Naughty Bear- Panic In Paradise
Developer: Behaviour Interactive Inc.
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform: XBLA, PSN
Genre: Action Rating: E+10
Release Date: October 9th, 2012
Cost: 1200 MSP / $14.99
Once upon a time, there was a game called Naughty Bear. It was a game where you were to punish other bears who were very mean to you by means of downright killing punishing them. While the game did sound like a very interesting “fluffy” take on the Hitman Series, the game itself sucked. In fact, it was so bad, Metacritic had an average rating of 43, while most sites proclaimed it to be one of the worse games that was released back in 2010. In short, there is a reason why we never touched this game. Who would have thought that two years later, we would get the chance to be Naughty again in the sequel “Panic in Paradise.” With a new developer team behind the wheel (who brought us Voltron on XBLA and PSN), could this be the game that we actually wanted to see about a game punishing bears in the most violent way possible (and yet is Rated Everyone 10+)?
The bears are on vacation at Island, but it seems that Naughty Bear wasn’t invited. As sad as that sounds, you don’t need to worry since Naughty Bear went ahead to hide under the party bus so that he can join the others on vacation. However, those mean bears need to punished for being so mean so, as Naughty, you are tasked to doing what you do best: Being naughty (and by naughty, I mean kill every last one). The Presentation of this game is a bit split being trying to be kid friendly and being downright psycho. Granted it is nice to have the announcer sound like someone who would be someone doing commentary on a british kids show telling you to kill every last one, but storywise it is a straight forward revenge scheme to getting revenge and punishing the bears that also want to kill (or “cure”) Naughty.
The graphics are pretty average. Of course, being an island, there are lot of places to see and bears to punish, but nothing here really stands out for me. At least there is more of a variety than there was in the first game, but at the same time it is a split of how they kept some things and did away with others. One other thing to note though is that there have been several people who have mentioned how this game does actually have Frame-Rate issues, and it can get so bad that it can crash the game and force you to restart your console all together, however during my playthrough, it happened to me when there was a transition in the menu, loading, or doing a random action. It can be hard to explain since I found myself having to restart the game a few times within an hour’s period, while other times it ran smoothly. Whether if this will be corrected or not is a concern, however where things stand this probably will not be addressed.
The Sound/Music is also pretty “Meh” here too. There isn’t much music outside of when you are next to a speaker, and the music usually takes a darker turn when you do “naughty” things. Outside of that, it isn’t anything special. For sound, I guess it sounds authentic since you are technically punishing stuffed bears. Of course when you perform the punishments, the attacks do sound like they hurt in spite of how they don’t really have any bones or vital organs. The lack of variety here doesn’t help the game, but doesn’t hurt it either, however considering how the narrator is really the only person that talks while all the bears have their variety of squealing, moaning, and death screams, it should be clear that you shouldn’t expect much when it comes to the audio in the game.
It is hard to talk about this game without referring to its predecessor. Allow me to quickly summaries the game in five words: This is Hitman with Bears. That’s about it. Now, this isn’t a bad thing if executed properly, but sadly for the full game release, it failed to do its job. Considering how terrible the gameplay was in the first game, can we say that it carried over to this one? Thankfully the answer is no. You maybe asking, “How is this a good thing?” Well, let me put out the main elements that this game focuses on
Stealth: One terrible problem in the previous game was how the idea of stealth never really worked the way it was suppose to. Either you have to walk at a snail’s pace, or you will break your stealth and the bears will be fully aware where you are and will hunt you and kill you. This however is no longer a problem. Instead now when you go into hiding, you can hold the stick all the way down, and it won’t break your hiding so as long you don’t try and start sprinting. It is actually quite fun to sneak around and watch the other bears, waiting for the chance to strike, although one problem here is that the improvements to the stealth also makes it pretty easy since you can hide in the bushes and either jump a bear, or wait until their backs are turned before you attack them. Granted this is supposed to be a “kid’s” Hitman, with colorful bears getting slaughtered, but at times, I can easily call over a bear, and strip them and use their new outfit to do whatever I wanted with little to no complications. Still this is a great improvement to the game.
Fighting: Combat in this game is pretty underwhelming since fighting is really not the name of the game here. Combat here is simply suppose to either get you out of trouble if you are caught, or is to “one shot” if you are stupid enough to try and blitz a bear holding a shotgun. By the way, that is one thing this game didn’t carry over to the sequel; previously you could take the guns from bears and shoot them, but here you can’t equip yourself with long range weaponry unless if you are unarmed and performed an execution on a bear that is carrying a gun, and even then you will drop the gun. Again, here though it actually makes sense why naughty doesn’t use guns; if he was, it would take away any difficulty left in the game and wouldn’t be as fun as a Third person shooter where you shoot 10 bears in a stage that can’t defend themselves against guns. Once again, the name of the game is stealth, and while the combat is there, you will probably not be utilizing it much outside of weakening bears for a bigger kill.
