It’s been about six months (wow!) since we’ve looked at the cutesy point and click bear noir game Bear With Me. I largely enjoyed the first episode, few misgivings aside and I appreciated its aesthetic and conceptual direction. And while I wasn’t necessarily enthralled by Amber and Ted’s adventures to the point where I can’t wait and see what happens, I’m definitely curious to see more of the creativity that Bear With Me has to offer. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a game to play.
Bear With Me, Again
Bear With Me: Windows PC [Reviewed], Mac OS X, Linux
Developer: Exordium Games
Publisher: Exordium Games
Release Date: 15 February 2016
Price: 4.99€ [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
The second episode of Bear With Me picks up right where the first one left off, with Amber and Ted entering Paper City in search of Amber’s brother Flint and trying to solve the mystery of the Red Man that has been terrorising the populace. A lot of things that confused me about the previous installment solidify somewhat during this one.
Firstly, with leaving Amber’s house and the makeshift locations consisting of broom closets and pillow forts, Bear With Me finally comes into its own as a proper urban noir story as the setting shifts to crime scenes, harbours, diners and casinos. The plot thickens with the involvement of some key players in Paper city such as Mayor Mills and the gangster/casino owner Mr King who on top of being a shark gave me the chills every time he spoke.
As Ted and Amber get closer to finding the elusive Red Man, hints about his identity (or symbolism) start to be woven into the plot and while I have my own theories about it, I’ll keep a lid on it for the time being. Suffice to say that Red’s destruction is seen as inevitable by many of the characters and that he has ties to Amber that are more complicated than we originally thought. Episode two plays well into the noir tropes of political corruption and the criminal underworld, much more so than the opening chapter. I’m genuinely curious what comes next since we’re also given a map of Paper city and we only visit a handful of locations this time around.
While I never got stuck for a long time in Bear With Me’s second installment as in the first one (it’s mercifully short on red herrings), the puzzle design still leaves some room for improvement. A few examples are the classic “fish something out of a grate” that refuses to let you proceed before you dismantle a fishing rod. This is only compounded by some questionable design choices such as not letting you examine items in your inventory (I had forgotten what the pamphlet I picked up was) and little to no hint when items can be combined, further made worse by the fact that combinations can only be made in a certain order when more than two items need to be used.
Some interactive items could do with being a touch better signalled, without having to resort to “pixel hunting”. One last complaint I have regarding the puzzle design is that at one point I was shown a full-screen puzzle with a handful of switches and buttons and all I needed to do for it was find two items and slot them in.
On the story side, Bear With Me holds on to its love of puns, fourth-wall-breaking jokes and pop culture references, and while they’re still in excess of my tolerance, they are at least tempered with a degree of self-awareness this time. In fact, while some of the conversations do tend to drag on, they’re always energetic and well-executed in part due to the writing and in part thanks to the seasoned voice actors lending their craft to the cast.
The style is much more cohesive this time, due to the shift to the urban setting mentioned before, but there are some minor slip-ups, such as an indoor room that show rain effects. The music is absent for most of the game, only showing up where the ambient or situation absolutely requires it. On the plus side, the loading times, (which I took issue with previously) are greatly improved in episode two.
While it could still use some improvements with its puzzle design, Bear With Me episode 2 improves upon the previous installment in almost every way and had me much more invested in its story and characters. As previously mentioned, the story really comes into its own with the shift to an urban environment. It’s a shame that the episodes only come out every few months, though I hope the next one doesn’t take half a year. Overall, it’s a solid entry to an increasingly interesting series.