chicken flaps its wings in Albion, somewhere, in the black heart of the action genre, a hapless teddy bear has his stuffing ripped out. It seems that this generation has had its fill of cute, largely thanks to Nintendo’s family friendly offerings and Naughty Bear is the latest game to subvert all things bright and beautiful, due to bring its own brand of comic mischief and chaos to our consoles in early June.
Hearing next to nothing about this title until recently, with little more than an interesting name to go on, I was curious enough to dig deeper and to be honest, was pleasantly surprised – after all, the sub-genre that it occupies isn’t exactly over populated. Back in October 2009, Playlogic took sugary fairytales by the scruff and eviscerated traditional expectations with the flawed but inventively blood-spattered Fairytale Fights, reviewed and ‘fresh looked’ by GamingLives some time ago. It appears that with Naughty Bear, Artificial Mind & Movement (A2M) also aim to twist the cute and cuddly into something darker and, along with the aforementioned Fairytale Fights, it occupies the no man’s land between saccharine and outright, mature violence. The comic mischief on display in this colourful, open-world action title promises to titillate the more deviant desires of gamers looking for an antidote to the usual buffet of FPS shooters and action titles and A2M are keen to ensure that it will be no regular walk in the woods.
After pondering what narrative framework the developer could use shore up a game like this, it seems that they have taken that old, old story of hell hath no fury like a bear scorned. This is a simple tale of vengeance; after the other bears fail to invite him to the big birthday bash it is the final straw for our titular hero and so Naughty Bear makes it his mission to terrorise the population of the Island of Perfection in every way possible, decimating their numbers in increasingly inventive ways.
In a rather smart addition, there is a points system for being naughty, devious, and scary – reminiscent of the ‘Naughtyometer’ in Gremlin Graphics’ Jack the Nipper games back on the Spectrum and C64. The similarities don’t end there - back in 1986, Jack’s aim was to get his ‘Naughtyometer’ to its maximum by being as bad and inventive he could with whatever came to hand, whether it was boxes of soap powder, superglue, and conveyer belts of teeth (oh yes) and Naughty Bear’s premise is not much different, with the biggest points going for the most inventive and maniacal take downs.
In Jack the Nipper, using Jack’s peashooter to harass townies earned measly points but a little thought behind the mayhem always produced far greater results and Naughty Bear is no different. Any fool can club a fuzzy to death with a baseball bat in a darkened glade, but those gamers chasing the big points will have to be a little more daring. Committing bearicide in front of a crowd, for example, is a big point winner; after all, nothing strikes terror into the locals like watching you flatten another bear’s head, or even better, terrorising your victim to the point where they take their own life. In public.
In a deliciously twisted move, A2M have introduced a psychological element to the gameplay, so that in addition to utilising a variety of weapons and objects to inflict physical damage, Naughty Bear has a variety of scare tactics which allow him to inflict psychological damage, eventually driving bears to suicide.
A few methods of torment glimpsed in teasers thus far include electrocution and even dumping a victim in a giant cake mixer. It is an odd comparison to make perhaps, but the promised gameplay brought to mind the solid stealth action title Hitman: Blood Money, wherein the player could manipulate the environment, using decoys or sabotaging power-boxes as a convenient lure to get their intended victim outside, even shoving them over railings and rigging barbecues to explode. With the possibilities in mind, Naughty Bear could be a real winner if it allows anywhere close to the open nature inventiveness of Hitman and others, with variety being a big selling point.
There are four different areas and gameplay and objectives can be dependant on the time of day and weather, though not much is currently known about how far reaching this will be. Whether it will be as simple as Pokemon Silver/Gold’s night and day, with characters only cropping up at certain times remains to be seen, but it is a welcome piece of news nonetheless. Progression will be rewarded with unlockable costumes such as Ninja, Police, and doctor, which can be used to help to complete levels, and hopefully will offer interesting possibilities for further mayhem.
The island’s other inhabitants, however, won’t remain pushovers for long and will quickly wise up to your antics, getting tougher as you progress, even to the point of forming factions and ganging up on you, so you’ll have to get smart and nasty if you want to punish them.
Little is currently known about multiplayer but this sort of title is crying out for a team deathmatch mode. What has been confirmed however, are real-time leaderboards – similar to TrialsHD where your accumulated naughty points make up your global ‘naughty score’ on LIVE or PSN which can be viewed and drooled over by your friends.
Naughty Bear could be one of those overlooked sleeper hits, or just sink without a trace after failing to live up to its potential. Lurking in the promising ‘comic mischief’ genre while presenting elements of a slasher and stealth game make it an interesting prospect, but that depends on just how open it really is. With the developers promising a wide variety of gameplay and great replay potential it is hard not to be a little excited, especially with the amusing parody trailers doing the rounds.
However, with the seeming similarities to games such as Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Jack the Nipper, and Fairytale Fights, Naughty Bear is in good company and will be a welcome comedic break in a schedule bursting with more meaty and dramatic titles. So for the more sadistically minded gamer boasting a grudge against all things fluffy, Naughty Bear could be just the therapy you need.
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