If you weren't expecting the psychotic teddy bear Naughty to make a return after 2010's disappointing Naughty Bear, you're not alone. If anything, his comeback in Panic in Paradise comes as a greater surprise to his legion of fluffy companions, who made the woeful mistake of booking a trip to Paradise Island without inviting Naughty--for what may be obvious reasons. The story never gets any more complex than that, and with that simple premise out of the way, it's not long before Naughty is up to his old tricks, such as ramming the nozzle from a gasoline pump down the throat of one of his cuddly friends and then flicking a burning match on him. Panic in Paradise makes strides toward being more appealing than its forebear, but it ultimately offers more of the same.
Each level still involves stalking ursine bystanders and subjecting them to cruelly detailed punishments with weapons and environmental perils like bamboo sticks. Panic in Paradise aims to enhance the experience with an emphasis on costumes, similar to the Hitman series. Not only do you have the option to sneak up on unsuspecting bears and bash their stuffing out as before, but you can also drag them into nearby woods and steal their duds. It's a smart move that adds some much-needed variety, both in the way specific costumes let you get close to targets without being noticed and the way you can unlock them for further use after completing a level.
Buying costumes piece by piece with the gold you've accumulated from your sprees now determines how quickly you level up. Each costume piece for the slots available for Naughty's head, face, torso, arms, and feet levels separately, and thus you need to switch out maxed items if you want to continue leveling up. The costumes are worthwhile investments in themselves since some grant massive boosts to Naughty's stats, allowing him to withstand a few more hits when his target is surrounded by bears. Naughty's vastly improved arsenal benefits from this system as well, although it's disappointing that many of the weapons use the same animations despite their differing textures. All this takes place in a much larger world than we saw before, complete with a vastly improved camera and 36 new bears to torture spread across 11 separate levels that should last well over 15 hours for completionists.
But even with the additions, this gameplay gets painfully old after a couple of hours. Behavior Interactive put forth some clear effort to avoid this criticism by including varied settings, such as power plants and laboratories, along with requirements to kill bears while wielding specific weapons or wearing specific costumes, but inevitably every level falls into the same tired pattern of sneaking through bushes, trashing the scenery, stealing costumes, and braining the few bears who refuse to approach your hiding place.
At times the objectives aren't even clear, so you wander around wondering if you've picked up the right weapon or if you're staring at the object you're supposed to kill your main victim with. The action is made worse by the clunky melee combat that's a little too awkward without a target lock, and the mediocre graphics never achieve any greater significance than providing a sense of place for the action. All of these ingredients combine to make Panic in Paradise a game that's best played in short bursts rather than extended sessions.
Even then, Panic in Paradise suffers from an annoying tendency to crash at the most inopportune moments, such as when you've spent 30 minutes completing all the secondary objectives and nabbing every costume in one of the larger levels. After the crash, you have no choice but to start all over, which can be a pain since getting the most out of every level entails tackling at least three secondary objectives and bashing all the scenery for extra gold. If that's not bad enough, the bears themselves tend to die too soon, particularly if you accidentally spook them into committing suicide by running into the ubiquitous cacti when the level requires you to shove them into an interdimensional portal instead. Worst of all, Naughty sometimes gets stuck in his attack animations, and you're powerless until his deathblow decides to come down several minutes later.
Despite these stumbles, Panic in Paradise is still a better game than 2010's Naughty Bear in terms of content, but ultimately the same awareness of a hundred missed opportunities settles in. As before, the charm of the unhinged British narrator and the sight of cutesy bears getting impaled on bamboo wears off before long, and the new nods to variety can't mask the feeling that you're doing the same thing over and over for more than 30 levels. Still, restricting this meatier entry to a downloadable game at a fraction of the original's cost allows you to stretch your dollars, and the ability to revisit each level for higher scores and better costumes allows for substantial replayability--presuming you want to replay it in the first place. A word of warning to parents, though: Naughty is even more violent this time around, and while there's technically no blood or swearing, some of the sights are far more gruesome than its kid-friendly rating would have you believe.