After waking up on a pile of dirt in a cave, I've scrounged around for a bit, eaten two old pizzas and some strange mushrooms, had a couple cold cups of coffee, and broken into a cabin to steal a hat. Next on my agenda: playing Bear Simulator.
Bear Simulator is a bear simulator. It's a first-person open world game about being a bear and doing bear-related activities like running, hunting, eating, learning power attacks, reading messages left by gophers, and collecting mysterious artifacts to decorate your den. There are no specific quests, as far as I can tell, but I've come up with two of my own. First, to kill a duck, which has thus far proved elusive:
My second quest is to get through this entire column without making any bear puns. I leave that to you, oh clever and steadfast commenters. I want to look down at the bottom of this article and see at least fifty bear puns by the end of the day. That is your mission. Do not fail me.
While I haven't found quests, there are objectives, I suppose. There are several different areas to explore, and in each area there are a number of things the game keeps track of, like how many different food items you've found, how many animals you've met, and how many hats you've collected. If you're a completionist who likes being a bear, this is probably the game for you. Perhaps the only game. You can also gain experience and level up your skills. You can make your claws deadlier and your sense of smell more keen: every now and then you'll come across the markings of an animal, but unless your smell skill is high enough you may not know what the animal's message is.
Of course, you can also kill things because you are a Damn Bear. Above I take down a rabbit that was considerate enough to get stuck on some scenery so I could slowly bear-slap its butt to death. Nature at its cruelest.
Or maybe not. Later, as my stamina is depleting and I'm desperately hunting for a place to sleep, I paddle across a river toward a waterfall. There's always something behind a waterfall in video games, and I'm hoping the something is a den. And it is! An alligator den. The hissing beast charges me—well, waddles over to me—and I while he sort of hops and headbutts me I fight for my life with some dual-slap action. His hopping proves too deadly. He must have leveled up his hopping skill.
It's not all trees, rocks, and bushes in Bear Simulator. As any bear can attest, you share your habitat with the most dangerous game: the builders of blocky wooden structures and ramps. In several areas there are cabins and buildings, and some spots are fenced off as if to keep someone out, like perhaps a hat-wearing bear who likes eating discarded pizza. Behind one fence I spot some delicious chickens strutting around as if they're somehow too good to be passing through my digestive system, but thanks to a hill and the power of my bear-legs I'm able to jump it and do some much-deserved chicken smacking.
I also find plenty of discarded human food. While I can dine on pizza and coffee, I haven't leveled my intelligence up enough to eat things like hamburgers or onion rings. I don't know what kind of dumb-ass bear I am that putting a burger in my mouth is a mental challenge, but since food is more a matter of restoring health and starving to death doesn't seem to be a threat, I'm not worried. Then again, I'm too dumb to know how to eat fast-food, so maybe I should be worried.
Not all animal encounters need be deadly. While exploring a series of buildings and walkways, I turn a corner and find myself snout to snout with a scavenging fox. My bear instincts kick in immediately, and I drop to a crouch, my big bear arms comically dropping out of sight as I enter stealth mode.
The fox, however, isn't hostile, nor is he afraid of being paw-slapped by a bear who walks around primarily on his hind legs. He seems perfectly happy to let me inspect him while he roots through some trash. I know I could probably kill him anyway, but combat isn't particularly fun, and it can't hurt to have a few friends in the wild. Besides, my rancor is currently contained to ducks. I have tried three more times to kill ducks but even when stealthing around behind before pouncing, they always seem to get away.
I explore more, finding a mysterious stone artifact, which winds up back in my den to serve as a decoration. I also make a more troubling discovery. There's a large bridge crossing over the landscape, but it's broken down, crumbling, with a wrecked and still-burning truck smooshed in the ruins. Is Bear Simulator just a bear simulator after all? Or is it a post-apocalyptic bear simulator?
I'm intrigued, but not really enough to continue playing Bear Simulator to find out. I didn't have a bad time being a bear, but after a couple hours of romping around eating mushrooms and slapping rabbits to death, I'm not exactly hungry for more. In terms of free-form fun that doesn't involve searching for every last bit of food on the map, about all I've found so far is that I can push a pumpkin around, which is only about as much fun as it sounds.
You can find Bear Simulator on Steam, and hey, it's not even in Early Access. And no, I never did catch a duck.