As someone who loves both point-and-click adventures and anything that involves elements of old Hollywood crime drama (film noir), I was incredibly excited to hear that Bear With Me - Episode 2 was releasing soon. I previously reviewed the first episode for OPN last year, so I eagerly anticipated another chapter of Amber and Ted E. Bear's adventures in Paper City. Released on February 15th, 2017, by Exordium Games, Bear With Me is a humorous, sarcasm-fueled, and intelligent take on this classic genre of video games, but is the story as compelling and as satisfying in this new installment?
Paper City, Expanded
In Bear With Me - Episode 1, we were introduced to Ted and Amber, the "Red Man," and several members of the cast. Naturally, Episode 2 expands upon those initial interactions and further diversifies the roster with new citizens. Betty, the sassy, sharp-tongued waitress, and Tigren, the Voodoo practitioner who used to be married to the villainous Reef King, are just a few examples of the personalities that exist in Paper City.
The voice acting in Bear With Me is stellar, and there's an abundance of puns, mildly foul language, and subtle pop culture references to keep more mature audiences entertained, without delving into a genuine (ESRB) "Mature" territory. The soundtrack is a smooth, rich assortment of jazz befitting of any noir adventure, and it ties in perfectly with the rest of the themes. The looming threat of the "Red Man" is somewhat downplayed in Episode 2, but it's a lingering menace worthy of the apprehension it creates within our young protagonist and her companion. I don't want to include any spoilers, suffice it to say that the overall arc of intrigue, mystery, and looming threats continues here in Episode 2, and even expands.
Ted has a tendency to break the 4th wall, at times more blatantly than required to get the point across, but otherwise, his gruff, serious demeanor is a cute contrast to Amber's whimsical, childlike nature. While other series have dabbled in a child's perspective for their titles, such as Among the Sleep and Night Blights, Bear With Me has taken the next step by adding a different layer: it's adult humor, obscure references, and colorful language on top of a landscape so obviously painted by the palette of Amber's imagination. That dynamic sells Bear With Me as a new twist on a land of make-believe.
The Nitty-Gritty of Gameplay
The interface in Bear With Me – Episode 2 is crisp and responsive, and the controls are simple, intuitive combinations. My biggest complaint is the movement speed for Ted and Amber – I swear, I spent most of my time waiting agonizingly long stretches of time for tiny legs to shamble across the screen from one objective to another. It's a minor tweak that would have significantly improved my overall enjoyment of this title, but it's not so burdensome as to ruin my experience. The trouble is that the walking speed combines with Ted's terrible maneuverability, so often, I found myself waiting an equal amount of time for Ted to walk around Amber and stroll up the other side. Bear With Me also has some surprisingly long loading screens for such a seemingly uncomplicated world, but fortunately, players don't spend a lot of time backtracking from one location to another, so this is a minor setback.
The cursor indicates when there's an item you can interact with, so it isn't difficult to locate objects, or notice objectives, with a quick sweep of your mouse across the screen. Using an item from your inventory is the standard, click-and-drag style combination, which worked flawlessly in Episode 2 as far as I could tell. There are some fun Achievements hidden in individual interactions and dialog choices, which I find to be a charming addition to a point-and-click title.
All in all, Bear With Me – Episode 2 is even stronger than the first chapter with regard to gameplay finesse, refinement, and lack of bugs, and I feel as though most of the issues I countered in my first trip to Paper City are blessedly absent here in Episode 2.
Bear With Me is a title that makes me want to pour a glass of scotch, put some smooth jazz on the record player, and melt into a comfortable, leather armchair while I pretend it's the 1940s. The atmosphere of this title has the delicious flavor of those classic noir themes, complete with gray, rainy nights, a swanky soundtrack, and rumbly, baritone voice acting. Ted E. Bear is a sharp, no-nonsense kind of Private Eye, which is a winning blend when combined with the naïve charm of our girl Amber. The storyline weaves this intricate tapestry of young imagination with themes befitting a dark mystery, and the cast of characters make Paper City and the world within this new episode even more compelling.
The puzzles are satisfying, if not overly challenging, and although the maneuvering issues and movement speed are a source of frustration, I never had a lapse in gameplay when the momentum stalled because I couldn't figure out a solution. Bear With Me – Episode 2 is polished and sophisticated, with a refreshing take on point-and-click themes, and while Episode 2 is relatively short – it took me less than 3 hours to beat it – I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a quality adventure title. This is particularly the case for fans of the series; I enjoyed Episode 2 more than its predecessor, which makes me even more excited for further expansion on the story, the world, and the memorable personalities.