|The Good||Strong identity, charming characters, visually appealing|
|The Bad||The building UI can be clunky, lots of waiting around for quests|
|Release Date||28 July|
|Developed By||Gummy Cat|
|Available On||PC, Nintendo Switch (Coming Later)|
The management simulator Bear and Breakfast from Gummy Cat captured the imaginations of viewers during its brief showing at Summer Game Fest. How could you not love the devilishly simple concept of a bear running a bed and breakfast? The game is billed as a “laidback management adventure game” and this description is proven accurate once you experience it.
In Bear and Breakfast, you play as a spirited but witless bear named Hank. After a life spent mostly in his home Thicket with his mother, he and his companions set out to run an errand in the nearby swamp. However, after hearing a tyre screech beyond the swamp, the trio race ahead to investigate. The disturbance was none other than Fin, the somewhat sleazy inflatable shark mascot from the dubious travel agency Pawn Voyage.
Fin wants you to turn an old shed into a fully-fledged rustic bed and breakfast for the Pawn Voyage empire. The premise is as simple as that, this is where your B&B career begins. Building in Bear and Breakfast is relatively simple, you wander around the game’s different areas and gather resources. These resources can then be used to build furniture for your B&B. There are a lot of resources scattered about so gathering them isn’t an issue, but Bear and Breakfast gates your progress in other ways.
In order to add additional rooms, you’ll need cold-hard cash and by cash, I mean golden coins which the humans seem to use as currency. Each new room you add to the property costs money, with each additional square of area costing more. The reliable way to make money in Bear and Breakfast is, of course, to rent out the B&B. Guests pay you as they leave so you’ll often be in a situation where you are simply waiting for the day to end so you can get paid.
This doesn’t feel tedious in Bear and Breakfast, however. The game is a completely non-stressful experience. It’s so far off the likes of Factorio that I hesitate to even place them in the same genre. Even compared to a game like Stardew Valley, Bear and Breakfast is a far more mellow experience. The B&Bs basically run themselves, you’ll know each of your guest's requirements before you book them into a room, so as long as you meet the prerequisites before you assign them a room, there won’t be a problem. Even if you don’t meet their requirements, the worst a guest can do is leave you a bad review.
After progressing in the main quest, you’ll unlock additional B&Bs to run across the valley. This is the crux of the game, managing several locations at once. However, besides booking in new guests every couple of days, there isn’t much to manage even with a few B&Bs under your care. You can use Oliver’s bus system to shuttle you around as well, making the process of moving between your properties even easier.
With the B&Bs being essentially self-sufficient, this gives Hank plenty of time to wander around the valley. Though there are some side quests to complete, they are usually promptly finished. You won’t be kept too busy, whether that’s a problem or not, is down to player preference. Near the beginning of the game, I found myself tabbing out in borderless windowed waiting for the game to tick over to nighttime so I could sleep and advance the main quest. The quests in Bear and Breakfast are often concerned with successfully hosting a certain number of guests or building new rooms, which is gated by money, which is gated by time. You’ll be doing some waiting in this one.
Though that process may sound tedious, it’s actually one of the reasons Bear and Breakfast is compelling. Gummy Cat didn’t try to make a high-powered micro-intensive management simulator, they tried to make a chill and lighthearted game and in this, they succeeded. As strange as it is to say, Bear & Breakfast is actually best enjoyed on autopilot. If you want something to do with your hands while you chat with friends or watch a television show on the second monitor, then Bear & Breakfast serves this purpose exceptionally. This isn’t a dirty secret, there are plenty of games developed for the explicit purpose of playing while non-immersed.
That’s not to take anything away from the environments, soundtrack and characters of Bear and Breakfast. The game is very well-written, and some of the character interactions genuinely had me giggling. My favourite character is undoubtedly Took, the dumpster-diving racoon. The Animal Crossing influence is clear here, with Took being a backwoods parody of Tom Nook. Or there’s Anton, the smooth-talking gangster rat who controls the junkyard. Took and Anton are associates, likely bonded by their love of garbage.
Bear and Breakfast has a charming art style that matches the lax tone of the game. There’s nothing abrasive about the environment design, everything seems to be exactly as it should be. The “Sawdust” area of the map, for example, is the perfect depiction of a recently-logged forest. With the piled-up logs, the trunks, and the tracks on the ground, you can almost smell the woody air while walking through this early-game area. The characters are well-drawn and will rotate between different charming expressions in conversation.
Though it was mostly a positive experience, I did have some minor gripes with Bear and Breakfast. The map design can be frustrating at times, with the environment blocking Hank in when it feels like visually there should be a gap he can move through. This is especially apparent in the Blackmoss swamp region, where tiny puddles of swamp water will often force you to seek alternate paths. The building mechanics themselves could be smoother, it was sometimes difficult to erase walls I misplaced without exiting out to remove all of my building progress. Editing rooms require you to click on the room which can be tedious when the room is filled to the brim with furniture as you’ll accidentally select and move furniture when trying to edit the room size.
Barring these minor user interface issues, Bear and Breakfast was a joy to play. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary for the genre, but it successfully carves out a niche by perfectly matching its tone, gameplay and narrative. Bear and Breakfast accomplishes exactly what it set out to do, it’s a charming little management sim that doesn’t take itself seriously. It might not be for everyone, but I think a lot of people will find joy in this wholesome project.