‘Bear And Breakfast’ review: too laidback a ‘laidback’ management game

Waiting for the fun to start is a bear necessity for 'Bear And Breakfast'

Build, manage, grow. Rinse and repeat. The defining feature of management games can be as mundanely monotonous as everyday life. Now, rise and shine to Bear And Breakfast, newcomer Gummy Cat’s blend of the management and life-sim genres with a side of narrative, inviting you to a new adventure in the Valley. But, as with the Valley’s returning human population, be aware that as exciting as a bed and breakfast run by a bear seems, it might not live up to your tastes.

Bear And Breakfast distinguishes itself from other management games as soon as you hit play. You find yourself greeted not with empty land, dire straits, or a character on a mission, but with the mumblings of an insomniac brown bear, Hank. Hank catches sleep briefly enough to dream of a dark figure with glowing eyes piercing the dark, but is soon woken by his mother and tasked to wake his friends. Within the first few introductory quests, Bear And Breakfast is set up like a narrative-driven game with mechanics reminiscent of Animal Crossing first and a management game second.

Bear And Breakfast. Credit: Gummy Cat.
Bear And Breakfast. Credit: Gummy Cat.

Then, when on an errand for his mother, Hank and friends hear a strange sound and decide to investigate. A mysterious shark, Fin, rolls into Timber Crossing with a Pawn Voyage van. After some humour pointed at Fin being a business shark to boot, Hank is convinced to bring humans back to the Valley, starting with a dinky shed in Timber Crossing and decor from Took, a raccoon who’s an obvious reference to Animal Crossing’s Tom Nook.

Players familiar with management games will expect at this point to dive into building their bed and breakfast empire. Which you do—except, you’re corralled into the parameters of quests. It quickly becomes apparent that Bear And Breakfast eschews the busy nature of managing a business, and wants you to relax as much as your guests. To accomplish this, it ties every furniture schematic, upgrade, decorative object, and feature of the game to quests, a number of which can only be completed by a certain number of guests paying up and leaving you with reviews. Unfortunately, the option to speed up is limited to sleeping at night. You’re left to empty unlocked areas of resources and twiddle your thumbs until then.

The customisability of establishments is similarly limiting. Rooms and decor must adhere to a grid system within the walls of given buildings, and buildings cannot be upgraded to provide more space. The type of rooms you can build are also designed to be specific to each area. If you’d like your shed in Timber Crossing to eventually operate like an exclusive, cosy one-bedroom stop, complete with a luxurious bathroom and kitchen, well, you can’t do that. Your guests in Timber Crossing will just have to deal with other guests and the outhouse, while guests elsewhere bathe in porcelain tubs.

Bear And Breakfast. Credit: Gummy Cat.
Bear And Breakfast. Credit: Gummy Cat.

Crafting and decorating is the one part of the game where it doesn’t have to force you to relax. Almost everything you need is in Build Mode. Resources are never in short supply either, as the wilderness has flora and wood aplenty that replenish every morning, and unlocked areas grant access to plots of land and vendors with additional provisions. As long as you remember to buy any decor you can’t craft from Took beforehand, you can sit back and methodically craft and decorate along to the hummable soundtrack in the background.

If I had to complain about the crafting system, it’s that it doesn’t let you recycle or sell components. But with an abundance of resources and time, a recycling system would be convenient but ultimately unnecessary.

It’s after unlocking the second area, the A24, that the game firmly shifts into management mode—frustrating the player hooked onto the story’s intrigue and hints at a tragedy preceding the game’s events. Narrative crumbs are charmingly laid by the few quests given by characters, but not enough to satisfy, nor occupy your attention. The process repeats with every area unlocked.

Bear And Breakfast. Credit: Gummy Cat.
Bear And Breakfast. Credit: Gummy Cat.

Bear And Breakfast’s carefully designed strength is paradoxically its greatest weakness. In an attempt to strike an even balance between its three main components of management, harvesting, and narrative, Gummy Cat has crafted a game with slow, uneven pacing. You don’t reach two big features of handling your bed and breakfast—cooking and staffing—until halfway through the game. When the three components work in step with each other, as in characters deciding to help you or offer personal quests, the game’s potential jumps out, but those moments are scarce. One has to wonder if Gummy Cat could’ve offered a more engaging experience by leaning into one component over the others.

Yet, it’s not a sure bet that you’ll regret investing your time in Bear And Breakfast. The world’s art style and humour has a nostalgic, early-2000s Cartoon Network feel to it, and its writing is as earnest and full of heart as Hank himself. Watching Hank grow in confidence as I did in building our business was a honey-sweet touch. The UI is cleanly designed, and easy to understand and use—although I wished its elements and text could’ve had scalable settings, as they were so small I struggled to read quest descriptions and notifications.

Bear And Breakfast isn’t a perfect getaway, but it’s nonetheless a debut that makes it worth waiting for whatever Gummy Cat serves up next.

Bear And Breakfast is available on PC now and will launch on the Nintendo Switch on an unannounced date. This review is based on the PC version.

The Verdict

Though aimed to be a ‘laidback’ management game, stripping the expected nature of the busy genre inadvertently makes Bear And Breakfast a restless experience. The Valley is otherwise brimming with colourful and unmet potential, where its inhabitants lie at the heart. Had Gummy Cat utilised them and your combined effects on the world further, instead of pushing you towards an almost singular path of running your bed and breakfast chain, Bear And Breakfast might’ve been an unmissable summer stop for rest and refreshment.

Pros

  • A cast of smartly written, memorable characters
  • Humour worthy of Dad Jokes Of The Year awards
  • Fun and nostalgic references to early-2000s animated series and games Bear And Breakfast is a clear descendant of
  • An abundance of resources at your fingertips

Cons

  • Story quests that inhibit the freedom of playstyles and player advancement
  • Inflexible customisation for building and decoration
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