Grabbing: I know this doesn’t sound all to special, but if you consider how many ways you can off bears in this game, grabbing is an important mechanic that was added. Previously, if you had to attack someone in a specific way, you had to be patient and wait, but if you even startle them, they will run far away from you and making it incredibly difficult to actually do what you are suppose to do. In here, even if they start running, you can always grab them and drag them to either your hiding spots or just downright scare or kill them. Grabbing is tied in with the Stamina meter, which drains away either by running or holding a bear, and if you lose your meter, Naughty will toss them by his feet, leaving him to strike back at you. It is a simple concept, but it is still very effective in its execution. Now if only there was a way to either drag a corpse into a hiding spot or in the open to scare the bears, that would have made the “Grabbing” mechanic perfect, but hey, can’t take every single concept from Hitman.
Scoring System: While this might not sound like a great concept in the day and age we are living in, I consider the scoring system here to be improved. You don’t have an annoying “Multiplier” that counts down when you are trying to get the job done (you can take your time in punishing), and there are no separate game modes here, such as “Don’t get hit,” “No hitting” or stuff like that. It is a simple system that grades you on how you executed the bears that stand in your way. Scoring in the game varies on how “Creative” you are in how you dispatch the bears. For the main target, you maybe asked to take up a disguise and then to kill them using something in the environment, or may have to turn his friends against him so that they kill him while you watch from a safe distance. For the non-important bears, you could go ahead and jump a bear, drag them to the forest and stealth kill them, or you can take that same bear, drag them over to a lawnmower and stick their tongue in it and watch as they explode in fluff. Of course the latter would give you more points. By scaring bears, sabotaging phones and escape routes, and punishing them using the environment, you can gain a higher score that can translate in more experience that you earn for outfits. Alongside with that, there are never any penalties if you accidently killed the main target incorrectly. Even if you do off the target improperly, you can still leave the stage and still get partial credit on what you’ve done.
Costumes: Costumes in the last game were ok at best. You picked an outfit to wear and it affected your four stats. It was a pretty novel idea since it didn’t really do much outside of the choice of a specific costume set with whatever benefits it comes with (whether if it had things that actually affected gameplay or not). Here, the idea of Costumes has been greatly extended. You can set up how Naughty will look like at the beginning of each level by setting up what hat (or glasses), weapon, shirt, & pants he wears and uses. From the items you decide to wear and use, it can change up to five stats: Health, Stamina, Damage, Armor, regeneration, and Insanity (the last one affecting how well you can drive a bear insane and force them into suicide). At first, this is a pretty useless concept since chances are you will immediately go for a disguse at the start of each level and just use those stats instead of what you actually equipped for yourself, but then after you start getting several items, you can actually use this to your advantage: Either to set yourself in a disguise at the start of the level, or to manipulate the stats to your favor. For example, you can stack the best items into insanity so that you can scare the bears in madness, or you can pour it all into stamina so that you can run for a long time or even hold a bear for a long time without worrying about losing your grip. Besides this though, there is another aspect that the costumes have to them…
Leveling system: Leveling in the game is pretty simple as well, but can be a bit time consuming depending on how much time you decide to spend working on it. Each costume item and weapon can gain XP and the XP gathered from all items is taken into account of what your overall level is. To level up, you have to get high scores in stages to give your items the XP and if you master it, you gain an additional 250 XP that is added to the overall total. As for how much it is to level up an item depends on who expensive the item is. The more coins it costs = to how much xp it is needed to master it. This gives the player a bit of a drive as leveling up can give you access to new abilities (three of them), and can increase your stats a bit permanently with each new level. It isn’t much, but it is the drive to collect all the items from the bears, buy them and master them all so that you can move onto the next one and eventually get to level 100.
For what Naughty Bear has to offer, it is a bit of a coin flip in regards of its lasting appeal. While there are 36 bears that need to be offed defluffed, there are two other things that will keep you coming back for more: The drive to get “Platinum Trophies” on each stage and to get Naughty to Level 100. The problem with the latter is that getting to level 100 can be very time consuming considering how you only level up by getting new items to wear and master those items through being naughty. As for getting platinum trophies, I actually enjoyed working on this. Yes, the game can be downright easy, but then that is because you can either exploit its shortcoming by calling a bear over to where to are hiding, and when they have their back’s turned, you can grab one and stealth kill each bear, or just go straight to the target bear, kill him and just be on your way and move on to the next level. If you want that high score and trophy, you are required to be more “creative” in your execution. Use the environment to punish those nasty bears, scare the living hell out of them, sabotage any and all means of escape, attack them and injure them to where they are hopping on one leg trying to get away from you, make those bears kill themselves! It is like getting Silent Assassin in Hitman, but it feels a bit more rewarding since you are punishing multiple targets instead of one or two. In short, if you want to get everything in the game, there is a lot of backtracking that can be done to help extend your time on Island, otherwise if you are going to play the game just to off 36 bears, then your time will be short as the missions.
Overall, one question must be answered, did Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise improve on the first game and is it an enjoyable experience? In my opinion, the answer is yes. Keep in mind, for me to be able to properly review this one, I had to play the first Naughty Bear, and I couldn’t stand more than an hour before I quit out of boredom and annoyance. As wretched as the first game was, I found myself being able to play through this one and actually enjoyed myself. Perhaps the reason why this game now actually works is because all of its previous problems have been addressed, the gameplay has been tightened up, and it is actually fun to be naughty instead of it being an annoyance. Alongside with that, the choice of making this an downloadable game instead of a full release game also helps make this a better buy than the first game could ever hope to be. While this is not going to be the “Game of the Year,” if there was an award for “Most Improved Game,” Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise would win it hands down.