I felt physically sick after walking away from my first session with Naughty Bear. That wasn't, as you might expect, down to the harsh nature of the in-game bear-on-bear violence, which depicts a psychotic stuffed toy breaking necks and stabbing friendly teddies through their chests. No, it was due to the utterly nauseating camera and frame rate. Naughty can make other bears in his virtual world kill themselves, and he managed to make me want to do the same.
Naughty is shunned by the other inhabitants of Perfection Island, which makes him rather sad, but it's hardly surprising he has no friends given his murderous tendencies. Who'd want to hang out with someone who makes Jack Nicholson in The Shining look like a Care Bear? Still, all you really need to know is that Naughty is more than a bit wrong in the head and will do all he can to make sure none of his ursine peers have any fun; coincidentally, neither did I.
Split into seven levels, each with five minor gameplay variations, the goal is to score as many points as possible by scaring the other bears, sabotaging equipment, destroying decorations, getting rid of presents and generally being an all-round git. Do this well enough, completing the objective set for each stage, and you'll unlock new levels and outfits – the latter altering Naughty's strength, speed and so forth. The problem, and a pretty monumental one at that, is that the game simply doesn't offer a functional control scheme or camera system that can sit still for more than a few seconds.
Some control issues would be forgiveable, but the game is just an onslaught of terrible design decisions and vomit-inducing camera work. There's no lock-on function, meaning your melee attacks can, and often will, result in you flailing around like a drunk playing pin the tail on the donkey. You might think the projectile weapons would alleviate the problem, but the aiming here is terrible. The single-button kills are easier to perform, but there's no skill to them at all.
While developer A2M clearly wanted to make Naughty Bear funny, with the violence being comical, it often doesn't come across like that at all. At times it's downright uncomfortable to watch, as Naughty stamps on someone's neck or rams a blade through their chest. This sadism is delivered too clinically, and really needed to be more over the top to emphasise the comedy angle. A children's TV show-style voice over is intended to lighten the mood, but the painful one-liners soon start to grate and you'll long for Naughty to turn his attention to the man who supplied them.
Enemy AI is atrocious, with none of your foes really showing much sense or desire to survive, save for trying to escape or barricade themselves inside a building. It's all too easy to lure them into bear traps, or repeatedly scare them from a hiding place in foliage. The idea is that Naughty can use long grass as a way of creeping around a level, but since he's totally invisible to most enemy bears while he's doing this, the whole mechanic is ripe for exploitation. You can lure a foe to the edge of the grass, magically "disappear" before their eyes, and then scare them over and over again for easy points. Scare a bear enough and he'll commit suicide in one of a variety of sickening ways, so this cheap tactic can also be used to thin out the opposition.
By far the worst offender in all this is the camera, swaying around all over the place, juddering past (or through) buildings, and suddenly jolting into position. It's one of the worst camera systems I've ever had the displeasure to use and its erratic movement made me feel ill after a few minutes - something no other game has managed. It's truly terrible and, combined with a frame rate that frequently shudders and stalls, makes an already poor game even more intolerable.
Truly awful games, especially full-price retail releases, are thin on the ground these days. Sure, games can sometimes be far too generic or suffer from some iffy design decisions, but they're rarely as poor as Naughty Bear. How the game got released in this state is a mystery. No matter how interesting the central idea may sound, do not support such a shoddily put together title.
VideoGamer.com Score3 Score out of 10
- The premise is decent
- Almost unplayable at times
- Terrible camera
- Awful visuals