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Preview: Naughty Bear

Naughty Bear’s a brutally funny game which could from the looks of it make for a perfect mix.

Taking another long trip down to London (this time early in the morning) I arrive in the vicinity of Soho Hotel which is housing the event. I say vicinity because with little knowledge of the area around Tottenham Court Road it took me a while to actually track down the place.

Tucked away in a narrow street, Soho Hotel is excellently classy within. Publisher 505 Games hired a section of the hotel to showcase their latest game from the publisher perspective, Naughty Bear.

Taking an unconventional but intriguing look at a very familiar childhood toy, Naughty Bear revolves around a very naughty teddy bear that isn’t liked by the other teddies that occupy the make-believe land they all inhabit. When the teddies have a teddy bear picnic and Naughty Bear isn’t invited… all hell breaks loose. Naughty Bear decides that the other teddies need to be taught a lesson for banning him from the fun, so he creates fun of his own.

The first thing that immediately says “this could be fantastic” is the idea itself: it’s a unique idea, one that I doubt many would have thought of. The execution of such a bizarre and unique idea has all the makings of video gaming ingenuinity and I think the many who didn’t think of anything like this will praise 505 Games & Artificial Mind and Movement for realising it.

AM&M don’t have the best set of games behind them (although give credit where credit is due, their intentions were bold and they did have some success). It’s hard to just say at this early stage that Naughty Bear will be their crowning achievement in the developer’s history but I’m completely fascinated by the concepts and ideas that publisher 505 Games are displaying.

The control layout: snapped a quick photo for you to see.

Shipping in senior designer Dave Richard all the way from Canada to talk about the game, hiring out an exquisite location & providing us with as much as we would want to see increases my interest in Naughty Bear. One of the representatives from 505 Games quickly told me about a few aspects of the game to start the day rolling (being overly eager I arrived early) such as how the humour of the game will be a big factor and how Naughty Bear will play with your expectations.

And that’s exactly what it seems the game will do: it goes against the expected in both an ingenious and entertaining way. Playing as Naughty Bear, you can go to disturbing measures to teach the other teddies a lesson. Naughty Bear just wants to be liked but it’s far easier for him to create havoc and fear than to try and make friends. People who won’t “get” the game (and I’m betting there will be a few) will not agree with the ethics of what is effectively the destruction of a childhood story but for those willing to see Naughty Bear as a fun-filled, tongue in cheek experience? The reward will be great.

Seven main levels available, 4 main objectives within and apparently several missions within the objectives. This is a deceptively big game.

Whilst the humour is subtle, the fear mongering is blatant and laughably brutal. Your task for the most part within an array of story objectives is quite simply to make as much fear and chaos as you can. The game rewards you for being naughty with a points-based system – the naughtier you are, the more points you get. Scaring bears get you some, killing bears get you more (tp note: there’s no blood and gore within the game but the ways in which you can kill a bear can leave little to the imagination) and creative naughtiness yields even more points. Each of the seven levels contain several objectives and challenges and each come hand in hand with scoring points and meeting targets.

Leaderboards will be in the game and you can try and be naughtier than other people around the world in a wide variety of scenarios. Naughty Bear is expected to be a ten hour affair but we’ve been promised multiplayer too with several different modes to increase the length of your naughtiness. It’s not a game aimed at completionists or score obsessed gamers though – it was stressed that the game caters to different play styles. You don’t have to play the game in a particular way: you can choose how to approach the objectives and the game has a huge array of ways to cause havoc. There’s an element of free roaming within the levels too so don’t think the game will make you follow a set path – feel free to run off like a wild bear and scare the crap out of innocent teddies.

Speaking of the innocent teddies, AM&M have implemented emergent AI into Naughty Bear – every bear in the game has a different personality and will each react in their own unique way to your behaviour. One may call the police whilst one may pull a gun on you, one could hide in a closet whilst one could try and run away. The game has a picture in picture setting where it will show you what a bear may doing whilst you’re being naughty so you don’t miss out on maximum naughtiness.

The objective in the demo shown was to stop Chubby from being Mayor. The culmination of this was quite shocking but darkly hilarious.

You can be killing a bear by smashing his head in with a car door and a little box will appear in the top right corner of the screen showing you that another bear is calling for help. You can then run and get them before that happens to make your mess making go smoothly (or you can let them call for help and set traps for the help to fall victim too).

The violent way you do things isn’t as sickening as it should be thankfully – the childlike imagery that runs through the game and in the background alongside the adult themes gives the game both a very comical feel and a purpose somewhat. Naughty Bear seems very much to take a well-recognised formula for children’s televisions shows and create a hilariously farcical and twisted view.

How your naughtiness is tallied up at the end of every level. The more points you get, the better basically.

The game is narrated by a British voiceover who speaks to Naughty Bear as if he was a character from the Teletubbies and the animations and background inspiration is clearly from the likes of the Teddy Bear Picnic.

However the juxtaposition of having childlike themes with things like killing sprees, the image of a bear wielding a carving knife chasing panicked bears, being rewarded for getting a teddy bear to kill himself and ironically catching a bear in a bear-trap gives the game a very humourous and enjoyable edge.

Overall Impressions:

Naughty Bear as a concept is so intriguing and from the looks of it the execution of such a bold and witty idea is a storming success. It may be dark humour and it may not suit everyone’s tastes but I can comfortably say that Naughty Bear will be great. It’s a refreshing game to see and I cannot wait to play it. “Saturday morning storyline gone wrong” is the tagline on the back of the press packet and I’d say that describes the game very well.

The game is rude, violent and twisted but it’s also funny, entertaining and very interesting. The sandbox element with the promise of different experiences for each playthrough, the inclusion of a multiplayer and the prospect of DLC content to come later sets the game up for more than just a game to try before you buy.

Wait for the demo to come before you make your mind up but I’m already banking on Naughty Bear to be an surprising success. Coming to the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, gamers now have another game to add to their “want list”.

About Harry

An overzealous film watcher, videogame journalist, university student & bagel eater. Susceptible to bargains and biscuits; fears roller-coasters and strangers.

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