Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise Review

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Developer(s): Behaviour Interactive
Publisher(s): 505 Games
Platform(s): Xbox Live Arcade, PSN
Release Date: October 10, 2012

In 2010 Naughty Bear was released. The reviews could only be described as terrible, with most sites and magazines completely trashing the game. The game’s sales matched the critical reception, and most Gamestops will have a used copy for just a few dollars lying around. When a sequel was announced, I was a little more than surprised. It didn’t seem likely that a follow up would ever see the light of day. Even more surprising: it’s good.
  • Improves upon the original in almost every way
  • A real challenge           
  • High replayability
  • Repeated animations grow old
  • No useable guns
The first Naughty Bear, while almost universally hated, had a great concept: a teddy bear getting revenge on other teddy bears in extremely violent ways. The game was extremely graphic and gruesome, but, instead of blood, there was fluff. These bears leaked it everywhere. Unfortunately, the concept aside, Naughty Bear wasn’t great. Movement and interaction with the environment was clunky, the enemy AI was lackluster, and after a few levels, everything the game had to offer had been seen. The only thing that kept the game playable was constantly reminding yourself that what is happening on screen is whacky and funny. This only works for so long though.


Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise takes this lack of foundation and turned it into something good. Aside from the visuals and core concept, the two games are vastly different. In this case, that is a good thing, as everything awful about the first game has been turned into something good. As opposed to playing like a lame hack and slash with some stealth thrown in, Panic in Paradise is most reminiscent of Hitman: Teddy Bear Edition. This mixture, aside from sounding like a ridiculous mod, works quite well. One of the best additions to the game is lifted straight out of Hitman: costumes. If Naughty Bear carries a bear into some bushes, he is given the option to kill the bear and take their costume. In some disguises, Naughty Bear isn’t seen as a threat, until of course a bear sees what they thought was a friend kill another bear.

The AI in Panic in Paradise is surprisingly smart. “Surprisingly” is used because in the original Naughty Bear, the AI was rather lame. The way the costumes are received is a good example of this. The best example of this, however, stems from the other bears’ hatred of Naughty. The other bears will kill Naughty on sight, running straight up to him and engaging him. If the bear isn’t holding a weapon, the bear will first run around until they find a weapon before attacking. This little touch is indicative of the growth of the series. Unarmed bears won’t get scared and run away. Now, the bears are aware of their surroundings and will put it to good use. The weapons placed around the map can both be beneficial to the player, or lead to their death. Forcing players to be aware of their surroundings at all times is one of the ways the game makes itself a challenge. Another way is by rewarding creativity.


Each level puts Naughty Bear with a goal of killing another bear. There is the option to walk right up to the target and stab them, however the game gives the player a goal of achieving an ironic death based on a mini-bio given for each bear. One level had a main target of a gas tycoon bear, and the ultimate goal was to kill him with his own gas pump, which is done by shoving the pump down his throat, pumping him full of gas, and lighting a match. This gruesome kill is one of the challenges the game gives the player. If the player chooses to not kill creatively, they can breeze through the game with less of a challenge. To get the most out of this game, though, meeting each of these goals is the way to go, as the resulting kill animation is usually much more interesting than a simple beat down.


The kill animations are one of the places the game suffers. Lots of time and effort was put into the animations based on the environment and the special kills for the main target. The rest of the kills, however, are repeated over and over and over again. Each weapon has a few different executions that are useable once the enemy is weak enough. These execution options are randomly used and will be repeated. This in itself isn’t a huge issue, as there are only so many options they could put in the game. Where this becomes an issue, is seeing the same executions used for many different weapons. Fewer overall executions would be preferable if it meant every weapon had individualistic kill options. Instead, anything knife sized and shaped will feature the execution of throwing it into the enemy’s face. When players are rewarded with finding hidden weapons like a unicorn’s horn, they should also be rewarded with new executions based on that weapon.

Another place the game suffers is weapon variety. There are only melee weapons available. Range kills are non-existent. In Naughty Bear’s first adventure, there were pistols, shotguns, and machine guns available to him. These were taken out, and the reason isn’t clear. Actually, the guns weren’t taken out, they are just unusable. Instead, there are guns laying around the various maps and held by various bears. The only interaction to be had with these guns is destroying them. Players are constantly teased by finding a gun, only to find that stomping on the new item is their only option.


Ultimately, these two complaints do not bog the game down, as it manages to stay fresh and fun from level to level. The challenges given to the player make the game more difficult, and also increase replayability. The clever level design and prompts make the game more enjoyable. The plot of the game is all of the bears went on vacation and didn’t invite Naughty Bear, so Naughty tags along and kills everyone. Some of the levels involve gas tycoons and nuclear physicists. Who goes on vacation to do business with gas, or to work with experimental science equipment? This game is entirely unrealistic.

Final Score “A Vast Improvement Over the First” 8.5
Graphics
Large improvement over the first game, which featured clipping, and horrible interactivity. Panic in Paradise doesn’t compete with AAA games in terms of impressive visuals, but it definitely gets the job done. Going for exact realism in a game full of teddy bears isn’t necessary, and the art style of Panic serves it well.
8.0
Gameplay
Hitman with teddy bears. It works better than one would expect, and lends itself to hours of fun. Unlike the first game, the ridiculousness on screen isn’t the main selling point, as going through the levels is actually an enjoyable experience this time around.
8.5
Value
For fifteen dollars, there is plenty of game to be had. The challenges of the levels make for interesting goals to shoot for, and allow for high replayability. In terms of content, there are thirty missions spread out over eleven different levels. Each mission will take around half an hour to play through properly, so there is a good amount of bang for your buck.
9.0
Sound
The musical score for each level is ironically happy for the violence about to take place, but with a hint of terror below the surface, much like a horror movie about a demented child. There are minor musical cues in the game that correlate to enemies spotting you and their level of interest. Throw in some cute screams from teddy bears being disemboweled, and you have a solid backing to the game.
8.0

Review by Chris Lohr
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Chris Lohr is a freelance writer currently in film school. If you’re looking for him to write for your website, manifesto, or Russian bride catalogue, send an email to puddinginasock@gmail.com. Put today’s date as the subject line and include a picture of yourself. Must be DDD free and willing to host. All Articles by Chris.



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