By Adam Riley 14.02.2017
Ted E. Bear and Miss Amber return after the deadly escapades around her home in search of her missing brother, Flint. The first episode of Bear with Me had a fantastic premise set against a film noir setting and, whilst flawed in places, it had great potential to develop considerably across the planned five parts. Now Episode 2 has arrived, and the story picks up as Amber and Ted start delving deeper into the mystery they have stumbled upon, scouring Paper City for any sliver of information not only on little miss' brother, but a dark evil entity…
Whereas the first episode of Bear with Me focused on different rooms within Amber's house, the setting here is the sprawling landscape of Paper City (admittedly still within Amber's home, up in the loft space, but since the abode is never shown this time round, the mystique of the fantasy world is never shaken). From a café diner and mayor's house, to a casino and even a junkyard, there is some great variety in the places to visit. The quality of the puzzles included seems to have been upped, as well, although there are still a few that are far too simple, breezed past without any hesitation. However, on the whole, there is much more satisfaction when completing the adventure, especially when cracking some of the multi-part puzzle sections that involve using various items from the inventory together, and then following a chain of varying events to reach an ultimate solution.
Bear with Me remains as before - a standard point-and-click romp, which relies mainly on its darker setting for its unique edge, transforming childlike toys and homely settings into well-developed personas and intriguing locales, all crafted from the imagination of a young girl, and mixing them with a gritty film noir-esque theme. The world is suddenly filled with all manner of seedy folk, looking after numero uno, despite the fact that an intimidating figure, only known as "Red Man," is going around causing havoc. Amber and her grumpy-yet-cuddly companion work together, with players controlling Amber via the traditional 'point to a location and click to reach it' method, and Ted following slowly behind automatically (the walking pace is too slow, but, thankfully, areas are not large enough for it to be too bothersome, and double-clicking arrows to auto-jump through entrances/exits helps alleviate any issues considerably).
The presentation element really helps elevate Bear with Me: Episode 2, just as it did the first time round, and even the standard of voice acting has been upped, with Ted's deep, gravelly voice and delivery not sounding quite as clipped as before (there are still some awkward lines, but it is vastly better than the first episode). New characters introduced - including an even-deeper-than-Ted's voiced shark - all play their parts wonderfully well, and mixed with the macabre soundtrack, definitely ramp up the atmosphere levels. In keeping with the child-lead theme, though, there is enough humour to keep proceedings walking expertly on that thin line between being too dark and going too far down the light-hearted route.
Bear with Me: Episode 2 is a definite step in the right direction, with the world opening up more and a great selection of new characters and puzzles being introduced, accompanying the already impressive dark atmosphere. Sometimes it leans towards being slightly too easy, but there is more challenge than before, and it ends on the perfect cliff-hanger, ready for Episode 3. Hopefully the wait between episodes is not quite as long this time.