It was just your average Wednesday. The dame in the front office took lunch early and I was bored. Real bored. So bored I could taste it! All of a sudden a strange sound disturbed my reverie. It was an email, and emails always mean trouble. Turns out this one was different – a review request for Bear With Me. “Oh great”, I thought, “another pun filled point and click adventure”. I started the email and looked at the screenshots. The game looked good. Then I read the rest of the email. The publisher knew that it looked good too. There was more to this caper than I’d bargained for.
Bear With Me is an episodic point-and-click adventure game in which you play Amber – a ten-year-old girl on a journey to find her missing brother. Plagued by nightmares Amber must enlist the help of her beloved teddy, a retired, grumpy old detective, in order to achieve her goal. The narrative is delivered from Amber’s point of view and uses her childlike perceptions to soften the edge of a gumshoe noir horror to great effect. Each character is portrayed by one of her toys and, for the first chapter at least, events all take place inside the family home.
Bear With Me is presented using traditional noir elements – mostly greyscale imagery with clever use of darkness and light to emphasise key elements. Alongside crackly 1940s record music and atmospheric sound effects it enhances the somber mood to great effect. This is further strengthened by the dialogue. Mixing typical noir “tough talk” with a light hearted sense of humour Bear With Me parodies the genre perfectly. Throw in a cartoonish style and soft toy characters and you have a game that positively oozes “unique”.
As a longtime fan of point-and-click adventure games I’ve been quite disappointed with the genre of late. Too many adventures have failed to provide an enjoyable experience due to frustrating or nonsensical puzzles – devolving into a series of experimental clicking rather than relying on sensible deduction for progression. Fortunately Bear With Me manages to avoid this trap by providing somewhat linear, but sensible progression. Objects are always clearly displayed and the items you collect are always practical. This allows you to spend your time absorbing the story and figuring out resolutions to puzzles, rather than clicking all over a screen to find a hidden object or experimenting with your inventory to find the unintuitive combination that will allow you to proceed.
Alongside logical puzzle solutions, an interesting and engaging narrative is essential to any story-driven game. Again, Bear With Me succeeds, providing an intriguing story with well written dialogue… well, mostly well written dialogue. A few of the jokes feel a little forced, however, considering the sheer amount of quality content in the game, the number of “bad” jokes or pop culture references is proportionally small. While a little predictable, the tale is full of mystery and intrigue, driving the characters along a logical path of progression to ensure the player never grows bored. Objectives are brief and interjected with regular cutscenes to keep things moving.
While the cutscenes and gameplay are beautifully presented I did find the voice acting to be a little lacklustre. It’s stylistically accurate and draws upon all the right tropes, but felt forced with some of the characters (Bear and the Mugshot Brothers, for example). It wasn’t bad enough to jar the overall experience, but enough that I noticed it every time I spoke with certain characters.
Unlike many story-driven games, Bear With Me doesn’t provide a “previously on…” precursor when loading an old save. This wasn’t much of an issue during Chapter 1, as it was very short and didn’t have branching objectives. However, I can see it becoming a problem later on if not properly addressed. You are able to talk to Ted E. Bear for an objective refresher however, at the time I played, he didn’t seem particularly accurate – sometimes providing incorrect or misleading information.
In summary, the first episode of Bear With Me is promising. It was very short (approx. 50 minutes) with not a lot to do outside the main story, however, I’m hopeful this is something Exordium Games will address in future episodes. Episodic point-and-click adventure games have proven to be a viable business model for some companies but, at $5 USD per episode with no release schedule or option for a “season pass”, it’s not something I find particularly enticing.
That said, Bear With Me is a very impressive game. Beautifully presented with thematic dialogue and logical puzzles, the entire game displays an impressive attention to detail that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s clear that the creators are fans of the point-and-click adventure classic and have taken care to replicate the best aspects. I strongly recommend playing this game but, unless you’re happy with being fed the story in dribs and drabs, it might be best to wait until all chapters are released and grab it in it’s entirety.