When I first stumbled across Bear With Me, I’m not sure what struck me first: the fact it’s a point ‘n’ click adventure or that it’s a noir-inspired tale starring a teddy bear detective. I’m a massive fan of crime and mystery thrillers from the early ’40s to late ’50s when the film noir genre was at its peak. Movies such as Double Indemnity, Touch of Evil, and The Killing are just a few quintessential classics that gained my interest. When I started playing the game, it was quickly evident they’d done their research and have worked to capture the essence of early mystery thrillers; even including a Humphrey Bogart type with the character Ted E. Bear. The game is also inspired by many classic ’90s point ‘n’ click adventures from that era when Lucas Arts reigned supreme. Influences from titles such as Monkey Island, Fate of Atlantis, Grim Fandango, and even Broken Sword are unmistakable. It’s very easy to see their influence as Bear With Me attempts to bring back the same quirky sense of humour and puzzle events that we know and love.
The first episode sees you take on the role of Amber, a young girl who wakes up from a nightmare only to realise her brother Flint is missing. Before she goes off in search of her sibling, however, Amber employs the services of her old teddy, Ted E. Bear, a grouchy retired detective. The unusual duo set out to search for clues and to question witnesses and suspects, all the while unaware of the dangers that lurk in Paper City. The plot takes a turn when it is revealed that the shadowy ‘red man’ has been starting fires throughout Paper City while looking for amber. The underlining narrative for Bear with Me offers a tale of mystery and intrigue, but I also found it mostly relies on comedic themes to fill the plot.
As with most point ‘n’ click adventures, items and characters are on-screen for the player to interact with. With a click of a mouse, you must investigate numerous rooms in Amber’s house to find clues and objects to unlock new areas and make progress in the game. Items can also be combined to create new objects to use with doors or characters. What I found most appealing is the dialogue that’s tied to every clickable item. Each object has an amusing and unique comment voiced by the characters that are always fun to discover. The puzzles aren’t too challenging in this episode; simple logic is the primary requirement, but it’s still best to explore each room thoroughly in case you miss an item or clue. Several objects I found were pretty obvious in their purpose, while a few got me thinking a little outside the box. If you do get stumped, though, you can ask Ted E. Bear, who will usually give you a hint on what to do next.
While a lot of the game is exactly what you’d expect, what I did find frustrating are the unusually long loading times. The game is quite small in size, plus the backgrounds are pre-rendered, so it was surprising to see how slow it was at times. It can get quite frustrating too because several puzzles require to you navigate back and forth between areas, so each time you leave a room, you’ll see a loading screen. The first episode lasts only a few hours, but there is more to discover after the game is completed. Based on the dialogue options you select, some events won’t occur during the first playthrough. Characters can end up with different outcomes, and, in turn, change the course of the narrative.
One thing I especially liked was the choice to make the game black and white as having the whole game in colour would detract from its noir qualities. I also enjoyed the unique art style which is a good step away from a Disney-look and much more like a graphic novel come to life. While the game has a mysterious tone, the overall art is cartoonish and playful which surprisingly creates a fun little mix. The voice acting is also great, with each line of dialogue being witty and well written. It’s a good homage to noir films while also injecting some cuteness and quirkiness into the character interactions. I have to admit that Amber’s character and voice can get a bit overbearing, so I much preferred Ted E. Bear as he is a more mature and rugged personality. The soundtrack is also great and is comprised of subtle jazz and piano tones that fit with the game perfectly, as well as ambient sounds well tuned to the world of Paper City.
Bear With Me is an entertaining return to the point ‘n’ click adventure games of old with its charming dialogue and fascinating characters. While I have to admit I found the frequently slow loading times frustrating, it luckily doesn’t damage the overall experience. The puzzles are the right level of difficulty and don’t ever take you out of the narrative, and the game has a fantastic sense of humour. If you’re either a fan of ’90s adventure titles or film noir, I recommend giving Bear With Me a spin as the first episode is a lot of fun and looks to be taking the series in a promising direction.