It is a hard life being a teddy bear. Dragged around all day, packed away in tightly closed toy boxes at night, too close for comfort with that frightening clown, like something from It. Then being forced out of retirement to solve a curious case of the Red Man who seems to be after your owner, burning buildings in Paper City as he does so.
Yes, perhaps the latter here does not happen in the lifetime of a typical bear, but this is not your typical point and click detective game. In Bear With Me, you play as a hardened, grumpy old detective who resides in a closet (where he has made a makeshift office, complete with water cooler) in the other, human, protagonist Amber’s bedroom. The toys of this universe describe Amber as a beautiful girl, who look up to her as the creator, which makes it even more puzzling why there is a crazed figure, the Red Man, asking many questions of others to try to locate her.
The story begins with the disappearance of Amber’s brother, Flint. At first, Ted E. Bear (yes, that is his real name) is very reluctant to come out of retirement to help, citing that he is too busy “tracking paranoid men’s wives” to commit himself to a “wild goose chase”. He is eventually convinced. It is a good thing, too, because Ted E. Bear is the best part of the game. Full of witty remarks and plenty of references back to 90’s cinema, he might not provoke a laugh out loud comment so much as keeping a lighter tone throughout the game.
Being a point and click game with very simple mechanics, the story here is very important to keeping this game entertaining, which it succeeds in doing. The universe keeps itself mysterious with Amber being the only human we actually see. As the story wears on, pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, and it’s not until you near the final acts that everything starts to make sense. This is a real strength of the writing, as it would be very easy to reveal too much and spoil the journey to the end.
Mechanically, this game is very easy to pick up and figure out. It is a traditional point and click adventure in this sense, with the environment filled with different items to pick up or drawings to inspect. You will find yourself needing to pick up various things from around you to progress the story, and use the basic crafting system to fashion new items. For example, Ted E. Bear asks for his magnifying glass as a beginner task (that Amber has already broken), which sees you using your pocket knife to cut out the lenses from some glasses, and use glue to stick them into the handle. These get a little more complex as the story wears on, having you go to various areas to collect the items needed.
Some of these are not immediately obvious, however, and require some thought as to what it is your protagonists are trying to achieve. Most of the time, when it clicks, you nod your head in understanding and wonder how it took so long to work that out. On some occasions, they are a little less intuitive, but that’s only a minor complaint.
The art style employed is another success for me, taking the “noir adventure game” literally with its monochrome colouring. Animations are smooth throughout, although not terribly complicated. The music adds some mystery, and if you opt for the Collector’s Edition, you get a copy of the original soundtrack, including a 90-page digital art book and all of the puzzle and script design documents. That, and it’s slightly cheaper than buying the episodes separately.
Criticisms are rare for this game, aside from the voice acting. Whilst not a showstopper, at certain points it does become noticeable that there isn’t any urgency or genuine fear at certain events. I feel this is much truer of Amber than Ted E. Bear, whose gravelly tones and sarcastic comments add comedic value.
It’s not a particularly lengthy game either, with all three episodes taking me around 6 hours to complete. If you’re an achievement hunter, there will inevitably be a few that require returning to, but aside from that there is not much reason to go back. Which is perfectly OK; Bear With Me is priced accordingly.
Bear With Me is definitely a game I would recommend, as long as you’re a fan of point and click. It’s not a game changer, and it’s not doing anything that has never been done before, but what it does do, it does well and is helped by a good story with a mature theme running through to the end. The first episode is free on Steam here, so there’s no reason not to give it a chance.
Bear With Me (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
The positives far outweigh any negatives here, with the occasional breaking of the fourth wall, cinema and game references providing lighter tones throughout.