Bear With Me Episode 2 - PC
Before I begin the review I’d just like to say that there will be spoilers below regarding the previous episode of Bear With Me as I will assume that you have completed it before attempting this one, I mean why would you start halfway through the game? If you did, shame on you! You are missing out on a great game.
Continuing from where we left off at the end of episode one, Amber and Ted have left their home and ventured forth into Paper City in a bid to locate her brother, Flint.
When the title screen loaded up, I initially thought here had been a huge tonal shift towards horror as the music that played was a child’s voice singing unsettling lyrics over a warped record, distorting the pitch creepily. When I started the game, though, I discovered that the tone was similar to the previous game which was good to know as I thought the first episode of BWM struck a perfect balance between noir, comedy and a touch of the eerie.
One thing I noticed about this episode is the change in scope. Whereas episode one was set entirely in the confines of the upper floor of Amber’s home, this time around we are treated to several locations around Paper City.
I was initially wary of this as in similar situations in other games, the size of the game area can interfere with the quality and flow of the game's narrative, however, this isn’t an issue here.
The city, whilst feeling expansive is set in about eight visitable areas (with sub-areas within them). The game never feels limited and echoing my review of the first episode stated, the story-writing is top quality here as well.
"The Map of Paper City, richly detailed and wonderfully drawn. You can’t see in the above image but the lights on the ‘Paper City’ sign move around, giving the city a sense of life."
This episode features an overworld game-map in a postcard style that reminded me of Melee Island (the setting of ‘The Secret of Monkey Island’). For the record, Paper City is not based on New York as I assumed in my previous review but on LA, complete with a lit-up ‘Paper City’ sign on the mountains outside the city.
After a brief intro, the game starts you off outside a diner inside which is the first other fully human character that you have come across in the game, this stands out conspicuously in a world populated by toys and animals. In this diner, the pop culture references come thick and fast but are always well-implemented and humorous. (hearing the ever-dour Ted singing ‘Push It’ by Salt N Pepa being especially amusing) and the banter between Ted and the waitress is as sharp as we have come to expect from Exordium Games.
The plot opens up a lot and leans towards political corruption this time around with the search for Flint and information about the mysterious ‘Red Man’ remaining as a backdrop to the proceedings. There are more puzzles in this episode although they are all in the traditional graphic adventure vein.
There were a few moments where I got stuck for a while (one requiring the combining of two items which seemed needless) but nothing entirely illogical or infuriating, although they definitely present more of a challenge that it’s predecessor. This time around there is a built-in hint system whereby you click on Ted and he will voice a brief guide to push you towards what needs to be completed in that specific area.
Also, I discovered that if you skip some lines of dialogue (which I mistakenly did as I thought I’d already heard the conversation) the animation can take a few seconds to catch up with you which results in watching a static screen for a few moments (obviously this can be entirely avoided by not skipping dialogue by accident!)
In regard to the speech and dialogue, it remains as high quality as the first episode although I did notice that one actor with a very distinctive voice played several characters which I found slightly confusing, it is only a minor gripe but in such a tightly designed game, this did stand out.
There were also several lines of dialogue which had small typos and didn’t quite match the subtitles. Again, not an issue at all in itself but not something that occurred in the first episode at all, to my knowledge. The music is in the same vein as the original with different locations having different scores adding to the mood (there was a piano line in the casino section that reminded me of the chorus in Van Morrisons’ ‘Jackie Wilson Said’ which was absolutely fine).
"The above screenshot is taken from a section of the game where you are briefly separated from Amber and have to escape from a room. The conversations with the log machine (on the right of the screen) are a great moment in the game."
The plot definitely thickened during this episode and there was a lot of fourth-wall breaking, one particular scene where this happened and literally interrupted a cut scene got one of the biggest laughs of the game from me. The more I play BWM, the more I appreciate it’s tonal similarities to Lucasarts games and considering this is an indie game, it’s a real achievement. As I’ve said before the game world here is so richly detailed and steeped in its own history that it makes you want to constantly move forward with the plot to find out what happens next.
I completed this episode in just over two hours and there were several moments where I had to remind myself that this wasn’t a big budget game because of the sheer quality illustrated throughout the game.
Episode 3 of Bear With Me is set to be released this summer and I for one can’t wait to see where it’ll take Ted and Amber on their search for Flint.
Right, I’m off to drink some carrot juice.
Game Link: Steam
Dev Link: exordiumgames.com