Naughty Bear: Panic In Paradise – Review
On its release in 2010, Naughty Bear garnered something of a mixed reception. On the one hand, critics slated it for its repetitive, often limited, gameplay, while others adored the concept and character and managed to overlook the flaws and glitches to savour the game underneath. I was one of those souls who threw myself on the mercy of a surprisingly punishing game to mine the achievements from its very reluctant grip. Over two years on and I’m still at it. My time with Naughty Bear, like the similarly maligned Fairytale Fights – remarkably similar in its dark twist on saccharine subjects – has instilled a respect and appreciation, which led to me being rather excited by the prospect of a follow up.
Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise sees the return of our furry friend, Naughty, who is possessed of more homicidal tendencies than Dexter Morgan and an even keener sense of warped justice – something he likes to visit upon those who have wronged him… and there are many of those. In the last game, we saw the lonely misfit, Naughty, snap after not being invited to Daddles’ birthday party and take out Perfection Island’s panoply of bears in violent and inventive ways. This time, the bears (pulling a Kenny, it would seem) have booked a holiday to Paradise Island and guess who they ‘accidentally’ forgot to invite? Naughty decides to gatecrash, and a furbath inevitably ensues as he punishes them, one by one.
At its heart, the core gameplay remains the same as Naughty’s first outing; namely, take out all the bears over a number of missions. The game awards points (which tot up to become one of four trophy types, platinum still being highest) for offing your target bear in each mission, but you can’t unlock later missions without performing the kill in the manner the mission tasks you, whether this is feeding a bear to a carnivorous plant, or impaling him on a spiky statue. Each level contains a number of optional side-missions (destroy invites, suicide x number of bears, etc.), which offer mega bonuses when completed; if you want to level up Naughty and boost his stats, such as health, stamina, insanity, etc. then you’ll want to be looking hard at these.
The levels and stats are the first of the new inclusions, while several old mechanics have been tossed out. The dreaded multipliers have gone, making life much easier and causing the game to subtly re-align genres to become more of a light stealth/action offering rather than a frenetic score-attack fur-fest. The upshot of this major change is that the pace of NB: PIP is somewhat more sedate. No longer does the player have to keep an eye on their ever-vanishing multiplier, rushing foolishly in, where caution should be key, in order to keep it up and snag the top trophies. Instead, things are much more relaxed as Naughty slinks around, dispatching bears at his leisure.
While the blessed expunging of the multipliers has led to a shift in gameplay, it does cause the game to lose something of its frenetic edge, as does the loss of the challenges for each mission. While some players will likely be only too happy to see the back of the Top Hat, Speedrun, and Untouchable challenges of the original game, NB: PIP does suffer somewhat as a result, becoming much easier than its predecessor. The missions and side-challenges are actually quite easy to pull off and getting a platinum trophy first time was a piece of cake in many instances, which was both a surprise and something of a let-down.
The ease of the game could hamper the replayability; however, the developers have been somewhat fiendish and, once again, have generated reasons to return repeatedly to completed missions – namely costumes and weapons. Rather than unlocking costumes through challenge completion, Naughty has to get a little more ‘hands on’. In a new move, Naughty can drag a bear into the undergrowth, where he remains unseen, and steal their costume, resulting in a quick death and even quicker change as he dons whatever they were wearing while simultaneously unlocking it. Once unlocked, costumes can be bought in the inventory hub, with coins gathered from smashing shit up and slaying fluffies. Each piece of an outfit can be used in isolation, allowing for some weird mix and match get-ups, and offers tweaks to your baseline stats, whether it is raising your stamina, or dropping your health slightly while upping your defence.
Once purchased, each piece of clothing and weapon (of which there are several hundred) can be mastered by using it during a mission. There are achievements for doing so and just pulling this off will be as time consuming as attaining a platinum trophy on every mission, offering massive replayability for those who have to have their collections complete. Like the previous game, NB: PIP’s costumes will often have a secondary use in that they provide a disguise – wearing another bear’s face as a mask may well boost your Insanity stat, but it also allows you to walk unnoticed among the other bears… at least until they see you pull off a piece of naughtiness.
And the mischief is where it is at. While such violent acts would ordinarily have the Daily Mail spitting fire and cancerous brimstone from atop its teetering pedestal, the fact that you are hurling a bear into shark-infested waters or feeding them into a lawnmower face first makes it palatable and even humorous. Indeed, the subversion of the cutesy, storybook style is still the order of the day and makes for a wonderfully dark comedic game, the best part of which is still the twisted children’s narrator, who eggs our scarred anti-hero on in concerned, thickly storybook tones.
NB: PIP has massively upped the variety of ways in which you can terminate those sneering, nasty bears. The number of weapons has soared and are picked up from the various missions to be purchased later in the same was as costumes. Each one has a unique kill, but not only that, the environment comes into play much more. Scattered around each area (of which there are a wide variety in stark contrast to the terribly limited single location of the first game) are a number of handy things to help bears shuffle off this mortal coil. They can be impaled on statues, pushed onto fires, trapped in freezers, dumped in bins, fed to sharks and thrown into a Stargate. Yes, a Stargate. It adds some welcome variety and leads to experimentations with what you can do in each location, but mentally scarring bears to tip them into insanity is still worth taking the time to do – it may not be as satisfying as, say, toasting them on a barbeque, but it gets big points and often adds to the tougher side challenges that can crop up.
