It seems as though noir detective tales are a big theme for gaming recently. Everyone has their take on it and now we get to see how a cute, cuddly bear with a drinking problem deals with a case of a missing boy. Bear with Me brings together a young girl, with a wild imagination and a brother who’s missing, with a drunken, retired teddy bear private eye. They need to work fast to solve the case as a mysterious hooded figure is after the young lady and is killing off those who stand in the way.
Bear with Me is a point and click adventure, set within a world heavily stylized as a classic noir film with a monotone color scheme, bleak aesthetics and with everyone talking with witty metaphors and 30’s slang. We start off seeing a nightmarish vision of “Paper City” on fire as our little hero awakens from her dream. She hears from an elderly friend, who’s also a giraffe, that her brother Flint has gone missing. Under the advice from her friend, she goes to see Mr Bear, a former police detective and now drunken wreck. They head off, exploring the home of the girl in order to search for vital clues.
Visually, Bear with Me is particularly striking with strong noir tones and cartoonish aesthetics. It’s nothing new from what we’ve seen before but what is interesting is the use of living, breathing stuffed toys as the main cast. You gather the sense of our main character’s imagination playing a big role in the game’s narrative and themes.
There is a strong sense of mystery as the narrative progresses and the plot is littered with a rich backstory to help build the world into something more immersive. What made the game feel more dynamic compared to most other point and click mysteries is how the game allows the player to control the main antagonist themselves. With this small segment you can choose whether or not to kill off a certain character which will ultimately change the story line. It was an interesting approach as you have the power to change certain story elements. This also opens up the possibility of replaying the game to see the change in narrative.
The main elements of gameplay are similar to games such as Broken Sword. You explore as you gather clues and items that will help you progress further. The puzzles are simple and overall the game does harbor little challenge for the lateral aspect. I never became stuck for more than ten minutes without realizing the answer. Yet the game does like to be obscure on certain puzzles, or in the items you have to use, without giving you any clues. Bear with Me keeps the pacing at a fluent rate, which is great. Games like Broken Sword made aspects of its puzzle design or finding its solutions way too complex and at times would drag on for hours. It halted the interesting story and did ruin the flow. But Bear with Me does offer a great sense of exploration and puzzles without the headache-inducing complexity.
My only problem with the presentation was mostly aimed at the sub-par voice acting from our leading characters and certain supporting cast. They’re delivery does bring down the comedy and drama elements, which are otherwise fine. It was completely irritating when the game projected great surrealist moments of horror, only to be brought down by the dull and bored sounding reactions of the voice actors. It’s a shame as there is some great material here, but the delivery for the most part wasn’t executed that well. It’s not terrible but you gather a sense that maybe the voice actors just didn’t want to put the effort into it.
As mentioned, there are some good moments of humor when the game breaks the fourth wall, or points out some of the faults found in most point and click adventures. Then we get those lame, tacky TV show references made even poorer by the delivery of the tired and monotone sounding voice acting. Along with the developers just not exploring or playing around with the noir themes. Sure, we get a different take with having stuffed toys make up the cast, but everything else feels very bog standard, nothing notable of parodying noir or just being cleaver with the subject matter. I mean, the main character is called Ted. E. Bear ….. couldn’t think of something better?
Bear with Me does offer a good sense of mystery and with a different approach to most point and click games. It reminds me of a darker version of Sam and Max with something extremely alluring about it. The voice acting may not be the best and while the game is interesting to play, the puzzles left much to be desired. The story and world itself have captured my interest to see it continue further.
A PC review copy of Bear with Me was provided by Exordium Games for the purpose of this review