Developed by Gummy Cat and published by Armor Games Studios, Bear and Breakfast is a third-person management and adventure game that sees you playing a bear trying to revive a derelict woodland resort and bring it back to its former glory. You’ll gather supplies, craft furniture, build rooms, take bookings and deal with online reviews.
This preview is based upon the demo that was released as part of the 2021 Steam Next Fest. And as I have been a little under the weather recently, I’ve been looking for something which would help soothe me through things. According to the title’s listings, the title is “Laid-Back management adventure game” which undeniably it is on many levels. Even if there are a couple hiccups along the way.
STORY – A SLICE OF BIGGER THINGS
In Bear and Breakfast, you assume the role of Hank, a bear who gets lost in the woods with his friends. As he tries to find his way home, Hank happens to come across a small cottage. Therein he meets an old woman called Barbara, who used to run the nearby holiday resort. She convinces him to help revive the nearby resort of Pinefall back to its former glory. Starting out with one of the nearby cabins.
The writing is suitably cute and witty, as one would expect a videogame like this to be. Granted, this is an early build of the game centred mostly on the tutorial. So what I played is ultimately a narrow slice of the overall story. As such, I haven’t had a chance to interact with some of the larger plot elements teased in some of the promotional material or those that are hinted at in this current build. There are allusions to bigger things going on. Both in terms of the woods themselves and to the wider world. One element in particular that links to a backstory that I honestly wasn’t expecting from a game like this.
BIG DREAMS, LITTLE BEAR
How that will develop, I don’t know; it’s an Alpha and is really just a tease at this point. However, I have to say that what it is hinting at seems rather ambitious. And it will be interesting to see how well or not it is integrated into the final product. It’s alluding to some rather bold things in its world-building for a videogame about a cartoon bear who runs a B&B. It is the kind of combo you’d never expect in a wholesome game like this, which is a testament to the daringness of the developers and the indie scene in general. So they get a gold star for effort.
However, what is present in Bear and Breakfast right now is pleasant. It is well written, with the writing helping to add character to the cast beyond their charming designs. And it is never too witty or self-referential. It gets the tone to bob on for a title like this. I cannot really comment on the more (potentially) serious plot elements that are alluded to in the build I played thus far. However, I look forward to seeing how it develops further and where all this might well go.
GAMEPLAY – BEAR BNB
Bear and Breakfast is a management sim that I dare say is unlike anything that I have ever experienced before; I can’t honestly say I have ever played a management game set in the third person like this, which gives it an instant freshness that is always welcome. Of course, doing this as a bear also offers a unique twist on the genre too, but that is a whole other matter. The title at present, however, offers up a largely soothing and rewarding experience.
The core gameplay loop of Bear and Breakfast sees you gathering resources, building rooms, crafting furniture, taking guest bookings, and cooking them meals. From a mechanical point of view, it handles well; the controls are easy to learn and there is nothing that is too taxing in and of itself. In the current build, you only have to attend to the one cabin with every step of the way being part of the title’s tutorial. As such, it gives you a nice introduction to the game’s mechanics in a more gradual and slower-paced way. And, as there doesn’t appear to be a fail state (at least not that I saw), which gives Bear and Breakfast a more calm flare that might well appeal to more casual gamers.
If we are to make comparisons to other games, then Bear and Breakfast’s building mechanics feel like a cross between The Sims, Stardew Valley, and with a hint of Animal Crossing thrown in. You click and drag to build rooms and then drop furniture into those rooms as in The Sims. Furniture objects are crafted ala Stardew or Animal Crossing or purchased from Took the raccoon to add some aesthetic flair or to simply complete the room itself.
Each of the rooms you build has certain requirements before they can be completed; they must be a certain size, they must contain certain furniture pieces with said furniture pieces increasing the ratings the better quality they are. Each guest has different requirements as far as the quality of their bedroom as well as the facilities on offer.
And the better the job you do in attending to those requirements, the more money and better reviews you will get from them. You then use that money to buy new resources and build new rooms to support more guests to get even more money, and so on and so forth. The building mechanics are simple enough to learn and get a grasp of, however, they aren’t without their flaws.
BUILD A BEAR
Now before we get into this, I’ll grant you that the following criticisms will feel like nit-picking; as I said, there is nothing wrong with the core gameplay as it stands. However, one of the key selling points, one that the Devs feature in the game’s store listings, is the fact that Bear and Breakfast is supposed to be a laid-back experience. Ergo it is a title that is supposed to be smooth and as frustration-free as it reasonably can be. Yet there are at least two areas which, again, I grant you may well be seen as petty, I feel that do interfere with this goal in an unfortunate way.
Firstly you cannot make alterations to the shape and size of a room once it has been built; for example, if you realise you don’t have enough room for a griddle for your kitchen, you need to demolish the entire room and rebuild it. When you do this, all items in the room are moved to your inventory, which itself is fine.
The issue, however, is twofold. For a start, there is the matter that if any of the items in the room were storage items, anything inside of it would be lost, which can severely damage any fuel or food stockpiles you have had. Secondly, it is a simple fact that it is a time sink; for the sake of adding an extra row or column in size to a room, I need to start again, which takes more time than had I just been able to add an extra slice to it after the fact. It’s an inconvenience. One which I grant you could be defeated by simple forward planning on the player’s behalf. But that still doesn’t prevent it from being a pain in the bum.
BEAR WITH ME
Secondly, I really do not like the fact there is a loading bar whenever I ‘loot’ supplies from certain objects. I can hazard a guess that it exists to prevent players from just amassing a massive inventory a couple of minutes into the game. But the time spent watching the bar fill up and the animation play feels as though it slows the flow of the adventure too much. And fades into the path of being frustrating when you are wandering around in the dark, having to wait on a cool down to pluck more spuds out of the ground.
Again, the core of Bear and Breakfast itself is great. And I’ll admit that in the wider scheme of the title, these are rather a nit-picky. But when I come to play this game at release, I want to have a cozy and relaxing time. The frustrations right now are rather minor. Things can easily be altered should the developers feel it is worth it. Or I can simply learn to deal with it.
GRAPHICS & SOUND – COSY TIMES
In terms of its aesthetics, Bear and Breakfast is a pleasant sight to behold. It features bright and colourful graphics which are appealing to look at. The animations are smooth and have a great flow to them. And the designs of our characters are suitable cute and wholesome. It is everything that a game like this should look like.
Granted, in practice, there is only one element of the design work that I have a minor gripe with. Which is the fact that it can be hard to tell at a glance the difference between some resources; Frequently, I’d got to what I thought was a pile of stone only to learn it was marble or a strawberry bush only to learn it is mint. This can at times make finding crafting materials feel more like a lottery rather than something intentional. Though in fairness, this is something you can resolve with practice.
Much like its aesthetics, the soundtrack to Bear and Breakfast really hits the mark and gets the tone of the title dead on. The music is soothing, warm, relaxing. The whole experience is supposed to be a chill; something you can potter away at on a wet afternoon. And as far as the soundtrack is concerned, again, it gets it right.
There isn’t much in the way of voice acting. The only times that we hear any being in the game’s opening sequence and during some backstory sequences with Barbara. And again, I can’t complain. They do the job well, and both add character to the moments that they feature in. How much more we’ll see in the final game, we shall soon see.
Bear and Breakfast was previewed on PC.