Rain patters against the window. A constant drum beat to remind me of the dark and cold. The only light that illuminates the room comes from the computer monitor. An unwavering glow which throws haunting shadows across the room. Here he is again, standing in this digital doorway they call messenger. He has a job for me. Doesn’t he always? I thought I was done, but he knows the strings to pull. To reel me right back in. Waving the title under my nose he makes coy. I try to resist, but we both know how this is going to end. I have always had a thing for point-and-click adventures.
Bear With Me is an episodic point-and-click adventure, created by Exordium Games and set in a dark and comedic noir universe. Players take on the role of ten-year-old Amber, who is trying to unravel the mystery of the “red man” terrorising Paper City, as well as find her missing brother. Along the way she is assisted by a hard-drinking, jaded, private detective teddy bear named Ted E. Bear.
This is the first episode of Bear With Me, and it does a great job of setting the scene. The game play is standard point-and-click fare, with players examining objects, picking up items, talking to characters and solving puzzles. It isn’t a revolution of the format by any means, but that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, Exordium has relied on the tried and true formula to build their dark story.
The graphics have a hand-drawn quality to them, and are presented in black and white. Red is occasionally introduced, and plays a part in highlighting the mysterious and almost supernatural presence of the red man. Each character is given personality through animation. Amber clenches and relaxes her fist while she stands, almost like she is attempting to relieve tension or stress. Ted’s ear twitches intermittently, like he has some nervous tick that he just can’t seem to throw.
Dialogue is supplied in text boxes, as well as in voice overs. The voice actors do a great job of delivering their lines, and instilling a vocal uniqueness to each character. While most characters fall into parody, with their look and how they speak, it doesn’t feel lazy. Common tropes used in noir fiction are borrowed to accentuate each characters place in the story, as well as what role they play in the game itself.
In fact, where Bear With Me: Episode One really shines is in its writing. Even though the game leans heavily on its noir and thriller inspirations, it uses these as a springboard to push the player quickly into a world that is slightly off-kilter. It is an interesting, and sometimes perplexing, mix of gritty detective story and self-aware parody.
Character banter can be slow and purposeful, or quick fire exchanges. Sometimes it will get dark and sombre, while atother times it breaks the fourth wall. Examining objects may cause Amber to recount horrible memories, or just as often quip on the absurd mundane nature of the item. There is an excellent balance between the gritty noir and light-hearted elements which adds a layer to the world.
It is almost as if Amber is participating in a serious game of detective. A game which she is using to forget something painful, or to distract herself from reality – but one which she occasionally forgets she is playing, and switches focus to clocks and colour pencils. This brings her back to the real world, before she goes fleeing back into her imaginary one.
That is one of the most interesting things about Bear With Me: Episode One. The world Amber is involved with is never explained. Players can make educated or informed guesses, and hints are dropped, but there is never a solid explanation of whether this is all in Amber’s imagination or not. This, again, feeds back into the feeling of uncertainty and mystery which permeates the game.
Being a first episode, the game isn’t long. It took me an hour and a half to finish it the first time, and a little over half an hour in subsequent playthroughs. There are some optional puzzles and conversations, which add an element of replayability. You will probably only get two or three playthroughs out of it, though, before you pretty much exhaust the content.
Of course, there are some minor problems with Bear With Me. A handful of animations are unconvincing, or confusing. Especially when given the level of detail and care put into the rest of the game. For instance, a hook on the end of a pole which is obviously far too short to reach the hatch it is intended to open. And yet, open it it does. Also, with both Amber and Ted moving about the screen, there are some instances where the movement engine resolves their positions by having a character walk over or through an object it shouldn’t. These do little to make the game unplayable. But they do break the otherwise excellent immersion the game builds.
SUMMARY: As a first installment, Bear With Me: Episode One is a surprisingly engaging mystery point-and-click adventure. The story and characters are extremely well written, and the inter-character dialogue is a joy to behold. There is limited replayability, but if Exordium can keep up the high level of writing, I can see people going back and replaying all the episodes once they are released to gain the full scope of the story. Even those who aren’t passionate about the point-and-click genre will be intrigued by the perplexing noir narrative.
Just remember to watch your back.
Bear With Me is developed and published by Exordium Games and available now on Steam.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: nVidiaN9600C, G1 Sniper M7 S1151, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 3 hours