Developer/Publisher: Exordium Games || Overall: 7.5/10
Bear With Me is a horror fantasy Noire point-and-click game that puts you in control of 10-year-old girl Amber as she tries to find her missing brother. Assisted by the gruff, retired private investigator Ted E. Bear, Amber also sets out to solve the mystery behind “The Red Man” and how it relates to her brother’s disappearance and other disturbances across Paper City. You’ll have to inspect, have conversations, find items and combine them to solve puzzles to advance the story.
When it comes to point-and-click games, it can be hard to quantify the amount of “challenge” required to be enjoyable. In general, the game isn’t very challenging as a lot of the puzzles are mostly logical and item-based (rather than clue-based). You’ll sometimes acquire items through dialogue trees, but most come from the scenery, and by combining them in unique ways. The puzzles require multiple steps and aren’t that quick to solve, so you will still need to experiment occasionally. With all that said, the puzzles are still pretty enjoyable. Most of the items in the scenery can be clicked on so you can hear Amber describe it with her tongue-in-cheek humor (more on that later). Of course, being able to click on tons of things is very important to the genre and the detailed environments satisfy the impetus to click on everything you can. Depending on certain choices or conversations you may actually affect things later on, and that may impact motivation to replay to see the different outcomes. Since only one episode will be available on August 8th, your actions may not show much result until the game rounds out further with more episodes.
Art is an important part of how you enjoy Bear With Me. The animation itself is nice and fluid, and while the color is primarily black and white (to fit its Noire motif), the color red is used in very particular ways. While the game takes place primarily on the second floor of Amber’s house, the different rooms are diverse and full of elements you’d expect a house that was “lived in” to have. You are more or less contained in one or two rooms at a time as you progress, and its always exciting to see what the next room will present itself as. The art style reminds me of anime-influenced animation, but with a unique flare to it.
While most of what the game has to offer is of a very good quality, there are some serious problems with the story delivery. The biggest of all is there is no visual emotional reaction from characters. It loses a lot steam in the impact of the story to not see the characters visually distressed, yet their voices are conveying the correct inflection you would expect. For the whole game, Amber has a stoic face no matter what she is saying and what scary thing might be happening. Tongue-in-cheek humor is littered throughout the description of random items you click on, including “other game” references. These jokes/references really pull you out of the mood of the story and feels like something that should have been left for an “Easter Egg” version of the game. Not to mention the fact that the tongue-in-cheek jokes that a mid-20’s/early-30-year old would make are coming out of a 10-year-old. Some of the most baffling things I encountered was a lamp that was referred to as a “sandwich” and a funny recording of a “developer of Bear With Me” asking for help as if he is in a basement torture chamber prison. I get the joke that you are inspecting lamps and there isn’t much to say about them, but it feels like they are putting more effort into making these jokes than immersing you in the story. Taking the jokes out of the context of the game, however, they are mostly clever and funny. I would have just liked it for an “alternate” version of the game to play afterwards instead of during the first playthrough, or at least keep these jokes for something hidden.
The disjointed narrative also comes as you are thrust into the beginning of the game, with just a cryptic cold opening. It was super weird to click on a living character and have it be referred to as “my toy Giraffe” — there is nothing introducing our suspension of disbelief to this world and why something that is obviously alive in the context of the game is being called a “toy.” It throws the narrative off completely as you have to automatically make assumptions that the girl you are playing as might be insane or she’s making things up in her head and nothing is actually as it seems, which heartily cheapens the seriousness and experience you are supposedly supposed to build up due to the scenario presented. A little less of a blunt admission that half of what is going on is make believe on the outset would have done a lot of favors to getting you into the world the game creates, even with the jokes.
The voice-work is above average. Amber’s voice definitely grows on you, but at first doesn’t mesh with the fact that the girl is supposed to be a 10-year-old. At first I assumed the girl was around 18 or 19 with her smart tongue-in-cheek quips about every odd thing in her room, not to mention there are a few references to “drinking” from Ted E. Bear, as well as some harsh language (not something you’d expect a 10-year-old to make-believe a Teddy Bear is saying to her). The voices for many of the other characters are a lot better match and are pretty good, to boot. The voice cast is important in delivering a pleasurable experience and seeing the story unfold. The sound effects are also great and helps to enhance the atmosphere.
While Bear With Me isn’t at the forefront of the point-and-click genre, the foundation it has set for its characters, setting, and fantasy holds potential for a neat series. As it will be an episodic game, the story will continue in parts. If they rein it back on the tongue-in-cheek jokes everywhere, keep it a little more grounded in the fiction that is set up, it could be very enjoyable in the coming episodes and well worth playing the first. It is definitely aimed at people in their mid 20s to early 30s with all of the references and script content. Not to mention the horror elements, that are quite creepy would have given me nightmares if I was playing this game as a 10-year-old.