60 Second Retro Gamer – Episode 49 – Paddington Bear (PS2)

The video above is Ant’s review, the one below is our complete play through of the game, overdubbed with our podcast. For the record, in the intro sketch that really is the sound of Tesco Value bread hitting me in the face.

For those of you not in the know, there’s a video games company called Blast! Entertainment that has a nasty habit of buying the rights to TV shows and movies, then releasing sub-par video games for the masses. You can usually spot one of their games from the yellow logo on the cover that features a grinning and winking orange bomb. Not too sure why he’s winking at us, but as logos go it’s almost as cheap and unpleasant as the one for Random Stoat… cough The majority of Blast! games also come with a yellow back cover with a few token screenshots of the game thrown in for good measure. Cheap doesn’t even begin to cover it, although I have to give them some praise for the front covers as they often make the game in question look much better than it actually is.

I didn’t really get into the whole Blast! thing until quite recently when we started doing 60 Second Gamer, where we realised that the games they make are actually quite entertaining to review due to their inherent badness. I suppose technically my first exposure to Blast! was way back in 2007 when Rich, being a huge Thunderbirds fan, bought the Blast! published game based on the original 60s show. Noting that the disc was a standard CD-ROM and not a DVD gave us a good idea what to expect. Since that game became our first Blast! review the only other game of theirs we’ve reviewed is Captain Scarlet as it seemed a nice companion piece to the Thunderbirds review. That and the Captain Scarlet game makes Thunderbirds look like high art by comparison.

Good luck finding decent information about Blast! online, as their web presence is surprisingly minimal. They’re an arm of the Mastertronic group, who back in the days of yore (read: the 80s) published a number of budget games for the 8-bit consoles of the time. From that perspective nothing has really changed, as that’s what they still do this very day. The strange thing is, Blast! themselves are usually the middle ground between Mastertronic and individual game developers – strictly speaking Blast! don’t make the games. In one respect it does allow smaller developers to get their work out there, but at the same time the work is of such a low quality that you probably wouldn’t want to play any more of their games. I can only assume that, once the licence to a franchise had been acquired, the studio was given a ridiculously short amount of time in which to put a game together, so I can’t blame them for that if this is the case. If they were given a huge amount of time then clearly they should have done better.

So, Paddington Bear. I don’t think there was any specific reason for the game other than Blast! were able to get the licence for it. Certainly for other Blast! games there was always an associated media release alongside the video game, be it a new movie, new TV series or something similar. The closest I can find to anything that might fit this criteria is that a live action Paddington film was announced in 2007, the year this game was released. The bear in the battered blue coat seemed, according to Wikipedia, to be going through a period of popularity in 2007 following his appearance in Marmite adverts and on a Royal Mail stamp in 2006, and reached his 50th year in 2008. Reasons enough for Blast! to make a video game, I think.

The contents of the game are typical low quality tosh, even for the pre-teen (maybe even pre-school?) target audience. The case says there are 10 exciting levels of fun activities, but when the 10th of those “exciting” levels is Paddington’s bedroom – which you can decorate by buying furniture using marmalade sandwiches as currency – you know it’s off to a bad start. With the brief exception of me getting confused on the bicycle level and not being able to find the exit in the house swarming with bees, I think the game could easily be finished in under 30 minutes, and a speed run would likely take less than 20. The level design varies from basic maze-style navigation levels (as seen at the train station), top down collecting levels (Paddington’s party), to basic 2D platforming (Paddington’s flooded bathroom). In theory there’s enough variation between the levels to hold interest, but the shortness of each level offers no real incentive to go back and play through again, even if that does mean missing out on some rather nice looking rugs in Paddington’s house…

Another amusing aspect is the difficulty options when starting the game – Easy or Hard. No Medium difficulty here. The only difference we noticed between the two was that you lose more marmalade sandwiches if you bump into a man or a bee or something else when playing on Hard. Given that the only purpose of these marmalade sandwiches is to pimp Paddington’s pad, it’s no great loss. And on that note, a lot of the furniture available to buy is hideously expensive, within the game at least. 100 marmalade sandwiches for the most expensive bookcase? No ta. Bearing in mind I only collected about 260 sandwiches from a single run, you’re looking at several passes to get everything, and I’m not doing that. Collision detection is terrible, so bad in fact that you can get stuck on a piece of furniture even though you can clearly see you’re nowhere near it. Apparently there were 4 testers employed for this game – if this is your day job guys, I’d quit. Another thing I really like about most Blast! games is that they essentially give you the complete walkthrough within the manual itself, no doubt in a desperate bid to bump up the page count – for Paddington Bear alone the manual is 12 pages long, not including the cover. The level guide takes up 5 pages of this, explaining what you need to do for each situation.

So, as a retro video game fan, is this worth buying? I’d say wholeheartedly that it’s only worth owning if you have young kids who don’t mind shoddy game design and like Paddington Bear. There’s little else to recommend for anyone else. I know full well that I’m not the target audience for this, which almost makes the game acceptable. It isn’t. There are no doubt some parents who have nostalgic memories of Paddington and they will of course be either hugely disappointed or hugely amused at this. Or both. I’d actually suggest going and playing Toy Story 3 if you have youngsters who are into their video games, it has a lot to offer for both kids and parents alike. We’ve got that game on our big list of videos to release, so there will be a blog about that somewhere down the line.

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