For those who missed Naughty Bear’s first console outing, you’re one of the lucky ones. Released back in 2010, the game supposedly took inspiration from adult only Rockstar titles such as Grand Theft Auto and the controversial Manhunt. Perhaps in an attempt to give younger audiences a slice of this style of hardcore violence, 505 Games published a title that lacked the blood and gore of the aforementioned titles, but was granted just enough sadomasochism and dark humour in order to peak the interest of the public. Sadly, the gamble never paid off as Naughty Bear was criticised across the board for being repetitive, embarrassing and one of the worst games of 2010. A few years down the line and the angry little bear has returned to the Xbox Live Marketplace and the PlayStation store as he tries to once again win the hearts and minds of gamers by any means necessary, in Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise.
The titular character is a shabby, mischievous teddy bear who gets his kicks by torturing all the other furry creatures on Perfection Island. So is it any wonder that when his fellow teddies embark on a holiday of Club 18-30 proportions that he doesn’t get an invite? Of course not. Still, that doesn’t stop Naughty Bear from sneaking along so that he can get revenge on all those who he believes have wronged him.
The plot is the first major problem with the game. Similarly to the first title, the game doesn’t quite know where its audience lies. On one side you have a young audience, who would love nothing better than to have enough fluff on their face to pass for eighteen and buy all those horribly violent games that get released each week. As much as it can be argued this is a safer alternative, the reality is that very few would be interested in what is essentially a dark twist on the teddy bears picnic. On the other side of the age fence, you have those old enough to stab, shoot and steal their way through virtual cities but, aside from a few giggling stoners, they’ll find nothing new and exciting about this game and stick to their old gruesome favourites. It’s a catch twenty-two that Naughty Bear doesn’t really need to be a part of.
The gameplay in Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise heavily relies on stealth. Our psychotic anti-hero must use his surroundings and costumes stolen from other bears to infiltrate various locations in the resort in order to get close to his mission critical target. If Naughty Bear is spotted creeping around the island, he must take out the witnesses as quickly and quietly as he can before the alarm goes off and the other bears make a break for it. On paper it sounds like a cute imitation of Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell, but the truth is there is very little challenge in each level. On the first level, the target is in your line of sight from the moment you press start and you can easily rip the stuffing from his stitches before the other bears stop screaming. Each level does increase the difficulty, but if you’re smart enough to avoid the line of sight of the others, then you can complete your mission usually within under a minute.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other ways to entertain yourself should you choose to download Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise. Each level has a different theme complete with its own set of weapons, costumes and environmental dangers. One level set in a garden for example has plenty of rakes, shovels and even murderous plants knocking around the place whilst another party-orientated level has barbeques, jukeboxes and even toilets which can be used to dispose of enemies, so there is plenty of variety available as you dispose of your enemies. Costumes can be obtained from the other bears and used to sneak around the level and these range from the small and subtle to the downright ridiculous. A simple beard can go a long way if you prefer the stealth approach, but if you just want to murder in the stupidest outfit around then you can dress up in a full business suit, dark knight armour or even a string vest.
Killing bears isn’t your only task here on Paradise island. There are plenty of side-missions to complete along the way which grant players with points that aren’t essential but do expand the game. In most cases, this does require killing more bears but every once in a while the game does branch out a little, by having Naughty Bear further his horizons by collecting a specific amount of coins, or destroying party invites hidden around the level. Even the humorous backstories about each target alludes that by giving a bear his comeuppance in a specific way will reward players with more points. These points can be used between levels to customise Naughty Bear with more costumes and weapons, so that you’re well prepared for the next mission. Considering there are forty levels in this downloadable title, it may seem quite a lot of bang for your buck, especially when there are plenty of weapons and costumes to be collected and brought in each stage. However, the harsh reality is that the game’s format becomes very repetitive very fast and it doesn’t take long before you can to act like a true professional and get in and out of the level before any of the other bears know what’s going on. All other side quests fall to the wayside very quickly.
Another unflattering feature of this game is the layout of the controls. Upon entering the first mission, you’re given a very brief mapping of the buttons and there is a lot to take in. There is virtually no tutorial at the start of the game and no hand-holding whatsoever. Prompts do pop up when you get close enough to an enemy or an object but with specific commands designed to steal costumes or scare bears to death, you’ll find yourself constantly switching between the game and the pause menu in order to decipher this mess of controls.
The graphics in Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise aren't anything to boast about either. While not the worst looking downloadable game out there, there have been PlayStation 2 games that have ran smoother than this one. As you sneak around each level, you’ll notice the frame rate collapses at an alarming pace and Naughty Bear looks like he’s walking in slow motion most of the time. The levels begin to look rather samey after the first couple and despite desperate efforts to theme each one, the colour scheme becomes bland and unappealing very fast. Perhaps the only saving grace of the cosmetic features is the often sarcastic narration between levels. Considering that none of the bears, including Naughty, can actually speak a nameless narrator tells the back story on each bear in the style of a child’s storyteller. Some of these interludes can be rather funny but like everything else in this game, it begins to wear thin very fast.
Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise follows in the footsteps of it’s predecessor by being another repetitive, nauseating game. The one saving grace for this title is that for around 1200, it could be seen as a game with plenty of levels and side-missions to keep achievement hunters and the select few in a younger audience entertained for quite a while. However, the truth is the game doesn't quite know its target audience. Those grown up enough to play mature games will do exactly that, whilst those below the age of eighteen will turn their nose up at the thought of playing a game about stuffed animals. The poor controls, slow graphics and the over-simplicity do the game no favours either. You might even go as far as to say that Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise is, for lack of a better word, un-bear-able.
If you go down to the woods today, you'd better go in disguise