Bear and Breakfast review for Nintendo Switch, PC

Platform: Switch
Also on: PC
Publisher: Armor Game Studios
Developer: Gummy Cat Studio
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

If there?s one trait that defines Bear and Breakfast, it?s that it desperately wants to be liked. It?s got a cozy atmosphere, a cast of adorable characters, and it?s about a bear trying to set up a series of bed & breakfasts for humans. It feels as if someone distilled the pure essence of the Wholesome Direct movement into a single game.

This isn’t a bad thing, obviously. The world feels like it?s constantly getting more stressful, so any game where you can ignore all that in favour of pleasant vibes is always welcome. And Bear and Breakfast is certainly nothing if not pleasant, at least on its surface. It holds your hand every step of the way as you guide Hank the Bear in his tasks, making sure you never get too lost in what you need to do next. What?s more, along the way, Hank is always running into friends, both animal and human, and their conversations are generally humorous, with a good mix of jokes and plot.

Unfortunately as desperately as Bear and Breakfast wants to be liked, the problem is that it?s actually not a very fun game. It takes handholding to an extreme, guiding you almost literally every step of the way. You go to one part of the map, then you go to another, then to another, and you?re practically funneled from place to place with lots of well-placed trees and rocks. You can stray a tiny bit from the path to pick up piles of supplies that are liberally scattered all over the place, but this isn?t a game where exploration is encouraged ? or, for the most part, all that possible.

It doesn?t take long before the atmosphere starts to feel a little claustrophobic. While none of the maps are huge, those trees and rocks and logs clog up the screen, and when one is in your way, there?s rarely any room around it. You?ll follow exactly what the game wants you to do, and if Bear and Breakfast wants you to partake in an endless series of fetch quests, then that?s what you?re going to do. It doesn?t help, either, that the world is so cramped you can?t even see everything on the screen; I spent one fetch quest early on in the game scouring a map for a single object, and when I finally found it, it was literally invisible, covered by a wall blocking my view, and I only uncovered it because I happened to have walked into the right out-of-view section.

That claustrophobic feeling gets even more pronounced at night. While I understand that the game takes place in a forest where, obviously, there?s not a lot of artificial light, the atmosphere becomes oppressive as the darkness crowds around Hank, and you can barely see what?s around him. If you like stumbling around in the dark, constantly bumping into walls, that may be appealing, but I can?t say I enjoyed it very much.

On top of the world feeling cluttered, the screen feels awfully cluttered too. There are at least two menus on the screen at almost all times, and they?re filled with fairly small objects. Open one of them up, and it doesn?t take long before the whole screen is covered. Since Bear and Breakfast is very particular about what you can and can?t press, most of these menu items are useless at any given time, but you?re still getting them, whether you like them or not.

Of course, because Bear and Breakfast is so wholesome and desperate to be liked, I feel like a monster for pointing any of this out. I mean, who wants to critique something that so desperately wants to be liked? But there?s a massive gulf between finding a game?s concept charming and actually wanted to play that game, and Bear and Breakfast never comes anywhere close to crossing that gaping chasm.

Armor Game Studios provided us with a Bear and Breakfast Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C