The video game “Naughty Bear,” released last week for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles, may sound enticing, but the only detail most buyers will find appealing is how much they can get for returning it. The plot of the game centers around colorful and happy stuffed bears who constantly party — except for one, Naughty Bear, who never gets invited to any of the festivities. In an attempt to teach his less-than-hospitable bear peers a lesson, Naughty Bear violently lashes out against them.
The cute bears, parties and the playful cartoon landscape contrast sharply with the carnage you will cause as Naughty Bear on the secluded island. Game play consists of Naughty killing, scaring and trapping other bears. Instead of beating them to a pulp, Naughty can perform special kills, such throwing a bear on a fire or drowning one in the toilet.
Naughty uses scare tactics in the game to cause bears to go crazy and end their own lives. A key strategy in the game involves sabotaging machines so someone will come to fix it, giving the player an easy kill and many more points. As more levels are unlocked, Naughty gets to use a wide range of weapons, and each weapon he uses has a unique Ultra-kill involving a slow-motion killing sequence.
Advancing in the game, however, involves more hiding in the woods and setting traps and less hand-to-hand combat. Only having three maps and four different challenge types feels repetitive. The weapons are also hard to find early in the game, so the play is more likely to see the same slow-motion sequence again and again.
Despite the fact that the game is all about death and driving other bears insane, it’s rated for teens. Instead of shedding blood, the bears loose cotton or fluff as they die.
No one speaks on the island except for the English narrator. He instigates Naughty Bear’s bad behavior by insisting the others deserve to die. The little dialogue he provides adds nothing to the experience besides making the game feel more childish.
Instead of providing a quick way to retry a failed level, the game forces players to click through three menus and two loading screens. As if failing a level weren’t bad enough, the other bears get to point and laugh, and then two minutes later the level can be retried.
Naughty Bear’s movement is fairly shaky. The camera drops frames often, making game play dizzy and challenging. The music in the beginning levels isn’t just creepy, it’s disturbing and annoying. This eerie music coupled with the camera work is similar to an experience on a carousel — it’s fun until you want to vomit. The game also freezes fairly regularly at the end of certain levels. These small things turn a potentially fun game into a waste of cash.
The fun of the game comes after trudging through the first few levels. Once more levels and new, improved Naughty Bears become available, the game gets easier and more playable. The problem lies in wanting to get past the initial bad music, bad menus and shaky camera work. The game is simply too confusing at the beginning to be as fun as it can be.