It was a wet, dark February evening. I’d had a long day chasing leads and was ready for a quiet evening. Little E crawled into the room and locked eyes with me. I could tell she was tired from brawling rummys all day so I let her rest and put her to bed surrounded by her favourite furry friends. I returned to my desk and poured myself something warm and smoky from the top draw when a message flashed before me on the bright LED screen ‘Mate, Review this game’.
Bear With Me is an episodic point and click adventure game with a crime noir aesthetic and detective story narrative. Developed and published by Exordium Games the first episode released in August of 2016 with episode 2 having recently arrived on 15th February 2017.
The adventure follows Amber and her companion Ted E Bear. They explore their world in search of Amber’s missing brother Flint and to try to unravel the mystery of the ‘Red Man’. The duo search for clues and interrogate their way through their environment discovering a much bigger story in a classic detective movie way. During episode 1 the search takes them around the first floor of Amber’s home. It’s a small world with only 8 spaces to explore which open up as the story progresses. However the house doesn’t feel small. It has a wealth of detail and flavour text in each room and I noticed something new to interact with on each visit. During the second episode the world opens up with several locations in ‘Paper City’ to explore. It’s a good change to the house setting and allows a good variation in the locations whilst creating a bigger adventure space. Although it’s a larger world it is not an open one. A lovely postcard map allows travel between locations but the linear narrative and specific destination for each puzzle remains. This isn’t a bad thing as you are kept focused on the puzzle at hand and not able to blindly search locations for clues that are not there.
The environments and the characters are well drawn, reminiscent of a kids cartoon but with a detail and skill pulling it above the Saturday morning fair of my youth. Add in the noir colour palette and you get some dynamic environments with excellent lighting effects. The rainy night setting allows lightning to fill a room setting the scene well and during episode 1 the torch in the bathroom lighting is perfect.
Amber’s not-so-child-like take on her surroundings and Ted’s grumpy, slightly worn demeanour work well to tell a story of a girl who is perhaps growing out of playing with cuddly animals, but clings onto them, creating story’s in her imagination to act out. This relationship and the dialogue around these characters is a real selling point for this game. We’ve all, probably, played with toys, given them personalities and gone on adventures with them and it’s a nice touch that their dynamic changes slightly throughout the story. Amber and Ted’s exchanges can be deep, moody and comical in a short space of time showing a strong, well established relationship between them.
The writing also reveals a deep influence from film. Some Interactable items and dialogue choices bring a quick one liner, movie quote or acted out scene. Early on you can click on a Hockey mask which gives some well delivered flavour dialogue about lending the mask to Amber’s friend, Jason. Later on the option of giving ‘…we’re the FBI’ as a response brings chat of two fictitious, well-known paranormal detectives. These cultural touchstones are well placed and do not feel shoe-horned in. It’s a reminder that children are influenced by the outside world and make reference to it whilst at play. Either that or the Developers just really like movies.
There is a little repeated dialogue early in episode 1 between one of Ted’s narrated scenes and the following conversation with Amber but this is brushed over quickly with slightly different writing used. Repeated dialogue does not continue on through the game with each interaction between characters feeling different. The writing really plays on the characters themselves and the relationship Amber and Ted have, or don’t, with the others inhabitants of the world.
The puzzles are simplistic in nature, use an item on an object, but ramp up in complexity between episodes 1 and 2 adding to a welcome change of pace between episodes. Occasionally you’re given an item and it’s use is not always apparent so some out of the box thinking is required. This is true of some of the later episode 2 puzzles where a little trial and error, combining items and the interrogation of characters is required. I would have liked these complex puzzles to feature more during episode 2. By the end of episode 1 we’ve learnt the language needed to progress and episode 2 had an opportunity to present more of a challenge. I also wanted a better use for the dialogue choices as these are often just for flavour and most puzzles still require the use of items. A few dialogue interactions do reward you with items but it’s just a case of exploring all the available options to gain said item.
Sure, I want complexity but actually I think the simplicity of puzzles creates a very accessible game. Those who aren’t veterans of point and click adventure but want a well told, cute and comical detective story would do well to play Bear With Me as an introduction to the genre. Too often complexity of puzzles and hunting down objects is a barrier but Bear With Me gives subtle hints about which objects are usable on the screen and through the narrative. This allows players to experience the story being told without worrying about missing items in the environment or which item to use for progression.
My only criticism of the game is that there isn’t enough of it. As explained I wanted more complexity in the puzzles and story progression but I also wanted to play more. It’s short at around 90 minutes to two hours an episode, each of which I blasted through in a single evening. This level of writing, character creation and setting deserved to have more time spent with it. If only another 30 minutes per episode just to experience more fun and witty exchanges between Amber and Ted.
Point and click adventures have had a bit of a renaissance in recent years and I feel that Bear With Me is a must play for those that enjoy the genre. It sits somewhere in between the well produced Broken Age and the low-fi, slightly deranged, Dropsy. What both of those games have is wonderful writing and it’s the writing and voice work in Bear With Me which really make it stand out. It’s noir aesthetic gives it a charm backed up by excellent lighting and environments. For those of you who steer clear of Point and Click its short play time and relatively simplistic puzzles make it accessible with a story worth experiencing. I am really looking forward to episode 3.
Also any game featuring Winston Wolf as a character gets my full approval.
Available on Steam
- Well written
- Endearing characters
- Simplistic puzzles (for P&C veterans)
- Too short
- Character Design8