Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from all the serious and gritty experiences in most games and just relax with some pure unadulterated fun. Enter Naughty Bear. In the briefest possible way to describe the game, I would probably call it “Hitman, except you’re a teddy bear” and if that doesn’t sell you I don’t know what will.
The recent release of the Naughty Bear Gold Edition takes the full original game and bundles it with all the DLC that came out in one nice, value priced package. But is it a price worth paying? As a foreward to this review, I’ve never played the original game so this will encompass the game itself as well.
The setup to the story in Naughty Bear is pretty simple; you play as the titular Naughty Bear, who as these stories typically go isn’t invited to play games with the other bears. Each chapter is set up as a different event that you either aren’t invited to in addition to various examples of the others shunning you. The voice of the oddly cheery narrator then eggs you on and Naughty decides that getting even is more fun than their stupid birthday party.
The thing is, the narrator and Naughty are both right. Each of the games chapters begins with a straightforward level, each of which is split into two sections. The goal of the first section is usually to either kill each bear or drive them insane, or a certain score to reach. The second will usually have a more specific goal, like a certain bear that must be killed.
Each chapter has more unlockable levels which are the same event with a more specific goal such as “drive everyone insane”, “don’t get hit at all”, or “never be spotted”. These add an interesting level of replayability to the game, and force you to take a different approach than you normally would.
How you achieve these goals is entirely up to you, and Naughty has a great number of options at his disposal to do this. For the straightforward approach, there are a variety of weapons ranging from machetes and baseball bats, to guns and legs of meat. If you prefer a little more stealth you can lay either a bear trap or landmine. The most devious option will see you sabotaging various things in the environment to distract the other bears. Sneak up on a bear that’s repairing that phone you sabotaged and give him a huge scare, or ram him into the phone electrocuting him to death. These options rake up big points and will give you a huge bonus as opposed to just slashing everybody with a knife.
Naughty has one advantage over the other bears which is what you will constantly be using and eventually abusing to reach your goals, in that he can hide in the woods and nobody can see him save a few special bears like Ninjas. This can be a little jarring, as a mob that is chasing you will abruptly just give up and act like they have no idea where you went even though you’re standing inches away from them. Ultimately it’s a necessary gameplay design, and the game simply wouldn’t work without it so you come to accept it.
While taking out the other bears is a lot of fun, it starts to feel like a bit of a grind in later levels as no new weapons are introduced and you wind up repeating the same tactics over and over again. Sabotage the equipment, lay the bear traps and landmines, and scare or kill anybody who gets caught. You’re awarded more points for switching up your tactics in levels, and you’ll find yourself just swapping weapons after every kill as there’s really not that much difference between a leg of meat and a machete as far as kill-time goes.
Each bear has their own identity which you’ll slowly discover as you play the game, with some grabbing up a weapon and attacking you on sight, or others trying to escape or phone the police for help. Each level has a special theme, and features unique bears that will help your enemies take you down. Ranging from the aforementioned Ninjas to the Army or even Zombies, they all add a unique twist to each chapter that truly makes them feel like individual levels, despite them all being visually very similar.
Naughty Bear Gold Edition comes with the full multiplayer component of the original outing as well, while adding a few other interesting and fun modes. One for example has one team playing as regular bears with one player as Naughty. Another features the fabled Unibear (Unicorn + Bear), and you gain points for dancing near him. It’s cooler than it sounds. Unfortunately the online rooms are fairly empty most of the time, but if you can gather some friends together or find a game there’s a lot of fun to be had.
In addition, all of the DLC levels and costumes for the original game are included, adding even more length to a game already jam packed with content. As the costumes you unlock give you bonuses and you start with the DLC ones unlocked it gives a little bit of an unfair advantage in the beginning, but you would have unlocked a similarly powered up costume soon anyways and the effects aren’t TOO noticable.
Naughty Bear Gold Edition is a straight up fun game. While the controls can be a bit finicky and the repetition starts to set in the further you go, these complaints that are ultimately overshadowed by the fun of turning on a BBQ grill and shoving that stupid jerk bear’s face in it when he tries to fix it. It’s not the best game in the world, but for a budget price it’s hard to argue the fun factor. Sometimes fun outweighs everything.