Naughty Bear Hands-On PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Jun 23, 2010
Based on all of the trailers and teaser videos sent out for A2M’s cutesy beat-em-up Naughty Bear, I was under the impression (or perhaps just hoping) that the game was going to essentially be Manhunt with cute, cuddly bears. And in a way, based on the couple of levels I was able to play, it definitely has shades of the depravity and ultra-violence of Rockstar Games’ controversial murder-fest, but it pulls back from fully committing to the idea, but not by much.
My hands-on time was limited to two “episodes,” each of which include five chapters. The first chapter of each episode is story-based, and the rest are challenge-based (i.e. don’t take damage, finish all areas before the clock runs out, etc.). You unlock chapters and episodes by earning bronze, silver and gold medals for each stage. You rack up points by being as “naughty” as possible to all the other inhabitants of Perfection Island, who like nothing more than to shun you from their fun activities and mock you at every turn.
There are a number of ways in which to flex your naughty muscle. Hack and stab with machetes and axes, bludgeon with baseball bats, or set bear traps. Unlike Manhunt (again, what is so hard about Manhunt with teddy bears?), the weapons only have one finishing move as opposed to varying degrees of brutality. I’m hoping that when more weapons are introduced later in the game, the repetitive nature of the kills will diminish. There are also a variety of environmental hazards scattered through the levels. Campfires to toss bears onto, fuse boxes to shove heads into, and even a refrigerator that you can shove someone into to turn them into a giant ice cube. You can also catch bears that are trying to flee your rampages by boat or car and pull off contextual kills that way as well.
Another big element in the game is the ability to sabotage various elements around the maps (i.e. telephone, toilet, turntable, etc.). Sabotaging not only earns you naughty points, but it also causes bears to investigate the malfunction, at which point you can pull off a contextual kill like those I just mentioned. Stealth clearly plays a major role in the game, and it, basically, comes down to walking into the bushes when you don’t want to be seen, at which point your character automatically holds a large leaf in front of himself to hide.
When you aren’t hiding or flat out murdering adorable bears, you are encouraged to screw with the other bears as much as you can before delivering upon them some horrific death. Playing with the mental stability of the characters is just as important as killing them, and you can do this in a number of ways. As you’d expect, assaulting and/or killing bears in front of other bears will cause them to either freak out or come after you. You can also roar as people to stun them, and if you scare someone enough, you can pull off a super scare of sorts that causes the person to commit suicide. It’s definitely twisted, but I'm wondering how effective it will be after the 20 or 30th time.
I didn’t get to check out the multiplayer, and I’m curious to see exactly how the combat mechanics differ from single-player. I’m also very interested to see how the rest of the single-player portion plays out, because there are some devilishly fun elements at play here, but I can't tell how they will play after several hours of play time. I guess we’ll know for sure when the game launches next week for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.