Stuffed with goodies
I think it’s probably safe to say that the original Naughty Bear didn’t exactly set the gaming world on fire when it was released back in 2010. Sales of the game, which centered on an anti-social teddy bear’s killing rampage, were modest, and critical reception was scathing, with reviewers almost universally panning the title as overly repetitive, clunky, and generally poorly constructed. In other words, it wasn’t really the sort of game you’d expect to get a sequel.
And yet, this October, developer Behaviour Interactive is delivering just that, with Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise, a downloadable title that looks to rectify the first game’s shortcomings and expand on everything it did right.
The premise of Panic in Paradise is essentially identical to the first game—our deranged but cuddly antihero has been ostracized by the other stuffed bears yet again, so he embarks on another quest to exact his vengeance upon them. This time around, however, the action occurs in a tropical resort setting, as Naughty’s victims-to-be have gone on a group vacation without inviting him. The obvious solution, of course, is to mercilessly slaughter everyone involved.
Like the last game, Panic in Paradise is broken up into a series of assassination missions. This time around, the hit list features more than 30 different targets, each with an amusing theme or defining character trait. There are superhero bears, science fiction bears, cowboy bears—someone to fit just about every pop culture trope you could imagine, really. Unlike the original Naughty Bear, however, a great deal of effort has been put into also differentiating the levels from one another. Each victim now has a specific criteria that must be met in order to assassinate them, whether it’s a special weapon that must be used or a disguise you’ll need to wear.
That brings us to Panic in Paradise‘s other major addition, a mind-bogglingly deep item system that allows you to customize Naughty to best fit your playstyle. Before you set out on each mission, you can equip a wide selection of unlockables to various equipment slots. Not only do these items allow you to change Naught’s appearance, they also provide bonuses to his various stats, from how much damage you’ll do in direct combat to how easily you can terrify your victims into committing suicide. What’s more, each item earns experience points whenever you use it during a mission, and as it levels up, the stat bonuses will become more and more pronounced.
Because Naughty can’t hold his own in head-to-head combat, the gameplay takes on a rather unexpected hit and run pace, where you dart in and out of hiding to take potshots at your targets, then quickly return to the shadows. The resulting experience is unquestionably stealth, but it offers a much faster pace than you’d usually expect from the genre. As someone who holds a longtime love of stealth games, that shift certainly took some getting used to, but there’s a lot of potential here, especially in the wide variety of environmental kills at your disposal, which include such hilariously over-the-top antics as dropping your victims into a pool of hungry sharks and burning them alive on a charcoal grill.
I’m still not entirely certain Panic in Paradise will be able to nail the strategic depth needed to deliver a truly great stealth experience, but I’m genuinely curious to see how the finished product comes together. There are definitely a lot of promising ideas here, and the sheer wealth of content Behaviour has packed into the game is astounding, especially for a downloadable title. If all the pieces fall into place, Panic in Paradise could well be the greatest leap in quality between sequels I’ve ever seen, and given the endlessly entertaining cuddly-meets-psychopathic premise, I genuinely hope that’s the case.