First off, I want to start this review by stating I am in love with this premise for a game. The entire thing. The 2D nature. The black and white color scheme. The episodic format. Point and click adventuring!! I love it all. Especially the hook: you’re a girl who needs to solve a mystery with the help of her toy teddy bear. It’s right up my alley (down? I never know the proper phrasing there…). I don’t understand where the “horror” comes in (their quotes, not mine), but, I’ll just give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, this is just the first episode.
The full scenario at play in Bear With Me is you are Amber, a 10-year-old who lives in part in her own fantasy world where her stuffed animals are real and she talks and interacts with them as if they were. And in that world, they live and work and generally do what we all do on a day to day basis. When Amber wakes up after a nightmare, she finds that her brother is missing. To add to her problems, Amber’s also being hunted down by the mysterious “red man”, who is not only a potential suspect in her brother’s disappearance, but he’s also causing all kinds of trouble in Paper City, where all of Amber’s stuffed animals live.
Once she gets word of all the goings on from a trusted ally, she concedes that the only one who can help her out now is a recently retired private detective, Ted E. Bear – who just so happens to have his office in her closet. He’s the typical grump in these kinds of stories, and he wants nothing to do with it.
You’re immediately thrown into the fray and given the task of doing what you can to get Ted to join you. You need him. Your brother Flint needs him. Paper City needs him. The stuffing has hit the fan, and these mysteries need to be solved. Once he agrees, it’s on to the sleuthing, and in true point and click adventure fashion, there’s plenty to point at and then click for various quips, jabs, and item collecting. The same goes for combining items to make another. It’s all old-school fun.
The artwork on display is really charming. I’m already a fan of black and white stylized games anyway, so take my word or not, but if a game was hampered by this, I would absolutely point it out. Here, it absolutely helps it, and it works wonderfully. The vast majority – if not all – of any splashes of color in this episode come from the “red man” when needed, and it’s done sparingly. It almost makes him even more menacing because of it. The hand drawn nature of the characters completes the charm, and even though there are only a handful of characters in this part, all are done up in such a fashion that each looks distinct and fits what character they are to a T.
As you’d expect, in a P&C game there will be a lot of dialogue to get through, and that’s no different here. What’s great about it is that it’s all voice acted, and pretty much all of it is great. Each character gets their moment (or moments) to shine, and not only is the writing very well done, but the voice direction and performances are fantastic to listen to. Each NPC has their own unique look and voice (possibly cliched, but appreciated), and every one does a great job at bringing them to life believably. The only gripe I have is with Ted, which is a shame, because he talks the most right after Amber. However, I do want to preface this by saying he’s in no way “bad”, he just has a cadence that seems a tad off with many of the lines spoken. Again, nothing bad, but something that hit me in a weird way. With the amount of spoken lines in just the intro episode, I’m very pleased with what was delivered, and even more pleased with the writing. Plenty of jokes at the devs expense, pop culture references, and just overall humor is everywhere, and it almost always works.
What we get musically is just as nice as everything else. The main menu theme is catchy, and the music during gameplay is just subtle enough, but at the same time, just intrusive enough. I’m sure that makes no sense, but in my mind it does. Playing the game I had moments when the sound and music just “disappeared” in my mind, but picked up in good ways exactly when it needed to. It all hit the right chords (hardy har har) at the right moments during my time wth it.
Bear With Me controls well, there’s no doubt about that. Load times were very quick, and item movement never caused any hiccups. Nothing felt missed while playing. The experience is a 2-3 hour typical P&C mystery, that opens up even bigger mysteries by the end, especially when you factor in the clues and the ability to have your choices influence the story. I’m very interested in seeing just what I decided to do does going forward with certain characters, and conversely, what the opposite does as well. I do recommend at least a couple playthroughs, because I’m sure you’ll be curious as well.
The Achievement list is nothing that will crush you, but it will require at least 2 completions. You’ll likely get at least half your first go ’round, well, if you’re like me and feel the need to immerse yourself in the world and check everything out. Another practice I recommend, of course. The game won’t be as taxing in subsequent runs, so, you won’t have to worry about spending forever getting 100% if that’s something you enjoy.
Almost everything on display in Bear With Me is a wonderful undertaking of the genre, and one I hope gets followed up with a second episode at the very least on par with what the first gave us. Should that happen, I can’t imagine players won’t be happy. If it exceeds it, then we’ll be even happier. I don’t know how many in total Exordium Games plans to put out, but I can tell you for certain, I will be on board with whatever this series has in store for us. I need to figure out what’s going on, and the amount of fun I had getting to the end of the first piece of the pie was too good to ignore the rest. Hell, even my girlfriend enjoyed it (shockingly, she sat with me and watched the whole time), and that’s no easy task with her. On that alone Bear With Me has earned its badge.
Bear With Me is available now on Steam for $4.99 (with a 10% discount through 8/15/16). A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.