by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
Not much more than a demo
A good demo should present the player with just enough of the game that they want to see what happens next. Whether that’s setting up the story or showcasing the gameplay elements, a good demo draws the player in and makes them say “I can’t wait to see what happens next.” Bear With Me is like a good demo, though it’s actually the first episode for an episodic adventure game. And that is a problem.
Bear With Me places you in the role of Amber, a young girl who recruits the teddy bear detective Ted. E Bear (yup) in order to solve a series of mysteries within the world of Paper City, including a red garbed murderer, a series of fires and the disappearance of her brother. Sadly, the first episode focuses solely on getting to Paper City, teasing these plot strands to its detriment.
The episodic structure of the game is its worst enemy, to be frank. The content in the first episode, which I completed in just under an hour in my first playthrough, is more of a demo than a full-fledged game. Little happens, and much of the time is spent waiting on the frequent loading screens and watching Amber slowly walk across a room. If the remaining episodes are similarly structured, it will be a painful wait between each one.
Bursting with charm
Despite Bear With Me’s short length, it is bursting with charm throughout. Taking inspiration from noir films of old, the game is presented entirely in black and white with the notable exception of the colour red. Characters banter in scenes that evoke longstanding noir traditions - there’s a scene near the beginning where Amber first recruits Ted that should strike a familiar chord to anyone with a passing knowledge of 1940’s films. The dialogue itself is solid through and through, helped by strong acting from the two main characters, which help to draw you into the story with ease. The sole exception to this is the oft timed jokes that lean heavily on the fourth wall, which do not fit the game at all.
The point and click gameplay is simple enough, though there is a wide divide between the difficulty of puzzles in the game. They are either woefully simple to complete, or deliberately obtuse. For example, one puzzle involves repairing a magnifying glass by breaking apart a pair of eyeglasses to get a lens and gluing them together. Compare that for how you access the attic, which involves using a nail to open a grandfather clock, taking a hook from it and combining it with a plank of wood and duct tape to reach the attic door. The game even lampshades how little that makes sense, which does not excuse why the puzzle was even designed like that in the first place.
Not much choice
Like other recent adventure games, Bear With Me includes choices that can affect the outcome of the story. Problem is, there is only one choice in the first episode, and there is little follow up to see how drastically it affects the story as a whole. I expect the ramifications of the choice will come up later, but for now, it only serves to define just how little there is to do within the first episode.
Bear With Me Episode One is short to a fault, lacking the length it needs to make it feel more than just a demo for a game that has yet to be released. Yet its charming atmosphere and characters make me want to find out exactly what is happening in Paper City. For now, wait and see where the future adventures of Amber and Ted take them before trying out this black and white world.
Poor puzzles, little to do