Not many people realise, but it's actually hard work reviewing games.
There's the hours spent huddling over a warm console, your silhouette burned into the wallpaper from the glow of the 50" TV. There's the damage to wrist and finger ligaments from protracted online battles, as well as a mild case of insanity brought on by listening to XBL voice chat. Not to mention the endless groupies.
But once in a while, a game comes along that reminds you why you got involved in the industry in the first place. A revolutionary title that combines enthusiasm, technical mastery, dedication to perfection and sheer brilliance to produce a world-class game worthy of entering the steeped annals of video game history. The Adonis of gaming. The Rolls Royce of interactive entertainment. Sex in a box.
Naughty Bear is nothing like that at all.
Despite managing to come up with a genuinely interesting and otherwise pretty good concept, developers Artificial Mind and Movement have failed to capitalise on any qualities that would have imbued Naughty Bear with even the suggestion of a cult following.
You play as the aforementioned Naughty Bear, who has been tasked with destroying as much of the environment as possible whilst tracking down and slaughtering other bears. It seems that a small measure of mockery from Naughty's fellow bears has finally tipped him over the edge. As it's not explained why this particular bear is so unhinged, and there's no evidence of Naughty being employed to deliver papers, it seems we'll never quite know why he's taken it upon himself to murder with such minor provocation, which is really the first indication that the game is on a downward slope.
Scattered around the worryingly uniform levels are various weapons, ranging from sticks, to baseball bats, machetes, bear traps, sticky bombs and more, each designed to assist Naughty in his evil machinations. The game plays out like an arena combat title, with points awarded for destroying objects and killing bears. There are various objectives that need to be met to avoid the crushing 70% score penalty and immediate failure - some of the bears will attempt to escape, for example, and it's up to you to kill them before they do.
You can utilise the weapons, or taunt the other bears into becoming so scared that they kill themselves. I'm not making this up. There are also environmental objects that you can destroy to assist your killing spree - such as smashing the telephone so that none of the soon-to-be-dead bears can call for assistance. Even if they do manage to summon help, it takes the form of a police officer bear with a gun, which is only slightly more effective at killing than any of the other weapons. That is, until it runs out of ammo and you throw it away.
The levels themselves are small, fairly cramped, lacking in diversity and difficult to navigate. Every game is played in what is essentially the same map. Even when you unlock a new level by walking over a bridge, it looks exactly the same as the previous one, therefore removing any shred of desire you may have had to continue.
Combat is, well, disastrous. The camera sensitivity is so high that the game should come with some kind of warning for those easily affected by motion sickness. You can't lock on to bears, so combat generally consists of swinging, eventually hitting a bear, then chasing after it to finish it off, provided you can tell which way you're facing. Sure, you can sneak up and attempt to take them out with your signature move - if successful you'll even score more points - but who can be bothered doing that for the fiftieth time?
Each weapon has a preset animation for finishing off a bear. Just the one animation, that is. Which you will see again, and again, and again. Yes, pounding a teddy bears head flat with a baseball bat is a guilty pleasure you're probably going to have to recite to a professional at some stage in the future, but as the only way to progress and unlock items in the game is to kill a lot of bears, it becomes mind-bendingly boring after a very short period of time. Fortunately however, thanks to serious clipping problems, if you're anywhere near another object chances are it'll obscure the animation anyway.
The multiplayer adds a bit of cornflour to the title, but as online success is as much a matter of patience over prowess, it's scarcely worth bothering with. Besides which, anyone capable of putting up with (or indeed enjoying) endless hours spent knifing teddy bears is likely to already be under surveillance by someone, so it'd be best not to associate with them.
The narration (which swings between chirpy and sinister with annoying regularity) becomes grating after roughly ten minutes. Not only is "defluffication" not a word, it's even less of a word than virtually every other made-up word in the history of words. Hearing it again and again doesn't make it less so. After desperately looking for a hidden bonus token that would allow Naughty to practise his art on the narrator, I had to settle for using the mute button instead.
I can see what Artificial Mind and Movement were going for with this title. They wanted an edgy game with a simple learning curve and tons of appeal. Unfortunately the general design has come up short - it's almost as if they got halfway through developing it, realised it was a mess, and released it anyway. It's unacceptable these days to see the framerate just about crawl to a halt in every cut-scene shown between levels, and it's certainly unacceptable to charge full retail for what would barely pass muster as an XBL or PSN release.
Nor is there any real way of resolving the numerous design flaws. Even if you introduced varied animations, fixed the camera, added some kind of target lock and fired the narrator into the sun, you'd still have an insanely repetitive game that at best entertains for around half an hour.