Developer: Behaviour Interactive
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform: Xbox 360 / Xbox LIVE Arcade
Review Copy Provided By: 505 Games
Release Date: October 9, 2012
What do you do when your associates fail to invite you out time and time again? If you are a stuffed bear of the naughty variety, apparently you torment and slaughter them. After a retail release, developer Behaviour Interactive brings us a naughty bite sized downloadable sequel with a few tweaks in gameplay and a subtitle Panic In Paradise. By mixing a couple third-person game genres into a Flufficide simulator, Behaviour Interactive look to build a cult hit packed with geeky references. But with concepts and gameplay mechanics conflicting in what the player must do coupled with glitches and lackluster production values, they just might have a bear of a time even keeping fans gained with the original.
Panic In Paradise tasks the player with controlling Naughty Bear and enacting his revenge on his bear brethren for not inviting him on their vacation to Paradise. Similar to various children’s television programs, the game is narrated by a deep voiced male almost as the conscience of the program. In Naughty Bear’s case, the narrator sounds normal but the content of what he is saying is psychotic by egging on Naughty Bear to commit horrible acts against bear kind. It was all put together to show a darker side to a theme that is typically more innocent. It has been done successfully with popular properties such as Alice In Wonderland (American McGee’s Alice). Unfortunately Paradise is more gimmick than anything else relying solely on the traditionally innocent stuffed bear murders and tortures element that feels extremely bareboned.
Naughty Bear is placed in a small somewhat open level and has a main task of killing a particular target and a couple optional tasks. The game plays as a cross between Metal Gear Solid and Manhunt. Naughty Bear crouches and slinks around attempting to be stealthy and perform various naughty actions against the environment and the other bears including various kill scenarios full of fluff. Completely contradicting the stealth elements of the game is a whole system that is focused on Naughty Bear being as naughty as impossible in high score fashion. You get way more points if bears see you being naughty as it acts to traumatize your victims. What is the point of sneaking up on bears out of view of other bears when the main system of the game glorifies massive naughtiness in full view of others?
The stealth also isn’t helped by its own inadequacies. Sneak kill a bear away from the others and you have the ability to don their clothes to hide via disguise. Walk near or in the line of sight of other bears and they are alerted to your presence the same as if you were your usual naked bear self. That pointless mechanic is not the only issue, as most attempts to grab a bear from behind are met with the bear turning around and either whomping you with their weapons or going into their frightened state. There is no real indication of awareness states and when you can and can’t be seen.
The death scenes are amusing until they become overly repetitive. There is only so many ways to remove the stuffing from bears and that is the problem with gimmicky gameplay that doesn’t have a fun core to fall back on. The first couple times you see a bears head shoved into the blades of a lawnmower, you think “oh that is cool.” But soon after that you just might be wishing it was your head.
It is unclear what the dev team spent time on rather than the lackluster gameplay but it is almost certain it was not the graphics. Panic In Paradise suffers from what might be the very definition of Plain Jane graphics. The quality is on par with Grand Theft Auto 3 era graphics and lack any kind of pizzaz given by particle effects and high quality textures. The end result is muddy and not helped by the sparse amount of objects in the sandbox levels.
Panic In Paradise comes off more as a tired gimmick rather than something edgy as was intended. Conflicting gameplay elements, broken mechanics, and muddy graphics leave us with game that is outclassed by mobile games let alone console titles. It has all of the trappings of a title that needed another half year to year in the oven cooking and looks more like an alpha of a game.