Inside Pulse 12

Review: Bear With Me – Episode One (PC)

Bear With MeBear With Me
Publisher: Exordium Games
Developer: Exordium Games
Genre: 2D Point-and-Click Adventure
Release Date: 08/08/2016

Y’know, there’s something about the idea of an episodic noir adventure game about a girl and her bear that just says, “Play me.” So I popped in the Steam key for Bear With Me by Exordium Games and gave it a whirl. What I found kind of surprised me. You play as Amber, a 10-year-old girl who wakes up in the middle of the night from a nightmare about fires. Her stuffed giraffe friend, Millie, tells her that she escaped Paper City with the help of two lowlifes, but now, her brother Flint is missing. Millie suggests that Amber asks Ted E. Bear, a retired detective and teddy bear, for help, but the two of them have bad history. To make things worse, a mysterious arsonist”red man” has been asking around for her and might be in her house at that very moment…

Bear With MeWhat’s a girl to do when her parents aren’t around to help and her brother is missing? Find random things around the house to put together to get clues as to where her brother might be, of course. This game is your basic point-and-click game: use your mouse to hover over stuff and click it to interact. Everything makes sense. There were no weird “bear on stick” moments (probably for the best for Ted) or impossible to find items. I had a little trouble at the very end with a certain document, but managed to figure it out with a few good moments of thinking. The puzzles might benefit from being a little harder, but it seems like it’s difficult in these types of games to balance “hard” with “logical,” so I’m willing for the game to be a little easier if it means I’m not forced to connect two really random objects to solve a puzzle.

I’m normally a little apprehensive when there are VAs in adventure games and visual novels anymore, because it just seems so common to have bad voice acting in games, especially from smaller companies with admittedly limited budgets. Not the case here. Great VA work that compliments the strong writing and character development. Even the first episode will only run you about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how much exploring and talking you do, I still felt like I  was getting to know all of the characters involved. Adding to the experience, the music and sound effects help to give the game that noir feel and also keep you a little bit on the edge of your seat, even as you’re laughing at the CSI and Resident Evil references.

Bear With MeAs its name might suggest, Bear With Me manages to poke fun at certain tropes in these types of games. First, of course, is the idea that you have to interact with everything in order to complete the game. They have achievements for examining every lamp in the house, for example, or for collecting all possible items.  The developers manage to keep the game fairly dark, despite the sarcasm and funny references to various movies and games. I found myself laughing and immediately recoiling at one point early in the game, when “HAVE YOU SEEN HIM YET?” popped up on the walls in blood as I tried to leave a room. The game manages to be immersive while not taking itself too seriously. The only part I felt fell flat was this one scene where you can find a random recording from a developer of the game. It’s not very well voiced, especially compared to the other VA work, and just seemed to be weird.

In terms of replayability, it is a bit too early to tell, since this is just episode one; however, you can make a choice in the game (it is a fairly obvious one, you do something or you don’t) that for all we know could affect how the rest of the game plays out. In addition, for the achievement hunters out there, there is an achievement for getting to the ending twice, and another for getting through the game in less than an hour. Theoretically, then, one could take one’s time through the first playthrough, pick up a bunch of achievements, and then do another quick playthrough that involves skipping the comic scenes and either doing or not doing the thing that you can optionally do at about the midway point.

Bear With MeSo far, at least, Bear With Me is incredibly well-polished and has potential to be one of my favorite games this year, depending on how much of it we see in these last few months of 2016. I’m impressed by this studio’s venture into adventure games and am anxiously awaiting the rest of this series. I already have a few theories about what is actually going on and who “Red Man” is. Given how well they’ve played with lampshading various tropes, I imagine I will be wrong on some of my theories, but if that truly is the case, I have a feeling I won’t be disappointed. I look forward to episode two and hope it comes out soon, though not too soon, less the end result be less polished than this one. I recommend this game to anyone who likes noir, sarcasm, pop culture references, adventure games, and/or teddy bears.

Short Attention Span Summary
 Bear With Me packs a few surprising punches and manages to stay fairly dark while not taking itself too seriously or overdoing it. The voice acting, music, and sound effects merge wonderfully with the well-designed art and create an experience that, for the most part, stays on message and delivers an enjoyable experience worth playing again, both for the achievements as well as the possibility of some differences in the storyline down the road. I look forward to the second episode of this series and hope it delivers as well as the first one has.

 

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