By Ronald Gordon
Point and click mystery games can be wonderfully strange when they’re done right. That’s especially true if one of the main characters is a deep-voiced teddy bear with a drinking problem and a dark past. Talk about an intriguing twist.
Bear With Me is an episodic adventure game series developed and published by Exordium Games. The game originally had only three parts, but a recent installment in the series, “The Lost Robots” chapter, serves as a prequel with an enthralling story. I had access to all the parts, but I thought the prequel would help me better understand the story, so I played through that first. Because of what I saw and enjoyed, I now intend to play through all the chapters if it means I get to see more.
The story in The Lost Robots chapter is unlike the other stories in the series. Aside from being a prequel, you also play as a different character that in the original chapters. In the main series, you are a young girl named Amber who, with the help of the hardened and recently retired detective Ted E. Bear, goes on a hunt to find her missing brother, Flint. In The Lost Robots, you play as Flint and work with Ted to solve the mystery of the robot kidnappings. In the streets of Papercity, robots, who live ordinary lives working at casual jobs, going out with friends, etc., suddenly disappear without a word. Of course the local police look into it, but all they can find are parts of the missing robots, which have been left to sink in the river, dismantled, powered down and stripped of components by mysterious kidnappers.
After many failed attempts to figure out what happened, the police have dropped the case, although the disappearances continue. That means it’s all up to Ted. He was hired by the Robot Union to solve the case with the help of his trusty sidekick Flint, a young boy with short hair and a keen fashion sense…and the one who ends up doing most of the grunt work. This, of course, leads to myriad trials and tribulations and eventually a satisfying, yet slightly dark, ending.
When I started playing through the original chapters I realized that even though I was a different character, the situations that players and Ted get into have the same feeling to them: unpredictable and crazy. You see, the stories in Bear With Me always unfold in a way that makes its outrageous situations feel realistic and its wacky characters feel strangely human. Ted’s personality is one example; his behavior makes him seem more human than the actual humans in the story. On the surface, he’s tough as nails. But because he’s an actual walking, talking teddy bear, he’s soft on the inside and truly cares for the people around him. This is shown in the way he constantly cracks jokes – in his gravelly voice and with his unchanging tired expression – in order to keep the mood up while he delves into the gruesome underbelly of Papercity. In The Lost Robots chapter, he even takes the time to stop and ask Flint about what’s worrying him.
That’s because the reason Flint has taken Amber’s place is that Amber had an allergic reaction to a cookie Flint dared her to eat, and she was sent to the hospital. This makes Flint feel extremely guilty, which you can hear in the melancholic and brittle tone of his voice. So Ted still tries his best to keep Flint in a positive frame of mind and encourages him to stop being so hard on himself.
Bear With Me has a consistently Noir feel. The main colors are different shades of grey, with some important story elements appearing in more vibrant and lively colors to make them stand out. The change in color makes things more eye-catching, in contrast to the grayscale of everything else. Bear With Me often uses red as its standout color; we see it used in the red ropes and wires that connect the pieces of the story during transitions like a classic cork board investigation, and to highlight the choices you make during interactions. I found this fascinating as it made me really look out for things that had even the smallest trace of a different color to them, as even a shift in grey coloring could signal that this was an item you need to progress. The music, which plays during transitions and during scenes where a radio is present, is reminiscent of the classic jazzy style that most Noirish media has. However, most of the places you visit are silent, aside from the ambient sounds that you occasionally hear.
Bear With Me is a wonderful game when it comes to storytelling and an enjoyable experience overall. Something else that I appreciated was the overall challenge that the game posed, as it doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. An item you need to make progress might not be usable until you combine it with something else, and a puzzle you find might be solved by context clues from an earlier dialogue encounter. One of the puzzles that I had fun with was plugging some wires into one of the dismantled robots in order to revive it. Here, the game pokes fun at its almost entirely grey coloring by forcing you to inspect each individual wire in order to determine its color. Meanwhile, you’re confronted with the line, “It’s obvious what color this one is.” Nice one, game devs; I clearly knew what color that was. All jokes aside, I’d wholeheartedly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys the Noir style and wants to see it done in a quirky yet enjoyable manner. In other words, I was happy to grin and bear it.
Sophomore intern Ronald Gordon is creating the City Tech College chapter of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.