Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise Hands-On: Behaviour’s “Fluff Film” Gets Some Big Improvements…

One of 2010’s great guilty pleasures for me was 505 Games’ Naughty Bear, cooked up by the slightly twisted (like a pretzel dipped in slightly tainted chocolate sort of twisted) minds at Behaviour Interactive (formerly Artificial Mind and Movement). The lead character, a rather pissed off teddy bear out for revenge for all sorts of minor to moderate social snubs, made for quite an efficient killing machine and despite a few flaws, the game was uniquely amusing and challenging, albeit a bit on the short said for some players who may have been a wee bit too good at the serial killer thing. Hey, I’m just sayin’… everyone needs a hobby, so I judge no one. Just don’t tell me what’s in that duffel bag you always carry around, Mmmm-kay?

Anyway, that first installment seems to have done well enough with gamers who grooved on its combo of cute and psychotic elements (plus some memorable bloodless yet violent stealth kills) that a sequel was a no-brainer and yes, it’s merrily on the way (and like a good serial killer, sooner than you’d think). You’re getting an all-new Naughty Bear starring in a bigger, better and badder game as a PSN and Xbox Live download this October, so break out the digital duct tape and garbage bags – you’ve got some killing to do.

 

I got to see and play a bit of Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise last week and let’s just say that fans of the original be bouncing up and down like over-caffeinated kids on a car trip. In making this sequel, the team at Behaviour listened to feedback about the original, dropping stuff that didn’t work, enhancing and adding a truckload of stuff that in the end, makes the first game look supremely tiny in comparison. Maps are now much larger featuring more interactive elements, more places to hide and of course, even more creative kills. As in the original, this isn’t a simple hack ‘n slasher movie experience or straight up action game at all. In fact, if you know your game history, PiP’s gameplay more resembles slow burners in the Tenchu, Hitman, Splinter Cell and similar series. Well, except for the fact that you’re playing as an angry plushie with a penchant for lopping off heads and wearing the faces of his fluff-filled foes.

Missions are better structured around the bigger maps, with multiple and optional objectives that can extend the time spent in a level if one wants every single reward. Since you’re going in cold on each map, I’d recommend exploring as much as possible before starting your killing spree, as knowing enemy locations and patterns comes in handy when one needs to make good that escape. The hilarious thing about the AI in the game is yes, it’s still deadly accurate when you’re in the open, but dumb as a rock and susceptible to all sorts of cheap scare tactics once you’re hiding. This makes perfect sense when you realize all the enemies in the game have no brains to speak off – they’re just packed with 100% polyfill and have the attention span of a napping cat. Exploiting that intentional stupidity while trying to stay alive and complete objectives makes the game quite enjoyable, especially when you get on a roll and the much-needed coins are rolling in from mayhem you’ve caused.

In addition to all sorts of creative ways to dispatch your fellow furry fake ursine, each stage has a gold key that unlocks a hidden “temple” that coughs up special rewards. The trick here is you may find that key early on, but once you grab it, a timer starts ticking away and you only have a limited time to find the door to use that key on. Given that the maps are packed to the gills with armed and armored bears galore, it’s probably best to whittle down the population significantly, go back, grab the key and then do that temple run. In the two areas I got to play (one mid-game, one later in the game), old Naughty was up to no good, crashing a superhero convention’s beach party to take down a boss with a specific weapon type. The other map was even tougher as it required using the face from a boss from an earlier level as a disguise, taking out his brother bear in a certain location, stealing his look and then making it around the map killing off other bears while trying to stay undetected.

For an E10+ game, what’s here is pretty wild, yet hysterically funny stuff. No blood at all means beheading, shoving a bear’s face into a charcoal grill or taunting enemies enough that they blow their non-brains out are all acceptable forms of violence. Of course, I can’t see some parent of the clueless variety looking at a screenshot or movie of this game and saying “Oh, this is fine for my six year old – it’s got cute teddy bears like that toilet paper commercial!” or something before making that purchase and falling over from an angina attack when they see that first stealth kill. Then again, if your six year old is pulling off successful stealth kills in a game like this, I’d hide the family pet and any potential weapons in the house… But I digress.

Meanwhile, back at the improvement ranch: In terms of gear, there’s a new RPG-like aspect to the game that, coupled with the dozens of pieces of head to toe equipment and a healthy weapons selection, gives PiP a ton of replay value. The great thing about suiting up is every piece of equipment affects your stats in one way or another. You can go into a level with a pompadour wig, kimono, boxer briefs and biker boots or try to coordinate an ensemble that’s perfect-looking but may reduce some vital stats you may need to survive.What’s nice is you see what effects gear has on your stat totals as you scroll through what you’ve acquired, meaning zero guesswork on your part as to what’s best. Of course, if you want to make the game harder than it already is, you can go into a mission with the worst gear and play as cautiously as can be. I can practically see YouTube filling up with “bare bear” kills (and I hope to hell that’s an Achievement or Trophy).

As for weapons, you’ll be grinning like… well, a pissed off teddy bear with a grudge when you see all the murderous toys at your disposal. As the Bear hates guns (save to use the one enemies have on them before smashing them), expect a healthy array of bladed and blunt “tool” to utilize against the opposition. I’m gathering the power tools in the game are all battery operated, as it would be hell to have to keep buying extension cords. Although, not to Behavior: that WOULD make a great addition to some DLC or a sequel, as I can see Naughty strangling some poor sap with that extension cord he needed for a particular weapon. Pop culture references galore pepper this follow up to the point of amusing overkill if you’re in the know (Dexter, Star Wars, Halo.. the list goes on and on), but even if you’re clueless you’ll get the feeling that the game is nodding and winking every chance it gets.

As with any digital release, my only worry is that some gamers who want to play this will avoid a purchase. It would have been perfect had 505 decided to put the first game and PiP onto a disc (similar to what D3Publisher did with White Knight Chronicles II last year), but hey – I don’t make business decisions, folks. Nevertheless, as you’re getting a game that eclipses the original in nearly every area, picking up Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise and plunking down in front of your TV to kill a few hours (and a LOT of bears) will be both time and money well spent, I say. Now, if only there were a portable version… Hey Behaviour – got a Vita dev kit lying around collecting dust?  I say get to work on a traveling Bear and you’ll get even more on my disposable income…

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