Bear With Me Episode 2 - HighrezGaming

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Bear With Me - Episode 2 25th of February 2017

It’s been a good while since I reviewed the last episode of this point and click noire crime thriller but with the release of the second episode I was looking forward to seeing how things developed. So once again we dip into the interesting make believe world of Paper City and see just how the Red Man will be terrorizing us yet again.

One thing from the original review that I never fully talked about was how the game likes to parallel the idea that this entire world we are playing in is created in the mind of our protagonist, young Amber, and all the characters are seemingly figments of her overactive imagination that she has created, with her favourite of course being her crime fighting, rough talking, heavy drinking fuzzy companion Ted E. Bear. The story in this episode continues from where we last left off with Amber and Bear escaping from the household and making it into the wide open spaces of Paper City. From here it’s up to us to put together more pieces of the puzzle surrounding the disappearance of Amber’s brother. The new characters introduced in this episode certainly have a unique charm to them and some especially play into the noire cliché vibe that this game loves to play for comedic effect. The episode also brings up interesting questions for the main character as she starts to question her own sanity at times when the Red Man tends to appear. It helps to build the idea that this girl is in fact psychologically damaged and that this city is in fact a way for her to escape to a fantasy creation where she feels safe. Of course interesting developments happen (no spoilers here!), new characters are met and an over-arching global conspiracy is hinted at (possibly involving seagulls). I felt as though this episode tackled more mature themes in the story and yet taking it out into a city rather than within the confines of an apartment made it lose its charm a bit in making all this story seem like a child’s make-believe. I suppose seeing how this develops in the next episode will be the deciding factor, though I wonder if the stakes will get even higher.
The presentation is exactly the same as in the previous episode, a deliberately black and white noire style 2D environment with beautifully drawn backdrops and character models, all with a slight hint of being non-human in some way. People are dolls, animals are toys and the list goes on. With this episode taking place in the huge Paper City the backdrops are far more spectacular, with weather effects and lighting taking front and stage as being incredibly effective mood definers. However, it’s at this point that the presentation starts to cause a bit of a conflict with the gameplay as while a noire filter is certainly stylistic it sometimes causes important items to blend into the background too easily making some solutions to puzzles difficult to decipher if you keep missing something that looks like a piece of scenery. Also the music while fitting the classical noire theme still doesn’t interest me that much and at times flat out doesn’t work, such as during the menu screen in which it was completely dead silent. This is a shame as 50’s classical jazz and big band music really is my kind of thing so not hearing anything that soothes my ears is a big disappointment.
And the cracks start to show even more in the gameplay. As before it’s a point and click game with puzzle elements and plenty of dialogue. Again I do love the flavour of the conversation that Amber provides on many of the objects within the world and I found some of the humour to be spot on, however, some of the jokes seemed too referential and out of place for the tone it was trying to create. The tone in general seemed all over the place with some parts tackling psychological horror while others go for slapstick humour, I would have much preferred if the game had stuck to one or the other rather than trying to be a hybrid of the two and ultimately confusing the player about whether they should be scared or laughing. One thing that absolutely aggravated me throughout this whole journey was just the pacing and the loading that helped to bog down the experience for me. Amber and Bear have to travel right next to an object before speaking about it or interacting with it and their walking speed is absolutely pitiful, I found myself yelling at the characters many a time to speed up as it made the experience feel longer than what it actually was. Along with this, due to the environments being a lot more open for being in a cityscape, the solutions to puzzles often required you to go back and forth to many different areas which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the abysmal loading times that occur between each scene and location shift. Again, it made the game feel longer than it was and made me hate looking for puzzle solutions, especially when in tandem with the problem with the presentation of the game making it difficult to even see solutions to the puzzles.

Overall then, I didn’t enjoy this iteration as much as the previous one which is a shame as the story certainly took a more interesting route and made it into a much larger scale experience. If you played the first episode then I would recommend looking into this next iteration at least to see where the story takes you, however, I don’t think I would recommend this as much to those who are just seeing this for the first time, at least until the pacing and technical issues are at least addressed.
Jack McKay
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