Reviewed on PC.
Bear With Me is a smorgasbord of film noir tropes: thrilling drama, gritty detective work, and dry yet witty humour consistently catch you off guard as it expertly breaks down the fourth wall. Expertly toeing the line between adult humour and purposely obtuse kid-friendly comedy, it abandons deep mechanics and challenging gameplay in order to create an intriguing world and, in the end, it’s a fun and engaging one.
Bear With Me: The Complete Collection is comprised of the original game, consisting of three episodes that released back in 2016 and 2017, and the new prequel episode, Bear With Me: The Lost Robots, which was released at the end of July 2019. There’s also some other nice digital bonuses, such as the game’s original soundtrack and a digital artbook. Combined with a price tag of just $14.98/£11.49, the whole collection is highly worth it.
The first three episodes of the original Bear With Me follow Amber and the sarcastic and cynical detective Ted E. Bear as they search for Amber’s missing brother, Flint. The game follows a traditional point-and-click system with logic-based puzzles interspersed throughout to make sure you’re paying attention.
The story of Bear With Me is predictable at times, but that’s mostly due to the creators weaving such a good tale that, as long as you’re paying attention, you can work out what’s going to happen before it actually happens. For those who are into the more ‘seriously mindboggling whodunnit’ type of detective games, Bear With Me may seem too easy for you.
The game doesn’t try to lure you into a labyrinth of red herrings and misdirection, keeping everything relatively simple as long as you know where to click. However, the story is well written and holds tension well, alternating between comedic leaning on the fourth wall and giving off a vague sense of dread with expert timing. It holds up well for those who are into a more casual experience or those who don’t exactly consider themselves to be a bonafide detective.
Bear With Me: The Lost Robots has an even more cut-and-dry storyline than the original. This prequel episode follows Flint and Ted E. Bear as they navigate the gritty Paper City, trying to stop a spate of robot kidnappings before the next victim turns up as nuts and bolts. The Lost Robots can easily be beaten in under 2 hours but, despite it being considerably shorter and slightly more predictable, it’s still deeply enjoyable thanks to the colourful cast of characters and short-but-sweet plot.
While the logic puzzles in both games tend to not present the most formidable challenge in the world, they’re still tricky enough to trip up anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the game or who point-blank refuses to read instructions. One such puzzle in The Lost Robots, which has Flint reconnecting some wires, hilariously plays heavily on the fact that the entire game is black-and-white while giving you instructions such as “This wire is clearly NOT red!”
Complementing the storyline is the cast of characters. The lead, Ted. E. Bear, is a jerk with a heart of gold. Amber and Flint also hold their own, with both characters contrasting Ted’s gritty realism while also providing their own level of snark and skill. Even the inhabitants of Paper City, who sometimes only appear briefly to conveniently lose their Camembert in a tree and further the plot, have plenty of substance to them. There’s plenty of anthropomorphic animals, robots, and strangely sentient objects to pique and keep your interest and you’ll most likely find yourself wanting a spinoff game based around each one and their backstories.
Despite this, Bear With Me still seems to be a little thin overall. It feels like it’s building up to something great and, despite hitting multiple high points, never actually achieves a payoff. The Lost Robots remedies this somewhat, working excellently as both a prequel and a standalone game, but it’s still a little too short for it to really get into gear – by the time you’re getting deep into the mystery, it all comes to a head and you’re left staring at the credits instead.
On the bright side, the graphics and soundtrack perfectly set the tone of the game. Both games come in a ‘detective noir monochrome’ colour scheme which, naturally, works great with the detective theme of Bear With Me. The soundtrack is reminiscent of early 1940s America, blending smooth jazz rhythms with tinkling riffs that occasionally cause a creeping feeling up your spine. It’s the kind of music that makes you want to smoke multiple cigarettes while wearing a fitted suit, pouring a martini, and saying “It’s just business, baby doll.”
One of the game’s other high points is the voice acting. Each character has their own distinctive voice and accent, from Ted E. Bear’s low and serious voice to Fixy the Robot’s deep Scottish burr. Luckily, just in case some of the accents or the robotic fuzz all become a bit too much for you, Bear With Me also comes complete with a full set of subtitles.
The only problem with the voice acting is that between characters, the quality and volume of the voice acting sometimes varies greatly; sometimes Ted E. Bear winds up the loudest person in the room and sometimes you can barely make out what someone’s saying, as though they recorded their lines with a bucket on their head. However, this doesn’t detract from the experience too much and there’s always volume sliders and subtitles to help you along on your journey.
In spite of its shortcomings, Bear With Me oozes so much sarcastic yet witty charm at every opportunity that it’s still an entertaining play. It proves that you don’t need to be the next Agatha Christie or Chuck Palahniuk in order to plot out a fun mystery. It’s just a shame that it gives off a sense that it’s leading up to something more, leaving the player’s itch for detective work just not that scratched.
Bear With Me: The Complete Collection is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Steam iOS, and Android. You can also check out the game’s official website here.