Review: Bear With Me

3 stars
Atmospheric point and click adventure with a few rough edges

Bear With Me is an episodic point-and-click adventure game released in 2016-2017, developed by a Crotian indie studio called Exordium Games. The game tells the story of a girl named Amber searching for her brother Flint, with the help of her trusty teddy bear.

Amber’s fertile imagination turns her dolls and toys into living and breathing characters. Above all, Amber’s teddy bear is Ted E. Bear, a hard-boiled detective with an office in her closet. To find Flint, Amber and Ted walk the roads of “Paper City”, which in reality is a paper model in the family attic.

If you’ve played LucasArts or Sierra adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island or King’s Quest, you know what to do: walk from screen to screen, examine and pick up items, and try to solve puzzles by combining them or by talking to other characters.

The game is fully voice-acted. As you click around a scene, Amber and Ted will offer plenty of commentary about every object with a hotspot on it. That includes endless puns and jokes, many of which break the Fourth Wall (“It’s a save point! Nah just kidding, what is this, Resident Evil?”).

What’s going on with the lamp above the “Club Entrance” sign? Did a designer forget to remove an initial sketch from the final scene? (Credit: Exordium Games. Fair use.)

This kind of humor is difficult to pull off. For an example of masterful Fourth Wall breaking, see the Monkey Island “rubber tree” gag, or the Monkey Island 2 “hint line”. In both cases, the jokes are elaborate set pieces, and they occur after the player has spent hours immersing herself in the game world. In Bear With Me, you might encounter a silly developer joke in the third room.

This takes away from what is otherwise a richly textured (if mostly monochromatic) world, and is at odds with the game’s ambition to explore darker themes, especially in the final episode. There are a couple of other frustrations: Amber and Ted’s walk speeds are almost excruciatingly slow, which can get in the way of solving puzzles; while the art quality overall is high, some scenes are a bit sterile.

This is a plot-driven game, and you’re unlikely to need a walkthrough to make it past any of the game’s puzzles. Overall, I found the plot engaging, and would play another game in the series, if one existed. The three short episodes and the “Lost Robots” standalone episode add up to a medium-length adventure game.

I would give Bear With Me 3.5 stars, rounding down because of the rough edges, and because of neglect for the Linux version (The Lost Robots is only available for Windows, and Exordium’s developers don’t seem to be active in the Steam forums anymore; I was able to play the full game via Proton-GE). A good discount buy for point and click fans.