The unexpected arrival of a second Naughty Bear game results in a game that is plagued with many of the same problems found in the first title. Having a dark edge through a bear that likes to defluff others can be fun, but the gameplay falls victim to being predictable and at times frustrating since nearly everything is reused early on in the game. The combo centric nature of the game may make OCD gamers keen on racking up a high score, but even then Naughty Bear’s gameplay never finds itself elevated to a thoroughly enjoyable level as it’s simply plodding and is an easy way to rack up Trophies and Achievements.
+ Initial variety in the stages is nice before it eventually wears off.
+ It may not be a game changing addition, but the XP/Leveling system is a cool feature.
+ Naughty Bear co-creator/Lead Designer Ashley Pannell does another solid performance as the narrator.
- Gameplay becomes old fast since it once again doesn’t feature an amazing amount of depth.
- Recycling of levels results in everything becoming painfully predictable.
- Unexpected graphical and technical glitches creates some odd situations.
- The dark humor is kind of funny, but it feels like a missed opportunity in that it wasn’t expanded upon in greater detail.
- Seriously, the game becomes boring really fast.
Sometimes video games can get a second chance to prove themselves after an underwhelming debut. It’s rare for such a thing to happen these days since the industry is so intense in that some developers shutter after their latest new IP fails at retail. But sometimes we are lucky enough to see a game receive a second outing though I think no one ever expected such a thing to occur for Naughty Bear. Released in 2010, the premise of Naughty Bear was simple and had some potential: you played a dejected bear that wanted to destroy those who “wronged” him.
The premise of Naughty Bear played it simple but sadly so did the gameplay as evident by how one note it was. Now the maniacal Naughty Bear is back yet again in the PSN/XBLA based Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise, a game which does see some improvements made but quickly falls into the familiar pattern that makes the game feel like a chore to play rather than being enjoyable.
By far the biggest flaw of the original Naughty Bear was that it wasn’t really bursting at the seams with variety. Developer Behaviour Interactive did pay attention to setting up the various death traps that Naughty Bear could use, but the game had what seemed to be four core environments which all of the missions took place on. Such a thing led to the game entering a pattern of familiarity since it was easy to remember where every item was and how to dispose of all of the bears who need to be punished in horrifying ways.
With Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise the game immediately improves its greatest flaw by having the game take place on the idyllic Paradise Island. As told in the opening cinematic, all the other bears have decided to have a merry time on vacation yet they didn’t invite Naughty, a thing which they’ll all soon to regret as it’s not good to cross the brown bear that holds a grudge for life. So right from the get go I was presented with missions in which I had to defluff bears that took place in a Spanish/Caribbean village type setting while other locales were things such as a posh house or even a somewhat spooky hedge maze.
There may not have been a direct connecting theme amongst the different levels that would make them feel as if they’re all part of an island, but the variety was a welcomed addition since it provided me with something different to do as I had to learn where each weapon and special death trap was. The brief spurt of variety however doesn’t last that long since Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise falls victim to its previous mistakes.
The level to level objectives in the game aren’t that much different from what was presented in the first game – I had to go around, dispose of the main bear that needed to be killed and do any secondary objectives such as reaching a certain point goal. That general premise is fine and in Naughty Bear 2 the game does extend the stage specific originality by having the main target bear being taken out in a certain way, such as killing it quietly in the woods, throwing it into an interdimensional portal, or doing the horrifying thing of making a bear into a cookie and then proceeding to eat it. This tactic of having to dispose of a bear a specific way given certain stage scenarios is interesting but it all boils down to the game being incredibly one note and predictable.
Having to work my way around a different level each time I began a new bear assassination was fun at first, but no matter what the locale is, even if it’s a top secret research facility, many of the same death traps can be found and the same combat tactics can be used. Stage specific weapons may be available such as a rake or a knife, but once you’ve seen Naughty Bear push another bear’s face into a grill and lighting it on fire in one stage then you’ve pretty much seen it all. There may be a shock factor via some of the death trap kills, though they are recycled from stage to stage such as having the Shark death trap appear in multiple stages, thus making its outcome predictable especially when a bear just so happens to be standing there.
