Disclosure: I got a review key to try this game out. You can buy it on Steam here.
To understand Bear With Me, consider the premise of the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip. Calvin is a six year old kid with a creative mind, and he believes his stuffed tiger Hobbes can talk. This is the platform for the adventures of the comic, illustrating how the young boy escapes from the boring and mundane affairs of reality. In Bear With Me, Amber imagines her toys are all citizens of Paper City, giving each of them backstories and personalities among a Detective themed noir world of her own.
Amber wakes up after having a dream of Paper City on fire, seeing glimpses of a scary man dressed in red flashing in and out. The talking stuffed Giraffe named Millie in her room pretty much provides all the basic exposition of the Bear with Me storyline. Amber is the “mayor” of Paper City, which happens to be in a state of disarray. Although young, she has the composure of an adult, but with all the wild imaginations of a kid. Millie the Giraffe came to ask for her to sort it out, and tells Amber her brother Flint has vanished. But Paper City is too dangerous for Amber alone, so she needs to bring her friend Ted E. Bear with her as backup. Amber and Ted E. had a falling out over creative differences, as Amber thought Ted E. had become a burnout. Normally this would prevent Amber from agreeing to bring Ted along. But when a Red Man arrived in Paper City asking questions about Amber, that’s when the trouble for the town started. When she arrives to Ted’s office (in her wardrobe closet), we get to hear the bear himself for the first time.
He seems to hardcore hate her. His whole opening monologue goes on about the relationship between himself and Amber has become strained and a tired routine, even alluding to the fact that they were Detective partners at some point. But some incident about almost getting thrown into a wood chipper seemed to make communication difficult between the two of them. They eventually warm up to each other, which makes for some modest yet meaningful character development in the story. When you make enough progress, Ted has a monologue cut-scene where he sums up the events of the story up to that point, helping add to the whole “Detective Noir” vibe they were aiming for in the game. The office itself looks like an actual detective’s office, despite being in Amber’s closet. This reinforces the theme of reality and imagination meshing together. Throughout this first episode in the adventure, Ted and Amber meet other characters that appear to be based off of toys in their house. A robot named Rusty, two old fashioned gangster rabbit brothers, and Brian the Policedog all have their own colorful personalities when you talk to them. This is what Bear With Me does best, for sure. Talking to these interesting characters helps fill in the gaps between the basic gameplay elements at work here.
For the first bit of point-n’-click problem solving, I needed to put Bear’s magnifying glass back in working order. The lens was broken, but replacing it with the lens from a pair of glasses in Amber’s room did the trick. I was confined to this initial space of just Ted’s office and Amber’s Room, which gave me a limited number of items to focus on and eventually figure out how to put them together and make story progress. This is the basic extent of the puzzles you’ll have to solve for the rest of the episode. You need to survey the environment for not only items, but things to use the items on. The only time it caught me in a jam was at the very end, when you’re supposed to forge documents in order to get into Paper City (use the Swiss Army Knife on the Candle to make the stamp). But all in all, it generally sufficed.
Spoiler: At one point in the game you take control of the Red Man himself. You control him as he moves through the house, backtracking Amber and Ted’s steps until he gets to her room itself. You have the choice of either killing Millie the Giraffe or just jumping out the window. This will presumably set up some sort of branching story path for later episodes in the series.
For $4.99, what was offered in Bear With Me is a fair price. There’s even an achievement for getting through the game in under an hour, which means the developers are aware of the overall playtime in this first episode. The settings and characters are certainly a refreshing and original change of pace for telling a story, but I hope the later episodes manage to give the gameplay a chance to show what it can really do.