The Beginning of the Bear
Bear With Me: The Lost Robots is a prequel game to the three-part Bear With Me series. It’s a detective-themed point-and-click adventure game following grizzled, cynical detective “Ted. E. Bear.” In The Lost Robots, Ted is tasked with solving the murder of “Robbie,” one of a series of robots in the game’s hometown of Papercity to meet their end. Alongside Ted is Flint, a human child tasked with being the sidekick who puts up with the cynical detectives nonsense, whilst doing a fine job of actually solving the case.
I’m going to start by confessing I’ve never played the original Bear With Me series. I’m sure that amongst The Lost Robots is plenty of references to the original series and setups to later events. Given that the original series was mostly well-received, I’m sure there are plenty of players who are happy to see these characters return with a new adventure. But while a prequel’s job is to add more depth to an existing series, a good prequel should also be able to stand up on its own. It should offer a fun, intriguing adventure that may make you want to invest in the complete series. Even if you played it with no intention of going further, it should still strive to be a fun use of time for the curious passer-by.
I’m not going to make assumptions about the original series based on this game, however, I will confess now that I’m unlikely to find out what the original series was like, based on my experience with The Lost Robots.
Papercity: Population Nobody
The Lost Robots, as we’ve established, follows a mystery storyline, featuring the very typical alcoholic, grizzled “don’t play by the rules” detective. Only this time it’s a bear.
The characters all feel like ones we’ve seen before. Granted, Bear With Me is a short game, you could probably get through it in a two-hour session, but the small character traits we see are often shoved right in our faces for fear we’ll miss them. An example of this is Robbie, having spent most of the game in pieces when he’s finally fixed and able to speak, it’s immediately established that he’s some kind of “ladies-robot” despite his nerdy demeanor. This is shown by him hitting on the only woman in the room, him accidentally showing us an intimate recording (literally the first thing he does) and him reading a suggestive magazine in the wrap-up.
Whilst the creators are free to make whatever characters they like, it doesn’t feel like Robbie is anything outside this attempt at humour, which seemed to be the case for all the characters. Except for Flint, the second main character, who we learn literally nothing about! Throughout the game, he’s just ‘there.’ It would have been nice to get to know him more.
The story itself doesn’t hold too many surprises. You can probably guess who the mystery’s main antagonist is long before the game’s end. It also tries to do that “fourth wall breaking” thing which I believe to be a mortal sin for an adventure game. Such as one of the goons shouting “foreshadowing” after it’s said that they’ll meet again, and Flint pointing out that one of the puzzle clues is too obvious. I don’t find this original, and I find it more lazy than funny.
Robots and Puns
Bear With Me does feel like it’s trying too hard at times to be edgy or “random.” The jokes all fell flat for me. I like puns as much as the next person, but The Lost Robots’ puns just felt cringy to me. Probably because the atmosphere of the game is so bleak.
The bleak atmosphere comes from the game taking a few surprisingly dark turns. I’m not talking about the murder and the kidnapping, but for example, a joke centred around mental illness not twenty minutes into the game. At one point you need to distract the newspaper editor, a chameleon who is literally called OCD, in order to get the item you need. Bear then points out a mistake on one of his papers, causing him to start arranging them frantically. I don’t know what the game was trying to achieve by doing this. Was I supposed to laugh or feel awkward?
The game’s salvation comes from it being a child’s adventure. We’re playing with Flint, this is an adventure made by a small boy, which honestly makes the idea of stopping a robot kidnapping ring kind of fun. You can excuse “random,” if there is a good reason behind that randomness, and what’s more random than a kid making up his game as he goes along and filling in the characters with the toys he already has. To some extent, it also excuses the characters being so one dimensional- it’s a child piecing them together through what he’s seen. But I’m not completely convinced that’s what Exordium Games was going for.
Looking at the Bear
The art style of Bear With Me is pretty perfect for what it’s trying to be. The characters all look like they’ve stepped right out of a comic book and reflect the genre of the game. However, this is ruined by the game’s lazy animation.
None of the characters has more than one facial expression! At one point, Flint is telling Ted about how he indirectly put his sister in hospital after an allergic reaction. This is actually one of the game’s more interesting conversations, and one of the few moments Flint says something worthwhile. Flint feels really guilty about everything that happened. That’s what I assume, he didn’t actually look guilty. He had the same vacant expression he had the entire game; they just stuck some tears in his eyes and called it a day.
This laziness also reflects in the characters mouths not even attempting to move in time with what they are saying and the characters movements not reflecting the urgency of the situation. An example of this is when Robbie accidentally shares the embarrassing recording. He turns it off as casually as he turns it on, moving at the exact same speed!
I do commend the game for having full voice acting, it’s a great feature to see in an indie adventure game. However, no voice acting is better than bad voice acting. All the characters felt incredibly stiff and delivered each line in exactly the same way, no matter what the situation. Even through the few emotional moments. It was so grating I turned the sound off halfway through the game.
Put That There to Win
Most of the gameplay of The Lost Robots involves puzzles and problem-solving. I love this kind of game, and The Lost Robots does it pretty well. Clues are scattered throughout the map and the puzzles are engaging. However, while the puzzles are engaging, they aren’t exactly original. My favourite puzzle involves sticking together scraps of paper to create a clue. It’s a well-designed puzzle, but I don’t think I’ve played a puzzle-adventure game where I haven’t done this puzzle.
My main criticism is that the puzzles are just too easy. The isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the game keeps giving us the answers to the puzzles! During a trial-and-error puzzle, after the first trial, Ted just straight up mansplains the controls! One puzzle literally gives you a sign showing which items you need to solve the situation. This isn’t good gameplay. What’s the point in having puzzles if you’re not going to let the player think?
Maybe Next Time
Bear With Me: The Lost Robots made me think of a game I reviewed badly last year. Whilst the game I reviewed was poorly executed, I liked the concept and felt like there was something here to be improved on. But I’m afraid The Lost Robots doesn’t give me that. I don’t feel like there is anything here I haven’t seen before or anything I can take away with it. I don’t feel connected with any of these characters and I’m unsure where it could possibly be going.
But hey, the game is a prequel. Maybe the other three episodes shine a brighter light what this story has to offer. I’ll give them that much.
Final Verdict: 1.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Xbox, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android, Apple; Publisher: Modus Games; Developer: Exordium Games; Players: 1; Released: July 31st, 2019; MSRP: $4.99
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Bear With Me: The Lost Robots given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.