So... you know when you've made a big fuss about something like, say, you insist in front of all your friends that the Battle of Agincourt took place in September 1415, but they're all like "Nah man - dat shiz went down in the October 1415, brah", and yet you argue and argue and argue until they eventually decide it isn't worth the hassle, and say that you're probably right, just to shut you up?
And you know how you're pleased you won the argument, but something niggles at you, so you go home and you look it up online - and it turns out they were right, that the Battle of Agincourt actually did happen in October 1415?
Now you're faced with several choices:
- Own up to your mistake.
- Continue to maintain that the Battle of Agincourt happened in September 1415.
- Pretend to have a fit every time somebody mentions the Battle of Agincourt.
- Try to have your cake and eat it: "Well, technically it was October 1415, but the lead-up to the battle really began in September, so you could say it began then."
So. Yeah, well. That's me right now. Option 1: Bear Simulator is rubbish. With a bit of 4: I'm still right.
This is entirely beside the point, but do you know what really irritates me about modern game reviews?
When they start like this: "I was in a cave. Dank. Dark. The walls were possibly limestone. On the floor behind me was a grub, writhing, oozing pus... I knew I had to get out."
Guy... no. You're not in a cave - you're playing a video game. Just tell us about it. Stop making out like you're writing a travel blog, or you're Hunter S. Thompson, or something.
Regardless, that is how Bear Simulator starts: you play a bear, you wake up from hibernation in a cave. There are some instructions pinned to the wall - "eat everything" is the thrust of the game. Which would be fine if the food wasn't so sparse. The game is two parts foraging to one part hunting, to half a part defending yourself from fockses and crabs.
Regrettably, the hunting is virtually impossible, especially in earlier parts of the game - before your bear has "levelled up". Birds fly away from you. Rabbits run off at speed. You can give chase, but because you can't run and attack simultaneously, and because you're viewing everything through the bear's eyes, killing animals is a case of hitting buttons and hoping for the best.
Your only real hope of catching your prey is that it gets snagged on the scenery. Which does, fortunately, happen with needless regularity.
The world isn't terrible to look at - it's well designed, large and diverse, but clearly a budget experience. If you're expecting the lushness of a Firewatch, or a Far Cry Primal, you need to reign in your optimism.
Ultimately, though, this isn't up to much. There's just not enough to do, and while it strives for a degree of quirkiness, it's not sufficiently out-there to be entertaining beyond the gameplay. There are no real laughs, intentional or otherwise - and isn't that half the point of these animal simulator games?
Plus, there's seemingly no overall agenda or grand vision holding it together, it's more a collection of half-formed ideas dropped into a barren game world. In fact, it's probably quite an accurate simulation of bear-life, given that being a bear is probably pretty dull.
Fortunately, I have come away from Bear Simulator still believing that PewDiePie is a ghastly idiot.
Unfortunately, Bear Simulator's first-person perspective, the sheer emptiness of the world, and the sparseness of its personality, means that there's no chance of any accidental amusement happening.
You're not going to see YouTube flooded with videos of hysterical people playing it - which is likely part of PewDiePie's disappointment; he felt like he'd wasted his time trying to make a funny video out of it.
But here's the thing: you can't blame its creator, John Farjay, for Bear Simulator being rubbish. By his own admission, he isn't skilled enough to have made a better game. He clearly wasn't expecting to get given $100,000, and no doubt felt the pressure that such a sum of money brings with it. No wonder he has decided to abandon it.
The responsibility for Bear Simulator a) Existing, and b) Being rubbish, lies entirely with the backers. They flocked to support an inexperienced creator's game, just because it was called "Bear Simulator" - clearly hoping for another unlikely hit, in the vein of Goat Simulator.
That's one of the issues with Crowdfunding: in the past, indie creators had to be driven by passion. They often learn the hard way about the numerous pitfalls of development. Now anyone can just put up their idea on Kickstarter, get given a decent amount of money for it - and then be faced with the issue of bringing that idea to fruition, regardless of their level of skill or experience.
Let's do it now: Swan Simulator. Who's up for it?
SUMMARY: Bear-ly a game. Ha ha. Dumber than the average bear. Ha ha. Bear Grylls. Ha ha ha.
SCORE: Three bears out of ten.