Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise is the sequel to 2010’s teddy bear murder-simulator, Naughty Bear. The original game was not well received and, 2 years later, it doesn't seem like developer, Behaviour Interactive, has learned a whole lot from its shortcomings. Panic in Paradise is a game with a fairly fun premise and some good ideas, but suffers from sloppy execution, repetitiveness and a slew of other problems.
The game starts out with all the cute cuddly bears going on a vacation in a tropical paradise resort. They made the grave mistake of not inviting Naughty (possibly because he is a psychotic mass murderer) and so now it is up to him to live up to his name and punish the other bears as violently as possible. That’s about as deep as the story goes in Panic in Paradise. While it might be too much to ask for a deep and engaging story in a game like this it would have been nice to get a bit more to motivate the player to keep playing between levels. This basic premise does little other than set up the environments for your murder sprees.
Once you get into the game itself the objective is simple. Kill all the bears in the area, while smashing as much of the scenery as possible in order to collect gold and murder a specific target bear in a particular way. That’s about it, and it never changes from level to level. There are secondary objectives that add some variety, but it doesn’t go a long way as it boils down to “kill x many bears in a specific way” or to string up a long hit combo. This makes each level feel the same and it gets tired very quickly.
Panic in Paradise’s gameplay is essentially a mix of borrowed mechanics from other better games thrown together with poor execution and clunky controls. The biggest addition in this sequel is the ability to steal your victims’ clothes and walk among the bears undetected, very much like you would in Hitman. There are obvious parallels to Manhunt too with the basic premise and various grisly environmental executions. And the over the top killing sprees are reminiscent of rampages had in games like Saints Row and GTA. The only really original idea in that sense is the setting and the fact that you’re ripping the fluff out of teddy bears.
The controls are some of the most awkward I’ve experienced in any recent game. Trying to execute combos of light and heavy attacks is simply not any fun at all. Almost everything is simply off, maneuvering Naughty around the level feels very stiff, and on many occasions it feels like the game is not registering button commands during combat. The combat is not engaging in the least, and it really is amazing that such a simple combat system can fail this miserably. The game would have been better off focusing entirely on the stealth elements but it requires you to engage in open combat in order to accomplish many of the secondary objectives.
There are however a lot of ways to kill in Panic in Paradise and a pretty big arsenal of weapons and disguises to use. Shoving a teddy’s face into a lawnmower or impaling them on a cactus can be fun at first, but the novelty wears off pretty quickly. A wide array of weapons is always nice in a game, but in Panic in Paradise’s case the difference between weapons is only skin deep as most of them handle the same way and final kill animations are often the same for a lot of them. There is a very shallow attempt at throwing some RPG elements into the mix as you can unlock and upgrade weapons and disguises and Naughty earns a couple of new moves, but it essentially ends up feeling like a pointless grind as it doesn’t add much to the gameplay experience.
Presentation wise Panic in Paradise has little going for it. Models and textures are bland and there is a lot of pop-ins. Many of the animations match the stiffness of the controls and there is nothing that particularly stands out in the level design. Lighting effects are almost non-present and the whole thing pretty much looks like a last-gen game with slightly higher resolution with plenty of frame rate drops. The audio design fares a bit better with decent sound effects and the music fits well with its mix of upbeat tunes and some nods towards the soundtracks of classic slasher flicks.
The worst part about this game however is the fact that on top of everything else there are frequent glitches and the game has a tendency to freeze up. This is especially annoying when you’ve spent a good 30 minutes completing secondary objectives and collecting gold only to have the game crash and all your progress is wasted. I encountered this in several levels during my play through and it seems completely random. A total game-breaker.
Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise ultimately is a wasted opportunity. It’s a collection of decent ideas and mechanics that could have made for an enjoyable game with a bit more polish. Instead it just comes off as rushed and half-assed product that fails to capture the magic of the games that it’s modeled after. You’ll be better off booting up any of the other games mentioned in this review. Panic in Paradise is as cruel to its players as Naughty bear is to his victims.
|We liked Many Means of Murder, and that Good Soundtrack.|
|We disliked Repetitive, Game Crashes, and Poor Controls.|