Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise – Interview with Creative Director Ashley Pannell
by Mark R
Earlier today, we published our preview of Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise – Behaviour Interactive’s digital-only follow-up to the quirky-yet-sinister hack and slash, Naughty Bear. In order to get a bit more info on the game and what you could expect to see, we caught up with Creative Director, and the voice of the Narrator, Ashley Pannell. If it gives you any sense of satisfaction, you’re free to read the answers out in a patronising children’s TV presenter tone. It doesn’t work as well as it does in-game though! Sadly.
The first thing you notice about Panic In Paradise is that, even though you still have Naughty Bear, Daddles and all the others, there’s a completely different approach to the menu art style – more grunge than story-book – was this to give it a more adult feel overall or was it just how it turned out in the end?
We definitely felt we wanted to evolve the overall look of the first game. The first time round we wanted to establish the character, now we feel that people know a little of who Naughty is. The new menu art now represents ‘his’ outlook on life rather than that of the other bears.
There’s a more polished feel to all of the in-game graphics; more detail than before and yet this time around you’re going with the XBLA release rather than a boxed copy. Was this your way of silencing the critics who felt that the original game should have been a digital title and making them eat their words?
Naturally we want to deliver the best possible package we can to all the Naughty Bear fans out there. We also would like to win over some new admirers as well. Obviously, it can be hard to develop new IP and offer fresh gaming experiences and there’s a huge learning curve. We have really tried to listen to what the critics felt was wrong in the first game and address them as best as we could. We have to balance that feedback with what we know that we already love about the original as keeping our existing fans is extremely important to us too.
We noticed during the gameplay session that there was more than just the typical island setting this time around, with science labs, discos, and an overall grand scale to all of the environments. How many can we expect to see in the finished game, and which were the most enjoyable to create?
The size of the play area was a common concern with the first game. In PiP we have expanded the play area dramatically. We now feature 11 separate locations set at the fantasy resort of Paradise Island. My favourite area is the Wellness Centre, it’s a location where the other bears receive counselling on how to feel better about hating Naughty Bear. Really, if ever there was a reason to punish them! The other thing I love is all the temples found across the island’s locations. Each one contains cash, a unique item or a special bear. They’re really fun.
Also, did I see a Stargate?? Is it operational?
What you may (or may not) have seen was a Quantum Disentanglement Portal. As you will discover, Fluffy and Professor P.Brightness Phd have been hard at work at their Quantum Disentanglement Facility trying to forge a bridge between their world and a place known only as ‘Darkworld’. Sadly, their efforts are yet to bear fruit. However, that portal is pretty useful for disentangling bears!
The greatest addition, for a loot-whore like me, is the ability to spend in-game cash on specific items or whole costumes. We saw Ripley’s power suit from Aliens, and countless others, each with their own abilities and perks… what was the inspiration behind doing this rather than having the unlockables from before?
This is one of the biggest new features for PiP. Another common criticism of the first game was the lack of variety. On the positive side, we also discovered that people loved to dress up and customise their Naughty Bear. By moving to a new system we now allow you to unlock, buy and wear anything found in the game. Creating this compulsion loop felt very natural and added a ton of game play. The other huge bonus of this system is that we could create a huge cast of characters as all the other bears use the same system as well.
There were a few extra special moves this time around, such as a WWE body slam – are these specific to certain costumes or are they delivered randomly?
There are a lot of extra moves this time round. Each of the 96 weapons has up to 3 different kills associated with them. The primary aim was to make sure that there was a much greater variety in the weapons every time you perform an ultra-kill. Needless to say, there’s a quite a lot of ultra-killing in the game.
Part of the attraction of the first game was the ‘never been done before’ aspect and people wanting to see all the inspired ways to kill all of the other bears, so what have you done to make sure Panic In Paradise still has that ‘must see’ pulling power of the first one?
We have included so much more stuff in PiP to try and maintain the ‘must see’ factor. We have all the new weapon kills, dozens of new contextual objects like the Shark Plant, Deffluffication Machine, Lawnmower, Hydraulic Lift, and many, many more. The other major addition we included was a grab function, so now Naughty can pick up a bear and carry him to any object he likes. Now you really can see all the kills in each area without having to wait for the bears to go to them.
Are there any new game modes this time around, and will we still have the punishing difficulty like with the Top Hat Challenges? One of our writers is an achievement whore and is only one cheev away from maxing out Naughty Bear… and still can’t pop that last one… and we find that hilarious.
Interestingly, we moved away from the individual ‘game modes’ concept and included a new ‘objective system’. So now we have 36 levels, each that features a target (some that you may recognise and a whole load of new bears). In order to succeed each mission you must fulfil the objective. Each level is different and each target requires a bit of thought to complete. There’s no ‘top hat’ mode now as the difficulty level now ramps up over the game. Don’t worry though, as those last levels will test your Naughty skills to the max! The other new addition is a ‘sub-objective system. Now in every level you have optional objectives (similar to the original game’s actual objectives), these earn you bonus Naughty Points if you complete them. Along with the new objective system we also still have the Naughty Cups, leaderboards, costume system, levelling up and new combat upgrades to keep you entertained.
Last time around, the general feeling was that Naughty Bear was an XBLA title in a boxed copy whereas this time you’ve turned that on its head by offering a much larger, more polished game as a digital download. Do you think this will encourage those who dismissed the last one to give Panic in Paradise another go, and with larger titles such as PiP and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare going straight to digital, do you see XBLA as a viable platform for ‘real’ games now rather than the watered down titles that we’d become used to in the past?
We love games and we love our Naughty Bear. Our aim was to create the best possible experience for fans and newcomers alike. XBLA/PSN feels like a very natural home for PiP and we’re delighted to be there. XBLA/PSN has grown dramatically over the past couple of years and games are going digital more and more. Time will tell about its viability as a platform but we feel it’s a good fit for us and for the game we have made. Our first mission was to satisfy those who already like Naughty Bear but obviously we want to attract a bigger audience too, especially those who may have passed it over the first time round. We feel that we’ve put together the right mix of crazy-stealth-bear-killing-suicide-filled- madness to do just that. After all, as we always said, ‘everyone’s got a little bit of Naughty bear in them’.
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