The locations themselves are a vast improvement, with a greenhouse, beach resort, hotel reception, disco, mansion, and more to be explored. They are often quite large, but in a few cases are let down by being basically a single-level box or boxes surrounded by patches of undergrowth. Otherwise, visually, the game is well presented, looking better than the retail release of the previous game and presenting a colourful playground in which to wreak havoc. The fact that some missions take place at night was a very welcome inclusion and adds some needed atmosphere that the game otherwise lacked, but also was a visual treat.
The game’s storybook feel was not present in the music, however, with the title screen this time delivering a much more sinister score than the plinky-plonky nursery rhyme joviality of Naughty Bear. It suited the darker titles, with their sketchy artstyle and Swarm-esque micro-mini game, but I didn’t notice it elsewhere. The sounds are all pretty much the same, with the original narrator in place, who, as mentioned, does a fantastic job of using overdone concerned ‘kiddiespeak’ to subvert the violence taking place.
While the changes are largely for the good, there are issues that go beyond just the odd lock-up or glitch. The AI of the bears seems to have taken one blow to the head too many; bears are now remarkably indifferent to the carnage taking place around them. You can step out, kill a bear in front of his friends and vanish into the undergrowth, only for them to run over, take a quick look and then shrug and go about their business as if nothing happened. This is also the case when they witness vandalism or scares. While they do eventually turn insane, this alteration has led to the game, again, becoming much easier. It’s true that in the original, level completion became a nightmare when bears barricaded themselves into houses, but it at least made sense. Some middle-ground would have been a far better place to settle than unrealistic (I know how that sounds, given the subject matter) behaviour.
The tweaks to the combat, with powered up light and heavy blows may be of interest to some, but were pretty much an irrelevance – I found myself just showering a foe with rapid weaker blows, rather than let them get close to deliver an often ‘done-in-one’ health-bar-draining combo. Sneak up behind bears, on the other hand, and you can insta-kill them without having to whittle down their health – again, far easier, especially combined with their apparent indifference to the carnage erupting around them.
I genuinely love Naughty Bear – the character and the concept. Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise is a good title and well worth the money, but there are a number of things that would have gone a long way to greatly improving it – more realistic, slightly tougher AI, weather (and associated kill possibilities), multi-level areas, more traps (think Spy vs Spy) with direct interactivity with the environment to create havoc, but, as it stands, enough has been done to raise it above its predecessor, despite a handful of flaws. Yes, more could have been done and it feels like there were some missed opportunities, or things that needed tweaking, but otherwise Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise is quirky, appealing, and deliciously warped. The storybook framework hangs perfectly around an enjoyable playground of fluffy carnage, into which our lovable misfit brings his own brand of justice. Now, we just need to find him a similarly-minded Mrs Naughty. Oh, the possibilities for co-op that would present…Pros
- Dark comedy
- Nice variety of locations and bears
- Insane amount of unique weapon and environmental kills
- Wide variety of costumes and weapons to be discovered and unlocked
- Great replayability
- Night time levels
- ‘Loathing screens’ – a tiny thing, perhaps but I thought it was a nice touch
- No multiplayer, thank fuck
- Naughty may be a scarred, gnawed-eared misfit, but he’s still loveable – we need plushies of this guy, stat
- Game is far easier than its predecessor thanks to…
- Bear AI is rather unrealistic this time. Dead body? Meh, what was for lunch?
- Platinum trophies are way too easy to pull off on a first run through
- Some locations can feel ‘boxy’
- Attacks on Naughty can often drain his health bar in one unbreakable combo
- Feels like more could have been done, but this was a damn good start
Naughty Bear: Panic In Paradise improves upon its predecessor in many ways, offering a delightfully twisted fur-fest in which the player can aid our loveable misfit, Naughty, in dispensing a homicidal brand of justice for the deserving bears of Paradise Island. The dark comedy and warped storybook framework make the game an appealing one, and the wide variety of locations, weapons, and costumes, along with an insane amount of unique kills – environmental and weapon – mean that replayability has punched through the roof.
While many of the changes have been a success, there are still problems and it feels like this game didn’t quite go balls-out and make the most of a second chance, with some missed opportunities and odd decisions – the largely indifferent/forgetful AI being one of them. The game is somehow far easier than the original, which was a shame, but fans and completionists, or those looking for a unique, diverting time will be well served. It isn’t as good as it could have been, but it is a fucking good start.
Naughty Bear: Panic In Paradise is a fuzzy slice of dark comedy, served with a side-order of over-the-top violence that is as imaginative as it is enjoyable. We look forward to seeing the mangled-misfit return... in the meantime, this one will take a long time to max, Arcade title or not.
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