On top of that whole debacle, levels are ultimately recycled so things became all too familiar for me as I knew where every weapon and piece of healing cake was located. Such a thing definitely brought the game down to a rather dull level rather quickly since the only thing I had to contend with was the A.I. – who by the way aren’t that smart since their heads are no doubt filled with nothing but fluff.
The central gameplay mechanic of Naughty Bear still revolves around luring other bears into traps or scaring them so they infect others with their fear and paranoia in order to rack up a higher score and combo count. It may sound like a fairly cool gameplay mechanic, though the problem which arises is that it becomes predictable and at times can result in the game being played in the same fashion no matter what the target goal may be. Various types of bears do pop up stage to stage such as a ninja or robot and they do present specific combat skills, such as a one-hit kill that can be annoy in how unpredictable it is. Even with things such as that, it’s still easy to rack up a high score and combo count merely by stalking in the plants, which makes you invisible by the way, and luring bears in for quick kills or easy attacks.
Taking the stealth route with the game may not be the ideal way to play the game, but it’s probably the easiest thing to do since the core game sadly doesn’t have a true sandbox nature to it. Thanks to all the same death traps being present in the various stages there’s not much to encourage the player to mix things up in a way that results in every mission playing out in a different way, at least other than how the target bear is killed. A sandbox mantra may have been attempted in Naughty Bear 2, but it’s not pushed to the forefront of gameplay since everything is ultimately repetitive.
As one note as the gameplay may be, an admirable thing was done through a new leveling/XP system that was put in place. Besides racking up points by killing bears in specific ways and causing damage, Panic in Paradise introduces an XP system which has specific clothes and even weapons being leveled up in order to keep the points coming in. So during the course of the game Naughty Bear never looks the same as I was constantly outfitting him with new clothes, weapons, and other accessories in order to keep gaining XP so Naughty’s stats would improve. The game encourages players to keep dressing Naughty Bear up in various ways, even if it has Naughty wearing a speedo, since once an item has been mastered it can’t gain XP anymore.
It may sound like a cheap system, but it does provide a bit of variety since different items either improve or decrease Naughty’s core stats such as his health and stamina. To be honest I didn’t fret that much about how Naughty Bear was outfitted since it still didn’t have that much of an impact in how the levels played out, with the exception of a few costumes which gave me a huge health boost. The extra attention paid to the leveling and XP system is a nice touch especially in regard to the weapons that can be bought since it provides a nice level of mayhem to the somewhat middling combat which is still heavy on button smashing.
Playing Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise I was somewhat surprised by how the game seemed to take a step back in the quality department compared to the original game. I know that the first Naughty Bear didn’t set the bar high in the quality department, but it wasn’t filled with as many frame drops, massive level pop-in, and strange audio/physics glitches as found in its predecessor. Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise isn’t exactly pushing the hardware to the max based on the slightly average texture work that at times gives the game a rather odd look, but for some reason smashing a barrel would result in wonky physics and an almost delayed audio effect that for a minute made me thing something was wrong with my console.
As one of the few people who thought the concept of Naughty Bear held some promising potential, it’s disappointing to see Panic in Paradise plagued with many of the same problems as its predecessor did along with several new unexpected issues. The premise of Naughty Bear works more as a downloadable game and it’s nice that things aren’t totally skimped in the department since there are more than 30 bear targets to deal with. Sadly it doesn’t matter how sizeable the content may be since it all feels the same due to repetitive gameplay that feels old by the sixth mission.
Certain things such as the dark humor manage to alleviate the issues at times, but Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise ends up being more of the same; a game whose concept isn’t quite good enough to make gamers blind to all the problems that are present.
A review code was provided for this game.