It’s safe to say that traditional point-and-click adventure games are somewhat of a rare breed in this day and age. Having arguably enjoyed its creative zenith in the early nineties with LucasArts’ critically acclaimed and commercially successful classics, such as The Secret of Monkey Island series and Day of The Tentacle, the point-and-click adventure genre has more or less been pushed into the outer fringes of the gaming zeitgeist.
That’s not to say that the genre is totally dead — far from it, actually. Telltale Games has delivered some excellent, narrative-focused adventure games with their own unique blend of traditional mechanics combined with a more modern, cinematic storytelling approach. On the whole, though, point-and-click adventure games designed like the old-school, pixel-hunting games of yore are a pretty rare sight. Which brings me to Bear With Me, a noir, horror-tinged point-and-click throwback, which playfully attempts to emulate the conventional tenets set out by the old-school adventure games you may fondly remember playing growing up.
Bear With Me’s narrative revolves around a plucky 10-year-old girl called Amber, who awakes in the middle of the night to find her brother Flint missing. Curious of his whereabouts, Amber seeks help from a rather fascinating, amusingly cantankerous character called Ted E. Bear who, you guessed it, is an anthropomorphic teddy bear… who’s also a retired, burnout detective — I know, go figure.
Ted E. Bear doesn’t just straddle the cynical and stereotypical private investigator shtick, but commits and goes all in — most of the dialogue Ted E. Bear delivers are lines you’ve probably heard countless times before from numerous cop shows from the eighties and the nineties. Lines like “I’m getting too old for this,” to “I don’t make the rules… I sure as hell don’t follow them!” all make welcome appearances throughout the first episode and are all delivered with droll and humorous sincerity.
This sets up the tone of the game; a hard-boiled, detective thriller accompanied by a self-aware and playful sense of humor with a few hints of horror thrown in for good measure. Bear With Me often eschews the serious, po-faced tone of its The Big Sleep-esque detective thriller source material by blending in some fourth-wall breaking banter to add even more levity to the experience, and for the most part it works surprisingly well.
The game is genuinely funny. Its sly, irreverent humor is definitely one of its strongest hands. Pop culture references come thick and fast — everything from Half-Life 3, Monkey Island, The Big Lebowski, Resident Evil and The Terminator all get their own personalized quips, and they all come with a sly wink and a nudge for those in the know. Nevertheless, like all in-jokes, these could quite easily fall flat if you’re unfamiliar with the many pop-culture references the game throws at you.
Those familiar with the point-and-click adventure game setup will feel right at home in Bear With Me. Players control the investigative duo by clicking to move the characters around the environments and have them interact, examine and pick up certain objects of interest. Each clickable object has its own unique pieces of voiced prose and the voice acting is terrific; Amber’s gentle nonchalance is pleasantly contrasted with Ted E Bear’s dry and sarcastic quips — it really sounds like the voice actors had a lot of fun recording the dialogue and it shows in the final product.
As you may have guessed, puzzles are the core of the moment-to-moment gameplay and Bear With Me’s are generally fairly logical and well designed. Some pixel-hunting is required for a couple of the puzzles which did cause a little frustration, but to take these troublesome occasions away completely would reduce the impact of those satisfying eureka moments that are synonymous with the genre. The game’s interface is simple, elegant and easy to use, though some kind of extra hint system could’ve been beneficial for those who are truly in a bind. There were a few times where I literally had no clue as to what to do next, which I guess comes with the territory in games of this ilk.
Bear With Me‘s presentation is a highlight. I’m a sucker for charming, hand-drawn art and it doesn’t fail to deliver in that regard. The childlike, cartoon aesthetic works well and really gels with the tone of the game: irreverent humor on one hand and a comic-book style on the other — tonally, it all fits rather nicely together. Sound design is fairly minimalist, with the occasional ’50s-inspired instrumental lounge tune to help lend a little authenticity to the crime noir comic-book setup.
It takes around a couple of hours to see and hear everything within the first episode of Bear With Me. The world within it is charming and imaginatively realized with a good balance of zany humour and chin-stroking intrigue. Those adverse to the genre will probably want to steer clear of this one as Bear With Me does follow its point-and-click inspiration rather rigidly; but on the other hand, those with a hankering for the good old days will find a lot to love here.
Bear With Me is a charming, imaginatively realized point-and-click noir adventure with a good balance of zany humour and chin-stroking intrigue. Those with a hankering for the good old days of the genre will find a lot to love here.