On a dark and rainy night, ten-year-old Amber awakes to find her brother missing. As if that wasn’t enough, a dangerous figure known only as the ‘Red Man’ is searching for her too. With no other choice, Amber heads into her closet to enlist the help of ‘retired’ detective, Ted. E Bear, to help solve the mysteries at hand.
From there on out, the reluctant duo of girl and Bear must team together to work out puzzles, interrogate various shady characters, and venture deep into the heart of Paper City. Bear With Me: The Complete Collection contains all three Bear With Me chapters plus a prequel, The Lost Robots. It’s a charming take of the point-and-click formula with interesting characters and moderately challenging puzzles, although, for better or worse, they often play second fiddle to the main story.
The evolving relationship between Ted and Amber (or Flint, in the prequel chapter) is what glues the narrative together. Ted is a hard-boiled, monotone-voiced detective with a heart of gold and plenty of quips. Even though many will sound familiar if you’ve watched your share of cop shows over the years, they are all delivered in amusingly deadpan fashion. Amber, on the other hand, is Ted’s opposite – spirited and enthusiastic, creating a fun dynamic between the two and helping them bounce off of each other.
It was a shame that Ted and Flint’s bond in the prequel didn’t feel anywhere near as engaging. Despite moments of pathos, this stems from Flint feeling like a flatter character overall, in both line delivery and the prequel not being as fleshed out.
As mentioned earlier, the voice acting is pretty stellar for the most part (even though Ted does sound remarkably like Agent 47). The main gripe that brings it down is the quality of the writing, particularly the jokes. The overarching story of Bear With Me is mostly solid, but the puns you have to withstand to get there are incredibly hit-and-miss. Many are either too on the nose, or just far too self-referential for their own good. There’s one point where Ted comments about using a nail to open a clock as ‘lazy writing’ – it is, but joking about it doesn’t rectify it.
Breaking the fourth wall is fine, but Bear With Me does this way too much, to the point where it can become groan-worthy and downright painful. There are also plenty of references to pop culture thrown in for good measure, but can often fall flat.
It’s a good thing that the game is beautiful to look at. The simple black and white colour scheme help evoke the film-noir atmosphere and never feels like it’s tacked on just for style points. The scenery and environments encountered throughout do look excellent, though, only helped by a fantastic jazz score that perfectly sets the mood.
The story at the heart of Bear With Me does take precedent, driving things forward while being very engaging. While it is easy for a point-and-click game’s plot to be overshadowed by its puzzles, the opposite is very much in effect here. Initially, you might find it a bit confusing, as both the prequel and first chapter drop you amid events without much context. Thankfully, comic book panels and narration between scenes do a good job at filling in the gaps without piling on too much exposition. It’s a credit to Exordium Games that the puzzles feel like a natural and organic part of progressing the story.
The puzzles themselves are standard for point-and-click games, so if you are versed in this genre, you’ll know what to expect – collect, combine and interact with items to progress. Keeping with the tried and tested method of point-and-clicks, you’ll need to scour every environment on a trial and error basis until you have a new item or can move on. Thankfully, the majority of the puzzles aren’t too taxing and are relatively simple to solve, even if a touch on the dull side. One puzzle in the prequel amusingly has you place the correct coloured wires in order despite everything being grey.
A bonus here is that Bear has a generously sized cursor, making it easier to identify interactable objects, all of which have some form of commentary from Ted. However, Bear With Me doesn’t give the option to skip through interactive items like similar titles, so you will have to search every inch of your screen. I do also wish that the characters moved quicker than a snail’s pace, especially when travelling between rooms, as this kills your momentum.
A more significant gripe is one that seems to be commonplace in many point-and-click titles – the game offers next to no hints if you do become stuck. You need a keen memory and ear as there can be clues dropped in dialogue, but these can be missed if you skipped. In conversational situations, it made no difference at all if I got a multiple-choice option wrong. I could continue until I picked correctly.
One task in the first chapter finds you needing to access the attic in Amber’s house. This is only mentioned briefly in dialogue, so if you miss it (as I did), neither Ted, Amber nor the game will offer you any prompts.
Additionally, you will need a keen eye to find useable items. While many are hard to ignore, there were more than a handful of times when a thing I required blended into the background, halting my searching efforts and adding to the frustration. I do also wish the inventory system didn’t feel so janky on a controller. It never felt completely comfortable to take an item from the inventory, or even combine two items. This was the only real fault with Bear With Me’s interface, an unfortunate downside of it being a PC port.
Bear With Me: The Complete Collection is an imaginative take on the point-and-click game, blending dark noir elements with humour and undemanding puzzle-solving, even if many are shallow. It contains superb visuals and a joyous soundtrack, along with largely solid voice acting, likeable characters and a genuinely interesting story. While each chapter is fairly short in length, frequent, cringe-worthy puns, slow pacing and a lack of hints prevent Bear from becoming an essential game within its genre.
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