The indie scene has been producing quite a few games lately that have the primary objective of being relaxing. I have generalized anxiety disorder; it is physically impossible for me to relax. However, I’m always willing to try games that don’t center around the objective of killing people, fucking people, or just getting sad in general.
Bear and Breakfast is one game that crossed my radar, and I was quite excited about it. I offered to do a review for Destructoid, but the developer snubbed me for some reason. It could just be that I’m invisible. I’m quiet, and a lot of people don’t seem to notice me. It’s fine. I’m not entitled to anyone’s attention. It happens. I was really busy around its release anyway.
I’m not invisible to a friend of mine, and she was kind enough to gift me a copy. At least now, I might be able to relax while playing it and not have to worry about deadlines.
You’re a bear named Hank in Bear and Breakfast. I don’t know why you can’t name your bear. I also don’t know why you can’t choose their gender, but here we are. You’re Hank. Hank likes helping people. A lot. He also likes garbage. One day, his mother sends him out to forage, and instead of doing that, he starts up a chain of resorts with the goal of attracting humans. What’s funny about the story is that, even though it’s told from a bear’s perspective, it’s not necessarily themed around humans being exploitative dicks. No, it’s more narrow than that. It’s more that some people are exploitative dicks, and you should maybe be careful who you’re being kind to, lest they take advantage of you. That may sound serious, but I feel like that’s an easy lesson to miss.
The narrative takes a backseat for most of the game. Instead, it has you focus on helping people through quests and improving your resorts. The narrative does creep in, then goes heavy at the end, but it always sucks.
You progress through five resorts and have to keep them all running as you go. Likewise, as you complete objectives, you unlock better furniture, and it’s a good idea to go back and upgrade your facilities. It might not seem like there’s much to spend your money on at first, but you will definitely need it later. You can pile as much as you want in your pockets, but other things don’t pile so well, so amass that horde.
I do like breakfast
Generally, the objectives revolve around either finding something for someone or improving your properties. None of the objectives feel very optional, though some are more obviously for game progression than others. After the main story objectives are done in an area, you’re given more optional objectives that involve having that particular property cross milestones. Those are pretty key since they increase the money you take in and also unlock some indispensable items.
In terms of actually running the resorts, they’re somewhat hands-off. You need to book people, then later cook food, then further on keep them heated. Also, you need to clean up the garbage left by humans, but since that’s also one of Bear and Breakfast’s currencies, you generally want people to drop more. As you complete side-quests, you can hire in some of the other animals to help with tasks, but that cuts into your profits. Ungrateful animals actually expect you to pay them. The privilege on them.
For much of the game, the formula works pretty well. The beginning is rather slow, leaving you with not a lot to do, but it does eventually pick up the pace as it introduces more mechanics. Then it slows down at the end, which is where the problems with the narrative come in.
The overarching narrative is that Hank is trying to bring back humans to his valley after they all fled from a fire. That’s largely it for most of the game. A shifty shark helps you along, then an old lady, then that falls by the wayside. The story then explores the reasons behind the fire, Hank as a character, and some other stuff that I won’t spoil. It’s handled poorly. It’s to the point where I don’t know why I was doing it, and the ending didn’t even seem to tie anything up. Again, not to spoil anything, but the narrative seems unfinished. Like, actually unfinished. It just runs out. Like, it doesn’t find its way to a conclusion. The end.
It was bewildering, and I thought that if maybe I completed all the prestige goals for each of the resorts, something else would come along, but that didn’t happen. Worse, the final prestige goals usually involve a lot of waiting, and the only way to hurry the passage of time is to sleep at night. Bear and Breakfast will ask you to get so many 5-star reviews, which means if you’ve already gone to the effort of gussying up your inns to meet the needs of even the most particular of clientele, all you have to do is wait.
So, that’s what I did, and then the plot didn’t continue.
There’s a pervasive feeling of Bear and Breakfast being unfinished. The UI sucks in a lot of ways. My friend and I couldn’t figure out how to delete old items, which made inventory management a pain in the ass. Eventually, I did find it, but it’s really unintuitive. Everything you scavenge has a monetary value attached to it, but you can’t actually sell it anywhere. It smells to me like it was once an option, but in order to quickly balance the economy, they just scrapped it.
That’s conjecture, but it always is when theorizing about whether or not a game launched too early. It just feels like Bear and Breakfast had a lot of inelegant solutions crammed in to solve problems quickly. If that’s not the case, then, well…
On the other hand, Bear and Breakfast gets things right in quite a few areas. The aesthetic, for instance, is spot on, from its charming art to an enjoyable soundtrack. Even though the side characters are underused, they’re well-designed and unique. I think the biggest shame with Bear and Breakfast is you can see what it was going for, and it almost reaches that target, and then it just falls apart. Is it still enjoyable? Yes, certainly, but it might also be worth it to see what the development team does next. A lot of the elements in Bear and Breakfast could be fantastic if given the love and attention they deserve. Whether or not they’ll need to wait for a sequel of a few patches to overhaul them remains to be seen. I just hope it’s not the last we see of this promising title.
This review was conducted on a digital Windows copy of the game. It was generally gifted to the author by a friend.