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Naughty Bear (Xbox 360) artwork

Naughty Bear (Xbox 360) review


"Each new weapon has a kill animation to go with it, but none of those animations are all that amusing after the first three or four times that you see them. I enjoy pouncing on an over-sized bear and hacking apart his face with an ax as much as the next guy, but the game's cover artwork looks substantially more depraved than the final product actually feels. Where's the crimson, or at least a cloud of puff? These are the blandest ax murders you'll ever see, hands down. Unless you're switching weapons constantly (and perhaps even then), you could easily tire of the animations before you even finish the first of the game's many repetitive stages."



There will be blood boredom.

The other bears are throwing a birthday party and you weren't invited. That stings. After all, you made a homemade present and wrapped it and everything. Yet when you try to go to the party anyway, to show your support for your fellow bear, Giggles and his fuzzy friend start laughing at you like you did something funny. You're not welcome and it's painfully clear.

Dejected, you stumble home and toss the gift in the corner. Somehow that doesn't seem like quite enough, though. With the depraved and strangely cheerful narrator egging you on (something must be done, he says), you pick up the discarded gift and head out through the front door. Nearby, a campfire crackles and pops. You toss the gift into the flames, watch them consume it even as the rage inside your fuzzy head builds toward a breaking point. Then you do what any reasonable teddy bear would do: you pick up a stout metal pipe and you start looking for your first victim.

Naughty Bear has what you might call a warped sense of humor. I wanted to love the game for that, but unfortunately things fall apart the minute you step past the intriguing premise.

Consider the disastrous lack of a lock-on function. It seems like a small thing, even for a third-person action title like Naughty Bear, but it's a problem in this case because your progress throughout most stages depends on the amount of pain that you inflict on your fellow bears. Your foes are not content to remain conveniently stationary. You'll have to hunt them down like the savage killer that you are. As teddy bears barricade themselves in ramshackle cottages (a refrigerator against the door is as good as a hug), you'll break through windows and corner them, then beat them savagely with an ax or a sword or some other weapon.

It's all fun and games until someone runs away from the slaughter.

Chasing after wounded teddy bears isn't nearly as much fun as you might suppose. They don't leave trails of blood or even fluff on the pathway. They don't flee creatively, either. They just limp and stumble toward the nearest campfire or barbecue pit and you must follow after them, swinging crazily and hitting your target maybe half the time while the camera sways back and forth as if dangling from a pendulum. The whole process is nauseating. Half the time, you'll stumble around the side of a house just in time to run up against a teddy bear who wasn't even your target. That's a moment of opportunity and you'd do well to hack at your fluffy opponent, but he'll start running too and then you have to decide which bear to pursue while knowing that your odds of easily hunting down either one aren't good. An on-screen radar lets you know where all potential targets are positioned, but even then they can be difficult to track down due to the erratic camera. Once you find them, you still might be in trouble because the game actually treats "Accuracy" as a stat. Even if you're bumping uglies with a rival bear, you might miss with sword or ax swings because your chosen character is that inept.

Though it seems like slaughtering your stuffed opponents would provide hours of fun, that central component grows tiresome much too quickly even with the gleeful narrator shouting things like "Total Defluffication!" (which is just about the most awesome thing a narrator has ever said in a game, ever). Each new weapon has a kill animation to go with it, but none of those animations are all that amusing after the first three or four times that you see them. I enjoy pouncing on an over-sized bear and hacking apart his face with an ax as much as the next guy, but the game's cover artwork looks substantially more depraved than the final product actually feels. Where's the crimson, or at least a cloud of puff? These are the blandest ax murders you'll ever see, hands down. Unless you're switching weapons constantly (and perhaps even then), you could easily tire of the animations before you even finish the first of the game's many repetitive stages.

There's really not enough gameplay variety to hold off boredom for very long, either. Whether you're hunting down bears because they didn't invite you to a party or because one is running for mayor and is vowing to kill you, there's no real difference in how you perform your task. You just massacre your fellow bears until you have enough points accrued to advance from one portion of a stage to the next, then you repeat the whole process as often as it takes to reach the end of a given environment. There are optional objectives along the way, but they just require you to hunt through the bland environments for destroyable goods. That's hardly satisfying. Some stages do try to mix things up a bit by imposing instant fails on you if you take damage or whatever, but they're not much fun because the camera is responsible for more failed attempts than anything else.

On the visual front, the game disappoints even if you're willing to forgive the uninspired character animations and the subdued brutality. Part of the trouble is that there's no real sense of cohesion. The teddy bears live in a fantasy world that could have come from the mind of a young lad in Kindergarten, which is marvelous, but even that hypothetical youngster would surely envision more detail than what is offered in the environments that must be explored here. The buildings look mostly the same, the neon-checkered flooring doesn't feel right at all (and isn't used to any obvious advantage) and the game runs in high definition but lacks the texture work that would give the typical gamer a reason to care. Why bother supporting 1080P output when your game looks like this?

I'd go so far as to say that Naughty Bear is the sort of title that could have just as easily run on Wii, but I'm not entirely sure. Though it's hard to point to anything that looks especially good, even the Xbox 360 seems to have trouble keeping everything going. The first time that I completed the first stage, the game froze and I had to power off my Xbox 360 before trying again. I've seen that sort of thing happen with mediocre PlayStation 3 titles, but such issues rarely affect my Xbox 360.

An online mode attempts to bring some community mayhem to the experience, but I made several attempts to join a game and got nowhere. Part of the problem is that hardly anyone is playing online. When I did find a four-person game, my connection was dropped as the match began. This happened on each subsequent attempt, as well. Most of the time the process doesn't even advance beyond the lobby because other players also seem to be losing their connections, as well. The whole experience was a travesty and no, my connection isn't to blame. I don't have problems like this elsewhere.

I guess none of those issues should come as a surprise, though. The sense I get from playing Naughty Bear is that someone had a really great idea and he got a whole team involved to bring that idea to fruition, but somewhere along the way those people grew disillusioned and everyone just rushed to finish the project so that they could perhaps salvage their investment up to that point before moving onto something more lucrative. That might not be what happened, of course, and your impressions may differ substantially if you're the sort who starts giggling uncontrollably at miserable bears.

Just don't giggle too much. Someone might come after you with an ax and bore you to death.

Rating: 2/10

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (July 07, 2010)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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zippdementia posted July 07, 2010:

A well deserved bash. I come away feeling sickened that this product exists.
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espiga posted July 07, 2010:

Considering the amount of attention this game was getting on Kotaku, I was hoping it'd at least be decent.

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