Not all is plush in Paper City.
Bear With Me: The Complete Collection was an episodic point-and-click adventure series for the PC which has found its way to Switch as a complete package. Now as a complete collection (including a prequel episode titled “The Lost Robots”), you’ll follow the grizzled detective Ted E. Bear and his child companion Amber using the power of completing environmental puzzles and witty, pun-filled banter to explore Paper City and solve the mystery surrounding her missing brother.
Functionally, this is what you’ve come to expect from the genre. Once dropped into a room and given context of what you’re looking for, you’ll search the background with a cursor to find interactable objects. Observing them will offer flavor dialogue from the protagonists. Some items you’ll be able to interact with, and others are to be picked up or combined with objects in your inventory to be used as a tool to solve puzzles that guide you along to the next plot point.
This isn’t a problem specific to Bear With Me, but a grievance with point-and-click adventures that find their way on consoles – there has to be a better way to handle a mouse cursor on screen than controlling via joystick. Offer an option to have interactable items highlighted on-screen. Allow cycling through those background items with a trigger button. Ted & Amber walk at a plodding pace between different objects, which you must wait through before they say their piece. The cursor moves relatively slow on screen. And the start of the story is slow to where you must push yourself through it. Give me some way to more quickly cycle through the level objects to inspect. It may be my impatience speaking, but I want a zippier way to move the story forward.
But that may also speak to the quality of the world, characters and storytelling, which is heavily cribbed in a film noir sensibility. The world is muted - drenched in layers of black, white and shades of grey. Backdrops, items, and characters are littered with pop culture parodies and references. Ted E. Bear is cynical, questioning, and biting. I had flashes of old Max Payne dialogue in some of his monologues – nihilistic, acidic commentary on the world and people who harmed him, making you wonder whether he got hugged enough as a cub. Amber is the more rational observer, the straight man (woman?) to Ted. The story leads you through a slate of characters that really bring the color to this world and along with Amber act as a good foil to him.
While the larger world building and storytelling are great, the dialogue and voice acting is inconsistent. Ted’s gristle and deep baritones in his voice are well suited, but is excessively monotone in delivery, even for the archetype of the character. I would have liked to see a little more varied deflection in his voice, if only to showcase occasional bemusement or surprise. Amber (as well as her brother in the prequel episode) also have issues with flatness in delivery. The writing is stuffed with puns, which pleases me greatly but at times is wincing. Early into the prequel, Ted encounters a broken table and muses that it’s “differently tabled”, having me literally groaning out loud. This varied quality exists throughout and requires just requires rolling through the punchlines.
Bear With Me: The Complete Collection is stuffed with the kind of character and world building you could hope for between the morose plush protagonist, the well crafted characters, and the mystery you work to unfold through its chapters. If you can push through slow early moments, inconsistent writing, and some muted vocal delivery, there’s a lot to uncover and enjoy even if it won’t always have you in stitches.