Bear With Me has been winning dedicated fans with its teddy bear noir since Episode 1 was released in August 2016. Our own Patrick Kennedy covered this release in his review here. In February 2017, Exordium Games released the second installment. and the third and final episode makes its appearance this week.
To catch you up on the story, 10-year-old Amber has recruited her trusty sidekick Ted E. Bear to help track down her missing brother. Ted is a grumpy detective and a bit of a drunk, but he is dedicated to Amber. He’s promised to take care of her, no matter how much trouble she gets into. In the first two episodes, they gain access to Paper City, where they believe her brother might be in danger. A mysterious “Red Man” has been killing off Paper City citizens and burning buildings to the ground. Episode 2 ends with Amber and Ted parting ways. Ted asks Amber to leave the city. She’s unsafe there. But she refuses to leave until she finds her brother.
Episode 3 of Bear With Me gives us the chance to play as both Amber and Ted, each with separate inventories and attitudes. Poor Amber misses Ted so much that she talks to herself and asks questions as though he’s still by her side. Ted becomes more self-destructive. He reflects heavily on how his friendship with Amber has evolved. Right away, he knows abandoning her was the wrong decision and the final episode is spent trying to reunite the two friends. Amber always seems to be one step ahead of Ted, and she’s getting to the bottom of the Red Man conundrum. It’s an interesting twist in the game to switch back and forth between the two characters, Amber trying to find her brother and Ted trying to find Amber. The story continuity does well here.
As you’ve probably predicted, this episode is the darkest of the three, visually and thematically. Amber and Ted struggle with their inner demons. We find out more of Amber’s heartbreaking past. The scenes the two are placed into become more hopeless and distressful. More and more of the color red begins to pop up in the background. I am glad the game finally caught up with the dreary noir theme while keeping its unique sense of humor. Episode 3 finally felt mature, and I found myself speechless at the surprisingly deep, thoughtful ending.
Despite this, I still found some of the story incomplete. At least twice, I found myself starting a new scene with characters referring to an event that I didn’t know happened. I didn’t skip any cut-scenes and I clicked through all of the dialogue options available to me. However, I still felt like something was missing. Maybe I was supposed to backtrack before proceeding, but nothing in the game hinted that I needed to. I simply moved to each new location as it became available, but I felt like I sometimes needed to catch up when I arrived.
You can tell the developers paid attention to the concerns of players when refining Episode 3. Some of the common complaints of the first episode were over the long, unbroken blocks of dialogue. Episode 3 is still considerably story-driven, but the conversations tend to move between characters more often and more fluidly. Another concern of the first two episodes was the huge amount of clickable items that didn’t contribute to the story. This is to be expected in point-and-click games, but the developers removed many of the unnecessary items in Episode 3. This allows the players to really focus on the story and the two biggest puzzles.
There are a couple big puzzles in this episode that are harder than anything encountered in the rest of Bear With Me. The game opens with one of the more difficult puzzles, and you can’t even leave the very first room until you figure it out. A key and combination lock puzzle later in the game had me pulling out pen and paper for the first time since starting the series. It will be interesting to see what players say about the ramped up difficulty of these puzzles, but I quite enjoyed them. Whenever I would get stumped in the other episodes, it was always because I just missed picking up an item somewhere. It was refreshing to have to stop and use critical thinking to move forward in Episode 3.
Overall, Episode 3 is a solid conclusion to the Bear With Me story. The game matures quickly and finally catches up to its ominous overtones. Exordium Games did a good job at wrapping up all of the pieces and creating a memorable ending.
A PC review copy of Bear With Me was provided by Exordium Games for the purpose of this review