Naughty Bear Is Bringing The Pain

I once wanted to work at a Build-A-Bear store in the mall so that I could be surrounded by fluffy teddy bears all day. Instead, I work in video games journalism, where fluffy teddy bears are murderous beasts.

Actually, Naughty Bear isn't 100% murderous. He's more like 110% mischievous with a reckless disregard for teddy bear life tacked on. His story starts on an island filled with other teddy bears who don't feel like inviting Naughty Bear to a birthday party because, well, he's naughty. He decides to get even by, what else, murdering all the bears who snubbed him.

My brief hands-off look at Naughty Bear took place at the beginning of this entire storyline where Naughty Bear gets snubbed by the other bears and thus begins his vengeful naughty spree. This is an action/arcade game, so the camera remains fixed to Naughty Bear in the third person — giving you plenty of time to stare at his shabby, patchy appearance and feel sorry for him (until he kills someone, anyway). A British narrator speaks directly to Naught Bear, asking if he thinks the other bears will even let him go because he's so naughty. Sure enough, the other bears stop Naughty Bear before he can go to the party and ridicule him with bear laughs and miming (because the bears in this game don't talk), until Naughty Bear slinks home in shame.

Back at home, he decides to get even. There are apparently several ways to do this. The first is what I call a Grand Theft Auto approach where you can grab a bat, get in a vehicle or find some explosives and then go mess up another bear. The second is a more subtle tactic that apparently ears Naught Bear more points: the scare method. Naughty Bear can set traps for other bears using, say, candy or something and then sneak up behind them and frighten them.

The cool thing I noticed about that second tactic was something like a picture-in-picture spy cam. When Naughty Bear sets a trap and goes into hiding, you can monitor the space around the trap with said spy cam while still keeping the majority of the rest of the screen open to look for other bears to mess with.

Other methods might get more elaborate as the game goes on, I was told by publisher 505 Games. But for this first level, all I saw was Naughty Bear beating another bear to death with a bat and jumping out from behind some bushes to scare a second bear. Then two police bears in a boat showed up and Naughty Bear had to leg it or get bear arrested.

The objective of the game is to scare (or kill) as many other bears as possible to earn points which unlocks new weapons, outfits and opens up more of the bear's island for Naughty Bear to terrorize. I think the final challenge will be ruining the other bears' birthday party — maybe by planting explosives in the cake.

All in all, I can understand where Naughty Bear is coming from even if it makes me kind of uncomfortable to watch the stuffing fly in a murderous bear rage. It's pairing cuteness with over-the-top violence to provide an absurd kind of humor while at the same time trying challenge players to be creative with their misbehavior. I think the biggest challenge for the game will be nailing the happy medium of cuteness so that the violence comes off as funny instead of just plain violent. You'll notice, for example, that the teddy bears all kind of look like college fraternity brothers dressed in bear suits. That can work for the funny factor — just check out Easter Bunny Hates You for proof — but it can also make the bear beat-downs a little too real to laugh at.

Naughty Bear is being developed by Artificial Mind & Movement. Look for it sometime in 2010.