I identify with Hank, the bear owner in The Bear and Breakfast. Not only because I’m also big, furry, and fond of long naps, but because my twisty life journey has allowed me to renovate and run a small B&B in the hinterland for a few years. It’s hard work, but it’s satisfying when guests have nothing but compliments. I’ll admit, though, that having Hank’s charming friends and neighbors would greatly improve the situation.
Bear and Breakfast is the first game from Romanian indie clothing company Gummy Cat, and if my first 10 hours of gameplay are anything to go by, it’s also a strong debut. As it says on the tin, it’s a game about a lovable, vaguely yogi-esque bear managing a rapidly expanding bed and breakfast business, revitalizing an abandoned tourist town in the process.
On a purely mechanical level, Bear and Breakfast is a relatively simple construction and management game. Controlling Hank directly (except in the building interface), you roam around town, recycling various abandoned possessions – starting with a simple guest cabin and later upgrading to a well-designed heated ski resort. Then you clean them and refurbish them. Once ready, the buildings can be divided into rooms, which you can decorate and get ready to earn from the tenants you wish to be happy.
It’s not particularly complicated or complicated, and each room has useful and aesthetic stats that you can improve by adding more stuff. While this means it’s easy to hit target numbers to please guests, there’s still plenty of wiggle room in how you arrange and decorate, leaving room for expressive designs. That’s not the case with The Sims, though – and this is especially evident in the lack of interaction with guests. You never interact with them directly, and the only feedback is a little thought that pops into their minds when things aren’t quite satisfying.
The other actors make up for the mediocre guests to some extent. A group of strange and lovable talking animals and a few locals, mostly aloof and acerbic at first, but through the wonders of capitalist success and gift-giving, they open doors to reveal more of the game’s astonishing intricacies s story. Impress them enough that they’ll be willing to work for you to automate some of the hectic tasks, but at a cost.
And there will be busy work. There always seems to be too much to do except for the first few days when you have to wait for guests to bring money for necessities. Manipulating Hank with the keyboard, collecting crafting materials from piles of trash, cooking food, replenishing buffets, fueling heaters in cooler buildings, and assigning potential guests to rooms – that’s a lot, sometimes Feeling overwhelmed. Hiring additional staff is practically mandatory if you want to make progress.
Still, it’s always worth making progress. Bear and Breakfast is a relatively simple but engaging game full of charm. The environments are lush, hand-drawn spaces, and each area of the (surprisingly expansive) map dwarfs the isle of commercial space you manage. It feels like you’re building something in the wilderness rather than doing the usual video game bulldozer things.
Progress is also rewarded by dialogue, and a lot.The bear opens with breakfast as Hank hangs out with his mom and two best friends Annie bear dog (opens in new tab) And that bird. Before long, you’ll be hanging out with the trash connoisseur raccoon, the alligator swamp witch, the local rat mafia, and a heinous possum who accepts compliments like a personal insult. You can also chat with humans, but most just hear Hank’s incomprehensible bear noise. Thankfully, Sabine, the local park ranger, speaks bear language.
While I wish there was more interaction with Hank’s friends early on, the dialogue is almost always just right. Hank is a nice guy, kind, and mildly self-deprecating. Many of the people you’ll meet will be hip at first, then soften and settle into Hank’s pace, but there’s still plenty of gags.
The only characters I have in question are purely for gruff: Fin, an inflatable shark mascot through which the evil Pawn Voyage Corporation (almost certainly a mockery of the increasingly infamous Airbnb) assigns you new construction tasks, In between, Fin downplays Hank’s lack of the essence of capitalism.
I’ve been into Bear & Breakfast for over 10 hours so far, and friends tell me that’s about a third of the way into the game. Most of the time I played involved collecting, expanding into new properties and building rooms, only to suggest a larger, more complex story was dropped. I’d love to see how dramatic Hank’s adventure in the hospitality industry will become, but whether I see the end depends on how much it automates me with the remaining 20 hours or so.