I could tell this review was gonna be trouble as soon as Red called me up about it: he had that tone in his voice you couldn’t mistake. When the game came in the door it didn’t make things much better. Don’t usually get point and clicks in this part of town, and this one looked like a big handful and maybe some sleepless nights.
DEVELOPER: Exordium Games
PUBLISHER: Exordium Games
GENRE: Story driven Noir Adventure
RELEASE DATE: 8th OF August (first episode), 2017
…yeah I can’t do that for the whole review, sorry. Bear With Me is an episodic point and click game that released on Steam in August of 2016, and has now released its second episode in February of the following year. A bit of a long wait, although that’s not unique to this game. I’ll be taking a look at both in this review.
The story starts off a bit unclear, with the protagonist Amber Ashworth having a dream about a mysterious ‘Red Man’, who happens to be causing chaos in a place called Paper City, and asking questions about her. It also turns out that Amber’s brother, Flint, is missing, and you have to find him with the help of a local detective she’s often worked with, Ted. E. Bear. All the characters you interact with seem to be living toys of one make or another, blurring reality a bit.
You team up with him to investigate the goings on, starting with Amber’s house. The interface for pointing and clicking is fairly standard, with hotspots you can click on and your inventory in the corner. It does have one pretty annoying quirk, though: as opposed to most games in the genre where you just click on an item from there to pick it up, here you have to click down and move whatever it is onto what you want to use it on. Release it and the item just poofs back to your inventory, which considering how often you’ll be looking in your inventory for an item, seems pretty needless. You also can’t look at things in your inventory, so you won’t be getting any hints there.
I should also mention the first puzzle I had to do, finding Ted’s magnifying glass and then fixing it. Nothing about it was hard or required any leaps of logic, but it still took me a little while because the actual magnifying glass is inside a drawer with what seemed like a very small hitbox for the game acknowledging. Another necessary item is in plain view, but sort of blends into the background, while things that have no purpose beyond snarky dialogue seem far more prominent. It’s a problem that cropped up a lot, and it seems like the game could have benefited a lot from a button to highlight interactables the way some other point and clicks have.
The game’s art style is decently appealing thanks to the noir aesthetic, which allows it to use color when it really wants to draw your attention to something. Unfortunately I wasn’t too impressed with the animations for the characters, which seem pretty lifeless. The characters themselves I can’t say too much about, as Ted is just a typical noir parody and Amber doesn’t really have much personality beyond ‘is a girl’. The voice acting is decent all-around, but there doesn’t seem like much depth. It also seems kinda weird, if this is all meant to be in a kid’s imagination, that the toys just throw around swear words at random.
Episode One of Bear With Me is quite short, and can be beaten in about two hours, barring getting hung up on a puzzle for the reasons I’ve mentioned. Seems like if you really liked the first one you’d have been stuck waiting for it a while, but it finally came out last week. This episode has Amber and Ted continuing their investigation in Paper City (basically a bunch of cardboard boxes in her attic). It seems like the issue about things not standing out was looked at, since I haven’t had much issue finding objects or hotspots.
That doesn’t mean it’s without issues, of course. It wasn’t so much of a problem in the first episode, but now with the bigger maps in the second I’m noticing how slow the game feels. Amber and Ted both walk slowly, and will only begin interacting with whatever you’ve selected once they’re right next to it. Double clicking on a screen transition activates it immediately, but not so with objects or people. There are also some pauses in dialogue that just felt a bit too long, and had me half-worrying the game had locked up somehow.
The idea of an adventure game that takes place in a kid’s imagination and blurs realities is a pretty neat idea, as is a noir plot involving toys. But after playing through the whole first episode and a good portion of the second, nothing about it really drew me in. Despite him being the crux to the plot I don’t know anything about Flint other than him being Amber’s brother, who as I said is a pretty dull character herself – so why should I care? The same goes for the toy characters, who despite being dreamed up by a kid really don’t stand out.
Maybe I’m being unfair, but I’ve played a lot of adventure games that have drawn me in far better by the two or three hour mark than Bear With Me has, without needing to be episodic in nature.
(click on the image to see the rating explanation)