That's no bear hug.
Technically and artistically, the visuals are competent; Perfection Island is workmanlike, but perfect it's not. The bears look reasonably good and solid, and they flee for their lives convincingly, but you won't come away from a session with Naughty Bear thinking about how lovely it looked. It doesn't help that the environments are small and repetitive, ranging from cabins in the woods and tea rooms inside cabins in the woods to factories inside cabins in the woods and discotheques (also inside cabins, also in the woods). Stages are set at different times of day to mix things up, and the stormy night of a zombie bear invasion injects some much-needed atmosphere, but it's hard not to notice the same few elements (furniture, vegetation, more cabins) used over and over.
The game mechanics, combat included, are generally rough around the edges in a way that detracts from the point-scoring, multiplier-growing experience. In stealth challenges, for example, it's hard to predict whether another bear will spot you or not. The only surefire method is to stay in the wooded areas into which they can't see until they are far away, which hardly makes for tense, dynamic stealth action. Those rough edges also extend beyond the gameplay: we encountered a handful of crashes in our play-through, with the game freezing up in the transition between zones and during multiplayer.
Besides the actual episodes that make up the game, there's plenty more content to unlock by making progress and getting high scores, including costumes for Naughty Bear, each conferring different degrees of life, strength, speed, and accuracy, as well as badges which act as perks in the multiplayer modes. The crucial issue is that the basic gameplay isn't deep or diverse enough that you want to replay episodes several times to gain access to all of that content. Requiring you to gain a number of gold trophies before you can play later episodes extends the game, but it doesn't enhance the fun.
Zombear attack! In another cabin.
The four online multiplayer modes, at least, are a diversion from the single-player marathon of unlocks. Cakewalk mode involves holding on to a golden cake for as long as possible, Jelly Wars involves collecting jellies faster than the other guy, Golden Oozy has you fighting for a single all-powerful gun, and Assault is a basic deathmatch. There's also a nice variety of weapon pickups and power-ups--another old-school touch--that give you speed, strength, or shielding. The combat system, however, which at least serves its purpose in single-player, disappoints in multiplayer games, where you mostly find yourself running up to your opponents and repeatedly smacking them in the hope that you'll get the ultra kill prompt first. Still, beating down your friends as teddy bears makes for an entertaining new niche in the online multiplayer arena, and matches are bound to provide a few laughs.
Initially, Naughty Bear appears to have the makings of a darkly funny gem; the teddies are cute, the antihero is unpleasant, and the violence is as jarring as intended. The narrator, seemingly a kids' TV presenter who has cracked under the pressure, is alarmingly creepy. But those bare bones don't get fleshed out. With its key idea, basically a Care Bear on a rampage, underserved by the storytelling, and the basic mechanics not strong enough to carry the game on their own, Naughty Bear is a fun diversion for only a short while. As time goes on, though, it feels like more of a series of missed opportunities than the subversive, jokey action game promised by the title.