Naughty Bear: Panic In Paradise Review
Naughty Bear isn’t very naughty. He won’t poo on your carpet. He won’t put boxers in the sock drawer. He won’t even unwrap the cheese in your fridge.
But he’s a stealthy little git who murders people, sort of like an ursine Hitman. And that’s naughty, see!
Except he’s not really stealth or murderous either, thanks to the fuzzy (Like a bear! HA!) mechanics here. He sort of waddles about, accidentally stumbling into sight, button-bashing his way out of trouble.
Slightly Mediocre Bear Who Waddles About And Doesn’t Really Do Much: Panic In Paradise isn’t the kind of title marketing departments are paid to come up with but alas, it’s more accurate.
The goal is to murder your ‘hit’, the target bear, by using bushes, disguises and the environment to stealth your way safely through the level. We say level, it’s more an arena – a small area that’s fairly circular in design.
But with the need to steal disguises and pick off guards in your way, level size isn’t an issue.
If anything, having them larger would be slightly tiresome, as the gameplay is clearly designed for short, snappy bursts of stealth-‘em-up kills.
Adding extra spice is a large number of possible environmental kills, where you can drag a bear over to a BBQ to set his face on fire, or impale him on a cactus, or stuff a phone down his throat, and so on.
It sounds like OTT comic book violence but, bar a few kills, they’re mostly underwhelming. Despite that, it’s amusing uncovering them all, and it does keep your mind from drifting.
There are further objectives on each level where you might have to scare bears into committing suicide or destroy party invitations and so on.
There’s also a hidden secret in each level, which can only be found by grabbing a golden key and legging it to the right area within 20 seconds. It’s tougher than it sounds.
You can also unlock different items to wear, from leather pants to police hats. They have their own attributes but you’ll find more joy in wearing a 70’s police tache with a chrome thong than you will +50 health.
This all feeds into Naughty Bear: Panic In Paradise’s biggest strength – it is stuffed (Like a bear! HA!) with content. The main game clocks in over 10 hours.
Add in the extra objectives and the unlockable items and there are a few more hours to consider. It easily outweighs its predecessor and that was a full price retail game.
If you played the original, this scene will likely look very familiar.
The problem is Naughty Bear is neither one nor the other. It doesn’t have the smart level design that encourages patience, nor does it have satisfying combat mechanics when you break cover.
You’re supposed to stay hidden – secondary level objectives ask it, the scaled difficulty later demands it – but it never feels like levels have been designed with this in mind.
It’s almost as though everything’s been plonked together and you’re asked to pick through the mess, if it’s even possible.
The best stealth games are those where experience and experimentation slowly reveals the best path to pick through a level. There’s never that sense here and often successful stealth feels like lucky opportunity rather than the result of smart planning.
It doesn’t help that stealth is simplified to running for the safety of nearby bushes when you’re spotted, which resets the situation.
It might negate potential frustration when you’re gingerly trying to creep past the vision cones of nearby guards but it also robs the stealthy of any drama or urgency.
It’s a real shame because Panic In Paradise is a far more interesting, thought out effort than the original Naughty Bear was. But the dark humour isn’t funny enough, the stealth isn’t slick enough and the combat isn’t strong enough.
Version Tested: Xbox Live Arcade