Paper City, a vile and dangerous place filled with rampant criminals, betrayal, intrigue and carrot juice. Bear With Me is a stylish noir point-and-click adventure game. Its story, taking place across multiple episodes, places the spotlight on the cynical detective Ted E. Bear and one of his companions. Those companions are two young siblings, Flint and Amber, who assist Ted in solving various crimes across the city. Despite their age, both of them manage to keep up with the bear’s constantly sarcastic tone.
Ted himself is very much like a more mature version of Ted from the movie of the same name. His persona screams: “Yeah, I’ve seen some shit and now I’m washing it away with alcohol”. He speaks in this gruff, often sarcastic voice, and overall the actors have done an outstanding job portraying their respective characters.
While the main menu greets you with a dark lullaby kind of a song (think “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” from Dead Space), the rest of the game features mostly smooth jazz music. A fitting genre for the noir theme. Bear With Me has a slightly confusing main menu and, without even knowing it, I played through a prequel episode, “The Lost Robots” first, which threw me right into the thick of the action.
While investigating a case, Ted gets hit on the head with a bottle and ends up locked up at a cinema. From there, it’s up to him and Flint to escape and solve the case by locating the suspect and rescuing a missing robot accountant. This case takes them all across Paper City and the unlikely duo must solve puzzles in order to get to the bottom of it.
Gameplay mostly revolves around moving the cursor across the screen and discovering items or people to interact with. Whenever an interaction is available, a prompt will appear, giving you a set of options. Depending on the item, characters will either voice their thoughts or pick it up and add it to the inventory. For some reason, the inventory is assigned to the RB button on the Xbox One. It’s not really a problem, but at first, I was constantly forgetting how to access it, pressing all the wrong buttons. With so many unused buttons, it would’ve made more sense to assign it to a different one.
From the inventory, you can select an item in a character’s possession and drag it over to the desired spot. Or, alternatively, you can try to combine two or more items to form something entirely new. This might involve tying two white sheets to form a rope or attaching a hook to a wooden board to extend its reach. It could also be as simple as combining a flashlight with a pair of batteries. Regardless, most of these combinations are fairly logical and don’t require you to ponder too long.
Puzzles are not too challenging either and solutions are often obvious. In fact, they’re almost too easy. Most of the time, it’s more about deciding in which order items should be used, rather than the solution itself. Some puzzles simply require you to locate a key to unlock something, while others are presented as fun mini-games. One requires you to assemble an invoice from shredded pieces of paper. In yet another, you must connect cables with the correct sockets to activate a dormant robot. These sequences are probably the most fun and interactive when it comes to the puzzle-solving.
But the game’s main story takes place through episodes 1 – 3. It focuses on Flint’s sister, Amber, and a mysterious hooded figure in red. Moreover, Flint himself is missing this time, so Amber requests Ted’s help in locating her brother and revealing the identity of the hooded figure. During the early moments of this episode, you’ll realize that Ted, and pretty much every other character in Bear With Me, are just stuffed toys. They all come to life thanks to Amber and Flint. For instance, Ted’s office is located in a closet and instead of drinking real alcohol, Ted is addicted to carrot juice. And even despite its often bleak noir tone, you’ll perceive the story as something far more lighthearted afterwards.
Sometimes characters get split up and you take control of a different one. This doesn’t really affect gameplay, but does let you hear the thoughts of that particular character. Amber is a chirpy dreamer, describing every item she sees from an artistic perspective. She will describe a painting in great detail, commenting on its colour palette and the artist’s vision. While Ted might just say: “It’s a painting”. Flint fits somewhere in-between the two and they all compliment each other’s personalities very well.
During numerous conversations, they often break the fourth wall, addressing the player or even developers directly. They also tend to reference other games and movies, some of which come surprisingly out of nowhere. Among the more obvious references are Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Jason from “Friday the 13th”.
That said, even aside from the main cast, almost every other character is memorable and brilliantly voiced. I especially enjoyed listening to Fixy, a local mechanic who speaks in an adorable Scottish accent. Conversations between characters are the highlight of Bear With Me. They won’t always blow your mind with creativity and wit, but they’re nice to listen to nonetheless because everyone has their own unique identity.
Not everything is perfect, however. On several occasions, I noticed that characters walked through each other. It doesn’t make or break the game, but seems weird when everything else is so polished. Also, because Bear With Me is in black and white, I almost missed a key item on a few occasions. But other than that, I didn’t have any problems with the colour theme; it gives the otherwise lighthearted story a serious tone.
Overall, I had a great time throughout Bear With Me on Xbox One. I enjoyed its cast of characters and the dialogue exchanges between them, as well as the noir-themed story. The puzzles are a bit too simple for my liking and at times frustrating, but other than that, it’s a great point-and-click adventure that will entertain you across its four short episodes.