In 2010, 505 Games released Naughty Bear for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 to generally poor reviews. While the concept was entertaining and the presentation was memorable, the game itself was plagued with an unforgivable camera and rampant, confusing gameplay mechanics that didn’t suit the style. After such harsh criticism, one would think that the franchise would die off and the studio would pursue a new concept. Much to the public’s surprise, however, a sequel entitled Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise was released as a download only title to PSN and Xbox Live Arcade in October of 2012.
Panic in Paradise returns you to the world of Naughty Bear in a new location called Paradise Island where, once again, the other bears have shunned Naughty away from their good times of vacationing, partying and alternately nafarious plots to take over the world. But although the familiar story returns, the gameplay has been completely redesigned. Whereas the first installation had you racing against an ever tumbling score multiplier, PiP chooses a more methodical approach. Taking clear inspiration from games like Hitman and Manhunt, PiP‘s goals are based heavily around sneaking, trapping and disguising yourself by stealing other bears’ costumes. This new play style really amps up the tension of every kill and immerses you into the mind of a serial killer. Using found or stolen weapons, the creative environment or just your bare hands to murder your fluffy victims is always satisfying and the fact that there are multiple animations for every weapon type staves off boredom even longer. But for when those get old, you can always horrify the surrounding bears to a point of insanity so that they commit suicide.
Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise (PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade [reviewed])
Developer: Behavior Interactive
Publisher: 505 Games
Release: October 9, 2012
MSRP: $14.99, 1200 Microsoft Points
But mindless killing only goes so far and to keep replayability on high, the game impliments a series of challenges set to each area. The basic goal is to take out a targeted bear, but in a predetermined manner varying from kills with a specific weapon, to killing whilst disguised as another bear, to any amalgamation of similar tasks each getting more difficult as the levels progress. An additional layer of goals are set at random each time you enter a level as well. These are much simpler tasks, but may distract you from your primary goal. Completing these odd jobs without dying while searching, destroying and violently slaughtering everything around you will merit points. The more creative ways you gore and terrify, the more points you will earn. The points equate to what trophy you’ll receive at the end of the level and what experience will be given to each part of your costume.
In addition to new gameplay mechanics, the leveling system has beefed itself up so that every article of clothing you unlock and purchase can gain experience and the only way to level Naughty is to max out an article of clothing. This promotes swapping various types of the hundreds of unlockable outfits throughout the game, each having is own stats. Depending on what you have equipped, you’ll notice changes to your Max Health, Stamina, Defense, Attack, Insanity and Health Regeneration. Some will even preset you to be disguised as other characters to fool everyone on the map from the very start. With all the possible outfits and all the possible stats, it makes for an refreshing challenge with each new level, even if you are replaying levels you’ve already beaten. Every outfit and weapon must be found, stolen and used to unlock it and so you are constantly looking around for new stuff while on your quest for carnage; and some things can only be found in the new secret areas.
For those still frothing at the mouth for more exploration, each area contains a hidden Aztec key. These keys open Aztec temples that contain fancy prizes you won’t find anywhere else ranging from unique weapons, super-powered enemies with rare costumes or other bizzare alternatives that the team clearly put in as a joke. When the key is discovered a clock appears on-screen and it is your duty to race your way to the temple entrance to unlock it or else the key will disappear until the level is reloaded. These temples are completely optional, even to a point that there are no achievements or trophies tied to them, but you must discover them to unlock everything the game has to offer.
Even with a drop in rating (from Teen to E10+) the violence doesn’t cease in the slightest. Although every character is a teddy bear filled with fluff, arms are being snapped, faces are being pushed into hot grills and jaws are being curbstomped to such an extent you may feel a bit uncomfortable. As you’re playing, you’ll find yourself creeping through the woods planning out what to do to each bear: Looking for environmental kills, items to sabotage so that your helpless victims can’t escape or call for help or searching for other groups of bears so you can murder their friends in front of them for additional points. It makes you feel like a serial killer. Your cynicism takes over and you never feel like the game is forcing you to do what you’re doing. Furthermore, the story of what the so-called “good” bears are doing and how they treat you still makes it feel like you are the hero even though you’re being relentlessly savage.
With satisfying mechanics, deep customization options, hundreds of unlockables and horrifyingly graphic murder sequences, there is no reason to not recommend Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise. It does everything it sets out to do and pulls you in further to make the most out of what it has to offer. At 1200 Microsoft points or $15.00 on PSN, it may seen a little pricey, but with what you get, it’s an easy must buy. A demo is available for download, although the constant tutorials (which are not as overwhelming in the full game,) may turn you off, at very least it is worth a try.
[Written by contributor Alex Cabral. For more Naughty Bear talk and other shenanigans, listen to his show: Random Assault]