One part Care Bears, one part Grand Theft Auto. A dash of Teddy Ruxpin, a dollop of Jason Vorhees. That's the amusing--and sometimes troubling--mix that makes up the upcoming Naughty Bear for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. There's a dark undercurrent of violent revenge to the game's adorable exterior, and depending on your sense of humor, it makes Naughty Bear nothing if not a conversation starter. A few weeks back, we got an updated look at the game and got to see the titular bear's mile-long mean streak.
For the unfamiliar, here's the setup: Naughty Bear lives on an island filled with bears and has been ostracized by his fellow bears. After being rejected after attempting reconciliation at a birthday party, Naughty Bear goes nuts and starts to get even by performing the naughtiest deeds possible on the island. Of course, by "naughty" we don't mean sneaking a peek in the girl's locker room. Naughty Bear's mischief goes from sabotaging a toilet to somewhere north of pushing a bear's face into an electrical socket or scaring a bear so much that he eventually goes insane and commits suicide.
It's amusingly gruesome stuff that is made all the more troubling (or hilarious, depending on your point of view) by the cute and cuddly character designs. Neon-colored citizen bears with chubby little bellies get their heads stuffed in sinks, smashed in with a giant hammer, or set alight on a charcoal grill. These are just a few of Naughty Bear's methods of revenge, and every act of ursine retribution he commits will earn him naughty points. You'll need to earn a set number of these points to move on to the next area of the level, and each bear in the world has a certain number of naughty points that you can extract from him. Once the points are maxed out, you can kill them or ignore them completely.
Of course, dealing with any of your fellow bears is challenging because Naughty Bear relies on zero scripting in its gameplay. Instead, all of the citizens of the bear island have their own personalities and behave independently. Some are brave while others are cowardly. Some are curious while others seem pretty dopey. There are even special types of bears--usually indicated by the outfits they are wearing--such as ninja bears, police bears, and the like. These bears have their own capabilities. For instance, ninja bears are faster and stronger than their counterparts. Plus, if a ninja bear watches you sneak back into the woods (where you can normally hide from opponents), he'll follow you into the woods and try to take you out.
The open-ended nature of Naughty Bear's gameplay promises some interesting moments. Consider the bear trap, which is one of the more insidious (and poetic) weapons in the game. You can use a bear trap on an unsuspecting bear, and once he's been snared, he'll do his best to free himself. If another bear happens to be walking by, he or she might rush over to help free the trapped bear. Or, if he's by himself, you can sneak up behind him and choose to either kill him or scare him, which earns you more naughty points in the process. If you decide to kill him and your act of murder is witnessed by another bear, that bear might go insane with fright; so crazy that he explodes or commits the stuffed animal equivalent of seppuku. Should that suicide be witnessed by a bear, it might drive him or her nuts; thus, setting off a ripple of events that is only controlled by the creativity of the player.
Another layer to the mayhem in Naughty Bear is the unlockable outfits, which you earn throughout the game. Things like hats will affect Naughty Bear's attributes like speed or strength. There are also full outfits you can unlock, such as ninja or police costumes. These also affect your attributes but have the added effect of being disguises. For example, if you attack a bear while wearing a ninja costume, the citizenry will immediately become hostile toward any ninja that shows his or her face on the island, giving you even more opportunity to cause trouble while the citizenry is distracted.
There's no blood in Naughty Bear (your victims bleed stuffing, naturally), but the sight of a stuffed bear aiming a revolver at you is one you won't soon forget. The game's unscripted approach looks to make for a unique approach to solving problems each time you fire up the game. You'll get your chance at wreaking havoc when Naughty Bear is released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 this June.