Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence
Anyone who’s familiar with or has had the unfortunate experience of playing the original Naughty Bear is probably a little surprised to see it getting a sequel. It was a mess; a piece of “entertainment” that was more of an endurance test than a video game. Before I got my hands on the first game, I was excited to play it. As a fan of parodies and slasher flicks, and particularly of when the two genres collide (the Scream films, for example), the idea of the unstoppable psychopath being replaced by a murderous teddy bear—and his prey, which usually consists of attractive teens, being replaced by more teddy bears—sounds like a pretty solid foundation for a fun game. Unfortunately for me and the other poor souls who fell into its quirky trap, we soon found out it was a clunky, unfunny, contrived little mess of a game.
Since it’s gotten a sequel, its developer has shown they still have hope in this series. They also have the rare opportunity to improve on the unsteady foundation of its predecessor, right?
Apparently not. I’m always willing to give a series a second chance, no matter how awful its introductory installment was, but Panic in Paradise is more of the same. The only real difference between the two games is the setting, since this time the bears have moved to a tropical island resort. Maybe the designers thought it’d be funnier to see cuddly bears get tortured and slain against a more colorful backdrop?
For a game like this, where the player is supposed to find new and interesting ways to kill the other bears—mostly using the environment (including phone booths, cactuses, and lawnmowers)—a new setting should provide a plethora of new ways to get the job done.
Sadly, with a bunch of the environmental kills copy/pasted over from the original, this isn’t the case. When the environment isn’t inspirational, you can always resort to the various weapons that have been scattered around the maps to beat and/or execute the other bears. Because I’m a little on the sadistic side, I prefer to mess with my victims. Thankfully, Panic in Paradise has people like me in mind. If you prefer to be more public with your actions, doing so can incite mass hysteria among the other bears, eventually leading them to turn on each other or commit suicide.
While I’m playing this game, I can’t help but feel that no one knew who the target audience is. I’m not even convinced there is an audience for this, but assuming there is, the more strategic gamers who are experienced with stealth games are going to hate Panic in Paradise’s simplicity. No need to worry about getting caught, because all you have to do if that happens is run into a bush. It doesn’t matter if the bear that spotted you saw your poor attempt at hiding, because they can’t do anything about it anyway.
If the hardcore players aren’t the target demographic, that leaves the casual audience. I can see people who don’t play stealth games, or even video games in general, getting a small kick out of this. It’s not funny, even though it desperately tries to be, it’s simple enough to be accessible, and the XP you’re rewarded with for each kill could be enough to keep someone interested enough to see the whole thing through.
One of the major changes between this and the first game is that Naughty Bear now has a wardrobe. He can disguise himself by stealing the clothes off of other bears, and the newly introduced experience system means Naughty Bear’s equipment can level up too. The longer you use a certain weapon or piece of armor, the more experience it accumulates, which in turn boosts his stats, making him an even more efficient killing machine.
It’s a nice touch. The only problem I have with the weapons is they’re essentially the same weapon, only with some visual tweaks. Every weapon brings with it the same animations as the last one, and there aren’t any unique weapon executions. This renders the game’s impressive arsenal of weapons utterly useless, and that’s unfortunate, because the equipment is really the only thing this game has going for it.
The environments are now significantly bigger than they were before, and they’re more heavily populated too. You would think this could lead to more options for instilling fear into the other bears, but it actually only translates to more fluff, which means it takes longer to beat the game. Since there are over thirty levels filled with much of the same situations as what the first game offered, the repetition can quickly become unbearable. It doesn’t help that the A.I. is barebones, requiring little to no skill to outsmart.
For anyone who’s still seriously considering throwing down the $15 for this, you should be aware that there are several technical problems that tend to rear their ugly head after you’ve spent a considerable amount of time setting up a particularly gruesome kill. I had the game freeze on me three times, two of which happened within twenty minutes of each other. This could be fixed with a patch, but as of right now, it’s still a problem.
Panic in Paradise could’ve benefitted from some sort of multiplayer. I would’ve loved to have been able to team up with a friend to get through the levels twice as fast, or set up my more brutal traps just a little bit quicker. Heck, even a decent leaderboard would’ve been a nice touch, so I could rub my accomplishments in my friends’ faces. Of course, not a single person on my friends list actually owns the game, but still, it would’ve been a welcome addition.
In a sea of sequels, this one caught me off guard. It sounded unnecessary when I first heard of it months ago, and after spending far too many hours plodding through its poorly designed levels, my first impressions were correct. This really shouldn’t exist, because instead of fixing the many serious issues in the first game, it instead tried to hide those problems with more content. Not a great move.
Taking a cue from the myriad masked killers horror films have invented over the last handful of decades, Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise proves that even horrible reviews and a total lack of creativity aren’t enough to stop this gimp-legged franchise. If I had to pick something I really enjoyed about the game, I’d have to go with the loading screens. I miss the time when games tried to keep the player busy, even in little ways, while they wait for the game to load. So yeah, there’s that.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.5 Graphics
This isn’t a pretty game, and the environments in particular look horribly uninspired. 3.0 Control
It offers a variety of ways to eliminate your opponents—it’s just unfortunate the controls are often clunky. 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Nothing about this game sounds particularly good. This is one of those games that’s best experienced on a muted TV. 3.5 Play Value
There’s plenty of costumes, and for a digital release, this comes with an impressive amount of content. 2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|