August 9, 2016
I’ve often thought that there wasn’t enough episodic, hard-boiled, detective, noir, adventure games set in the imagination of a young girl’s mind. Then lo and behold, in strolls Bear With Me to fill that very niche. Bear With Me, created by ‘Exordium Games’ is this quirky, point-and-click, episodic adventure that sees Amber and her disgruntled teddy, Ted E. Bear, go on the hunt for her missing brother. The game is interesting and fun, it has a fantastic style about it and doesn’t take itself too seriously which is great, but it also doesn’t reach its full potential in a lot of ways and may lean too heavily on narrative and dialogue that aren’t always as engaging as they could be
We should start off with the narrative of the game since it is such a driving force behind the games design and because I feel the need to justify my previous statement about it not reaching the level of engagement that I wanted it to. Look, don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed a lot of what Bear With Me had to offer in the narrative department. The problem is that when roughly 50% of your game is solely dedicated to a narrative, it has to be captivating because there aren’t other forces at play to dilute or distract from it.
The game handles narrative through dialogue heavy interactions with other characters and sections where Ted speaks in monologue whilst we are shown images on a pin-board connected with string. I actually really love the monologues, they feel very at home in a hard-boiled detective genre and felt novel for the video game medium. The dialogue can be really solid too – humour, self-awareness and deliberate leans on tropes of the genre are all fun ways to carry a narrative but they also don’t always hit the mark. Some of the voice acting is quite amicable but then some lines come across as unfortunately stinted. Some jokes genuinely made me laugh but others just fell flat or felt forced. The pacing of some of the dialogue and monologues also occasionally seemed off and conversations didn’t always flow or link perfectly, albeit only on rare occasions.
A lot of these criticisms I have would go mostly unnoticed in another title but when such large swaths of time are occupied entirely by dialogue it becomes nearly impossible not to notice them. A good example would be the very beginning of the game; after being awoken, Amber begins a conversation with her waker that just feels like it goes on for far too long. From memory there were 3 or 4 separate lines within the dialogue that I assumed would be the last but then the old coot would just keep talking. Once that conversation was over you then had about 30 seconds of examining and collecting things around your room followed by a sizable monologue and then followed by yet another section of dialogue with a new character. I realise adventure games are going to have a lot of narrative but sometimes I just wanted Bear With Me to ditch a line or two, stop trying to squeeze in every genre reliant spoof they can and get on with the game!
Style & Comedy
What this game does do well though is style. I just love the hard detective, film noir themes and they really do find a great middle ground of occupying the genre while also making fun of it. Characters are memorable and all take on one trope or another to make you feel at home within the genre. From the wise cracking, detective veteran who has worked one too many cases to the good-for-nothing miscreants who are being deliberately withholding and mischievous; the characters are fun, appropriate and really make you feel like you’re in the imagination of a creative, young mind who has watched far too many movies.
Even the opening game page and accompanying musical score are well crafted and put you straight into the universe that the game is looking to occupy – and to that I give my kudos. The game also jumps into occasional scenes of horror that fit really well and managed to peak my interest, change up the pace of the game and help to tighten my engagement; even if those scenes were rare and fleeting.
Also worth mentioning is the way the game handles comedy. Full of puns, fourth wall breaks, referential humour and self-awareness – Bear With Me isn’t afraid to try and make the player laugh. As mentioned earlier, some jokes landed better for me than others but humour is subjective so I can’t give it too much grief for that. What I can absolutely praise the game for though is that it isn’t too afraid to hide some jokes and quirky dialogue options in areas that a player may never see. Certain optional lines within dialogue or dialogue expressed after examining a random, unimportant object ended up being some of the funniest things within the game. This is a really commendable way to handle things because it catches the player off guard and gives you more to look forward to in a second play-through.
Last but most certainly not least are the games puzzles. The other half of a point-and-click adventure is the actual pointy and clicky aspects. In this regard the game is fairly standard comparedd to its counterparts. It doesn’t suffer too heavily from absurd point and click logic like some of the older titles within the genre although it does still lean on trial and error gameplay where you end up going through your inventory and using object A with object B, C and D until something finally happens. There are also a few illogicalities within the game that irked me ever so slightly, such as not allowing me to cut rope with a sword and making me use a pocket knife instead. These complaints really are quite minor though and the game seems to do things quite well, probably better than the majority of the point-and-clicks that are out there.
There was nothing particularly challenging about the puzzles, although if you did happen to overlook a necessary item (which can be very easy to do) you may be in for a good ol’ game of hide and seek with an inanimate object that doesn’t even know it’s playing.
- Fantastic style
- Humour and self-awareness
- Great characters
- Too narratively dense
- Doesn't quite hit its full potential
The game is fun and quirky with a really cool style about it. I love how it doesn’t take itself seriously, breaks the fourth wall and pokes fun of the genre it also occupies. However, the game is short (although there are more episodes to come) and so, so much of your play time will be spent listening to dialogue that you may not be fully engrossed within, so be warned.